ALBANY — CJ Kelly said it’s “shocking that we actually get to play.”
And UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Will Brown cautioned there is still at least one obstacle in the way of the Great Danes finally starting their season this Saturday against a UMBC team that is 4-1 on the season.
“Well,” Brown said during Wednesday’s teleconference with reporters, “we have one more COVID test that we have to pass to get to Saturday.”
That’s college basketball here in 2020. While both of the Capital Region’s Division I women’s basketball teams have played multiple games, neither the UAlbany nor the Siena men’s teams have played yet in a season that saw its first matchups contested on Nov. 25.
Brown said he knows his players are able to “see light at the end of the tunnel” after they’ve experienced a variety of pandemic-related pauses since getting back to campus in August. But, despite the much-delayed start to its season, UAlbany will head into Saturday’s game at SEFCU Arena with fewer full-contact practices than it would normally have conducted before a season-opening game.
Brown, being the coach, has concerns related to that.
He knows, though, that his players can’t wait to play.
“They love this game,” Brown said, “and they want the opportunity to play.”
Kelly, a junior who is new this season to the UAlbany program, is a player that has received strong reviews from Brown regarding the 6-foot-5 perimeter player’s ability to score the basketball. Brown said Wednesday that UAlbany’s “expectations are pretty high” for Kelly, a player the coach labeled the “most talented individual offensive player” in his program.
“I think his success will be determined [by] his ability on the other end of the floor,” Brown said.
Kelly said the Great Danes are “pretty comfortable” with where they’re at as a group heading into this weekend’s series of back-to-back games against UMBC — and they can’t wait to get the chance to make their debut.
“It doesn’t feel real,” Kelly said.
Brown said the Great Danes won’t play Dec. 23 against Bryant, as previously scheduled.
But UAlbany is trying to schedule two non-conference games between playing UMBC this weekend and the Great Danes’ Jan. 2-3 games at Vermont.
UAlbany is one of four America East teams not to play a game yet this season. Along with the Great Danes, Maine, NJIT and Vermont have also not played.
ROOT CANAL FOR HEALY
UAlbany redshirt junior Cameron Healy, the team’s top returning scorer, was a late scratch from Wednesday’s media availability. Brown said the redshirt junior needed to undergo a root canal.
“He went to the dentist hoping it was a filling,” Brown said.
Brown said he expected Healy not to miss any of the Great Danes’ upcoming practices and that he’ll be available to play against UMBC.
“We’re not expecting any issues moving forward,” Brown said.
Brown said the face mask he’ll wear for this weekend’s games should help him stay composed — or at least appear that way — as his team works through the inevitable rough patches of a squad playing for the first time after an unusual preseason.
“Hopefully,” Brown said, “I don’t chew a hole through it.”