Great Danes get set
to play at Hofstra
ALBANY — Colleen Mullen didn’t sugarcoat the situation her UAlbany women’s basketball program faces when it takes to the court, finally, for its season-opening game at Hofstra.
The third-year head coach said Tuesday her team is “certainly not at full throttle” and that its 3 p.m. matchup Friday against an opponent that has already played three games means it’s “not a level playing field” for the Great Danes.
“We’re going to be a work in progress,” said Mullen, whose team’s stop-and-start preseason because of pandemic-related pauses has left its woefully short of the number of practices it normally would conduct before playing a game
Mullen, though, has a team capable of playing a game — and, in a 2020-21 season being played amid a pandemic, that means her club is going to take advantage of the opportunity to compete.
“There are so many things that we need to learn on the fly,” Mullen said.
The first of the Capital Region’s four Division I basketball teams to play, UAlbany — which will edge out the Siena women by several hours to earn that distinction — is coming off a 9-21 season, lost two key starters to graduation and enters this campaign with two possible starters, Morgan Haney and Khepera Stokes, out for the season with injuries.
Still, there are reasons for optimism for UAlbany, which was picked to finish in fourth place in the America East Conference preseason poll. Lead guard Kyara Frames is back, and the 5-foot-2 senior has depth around her in the backcourt and multiple promising players in the frontcourt to work with as the Great Danes try to register their first winning season since the 2017-18 campaign.
“Having people that I can count on, and having some more guards here, that’s a plus for me,” said Frames, who averaged 8.6 points and 3.4 assists in 35 minutes per game last season.
Mullen didn’t announce a starting lineup prior to her team heading to Long Island, but perimeter players Grace Heeps and Ellen Hahne — transfers from UMass and Wake Forest, respectively — seem likely to play significant minutes right away, while sophomore forward Helene Haegerstrand is a likely starter after earning all-rookie conference team honors last season. At various points during the preseason, Mullen also praised the play of freshmen guards Kayla Cooper and Stella Pop, as well as junior forward Lucia Decortes and redshirt freshman forward Abby Robinson.
“It’s going to be a learning year,” Mullen said. “It’s going to be a rebuilding year, but we’re going in the right direction.”
After such an unusual preseason, Mullen said she’s going to have to base her early season playing-time decisions more on conditioning and defensive readiness than anything else.
“So I think a lot of people are going to get a lot of minutes early,” Mullen said.
“But,” Frames said, “I have full faith in our team. I think we’re very capable of going in and playing to a high level.”
Hofstra is 1-2 on the season, with a close win against Army, and double-digit losses against Pittsburgh and Fairfield on its resume.
Last season, Hofstra finished 3-27 and dropped its final 21 games. Mullen labeled Hofstra as “much improved” from a season ago, and said the Great Danes need to be prepared for their opponent’s athleticism.
“We’re really going to need to focus in on containing their penetration, getting back in transition and limiting them to one shot,” Mullen said.
Five Hofstra players average at least 10 points per game, led by junior Jahsyni Knight who is averaging 12.7 points per game, but is only shooting 27.9% from the field.
HEEPS & HAHNE
The pair of perimeter players that transferred into the UAlbany program have earned strong reviews from their teammates.
Heeps, an East Greenbush native, was described as a “lights-out shooter” by Frames, who said Hahne has “honestly made me better as a player because of how hard and intense she plays every single possession.”
Haegerstrand, who has played on Sweden national teams with Hahne, echoed that sentiment about Hahne.
“She’s the hardest worker I’ve ever played with,” Haegerstrand said.
Mullen said that Cooper could play multiple positions for the Great Danes, and is capable of attacking from the perimeter and the post.
“She’s a mismatch nightmare because she’s so strong and athletic,” Mullen said.
Listed as a 6-foot-0 guard, Cooper is from Frederick, Maryland.
LOSE 1, ADD 1
UAlbany lost its game next Wednesday against Marist, as part of the MAAC’s need to reshuffle its women’s basketball schedule following a pandemic-related pause for Niagara. UAlbany and Marist were supposed to play on back-to-back days next week, and the teams still are scheduled to play Tuesday at Marist.
But, since Saint Peter’s lost its MAAC games this weekend against Niagara, UAlbany was able to add Saint Peter’s to its schedule as a non-conference game. As announced Thursday, the Great Danes will host Saint Peter’s on Sunday in what will be UAlbany’s home opener.
No fans are currently allowed at UAlbany home games.