ALBANY — Will Amica played last Saturday like a player trying to make up for lost time.
That made sense. After all, multiple injuries have kept the freshman from debuting this season until the Great Danes’ 12th game.
So when the 6-foot-0 freshman guard swiped a steal and headed toward the basket for a fast-break bucket against UMass Lowell last Saturday, UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Will Brown shouted for the freshman to lay it in, rather than try to impress with an emphatic dunk.
The freshman, and likely future starter at the point-guard position for the Great Danes in upcoming seasons, heeded his coach.
“I definitely did hear him,” a smiling Amica said Wednesday during a teleconference with reporters. “When I got the steal, I was trying to get my footing right because I definitely did want to dunk. But I heard him. I understood where he was coming from, too — just get the two points. They’re worth the same.”
Amica impressed in UAlbany’s win against UMass Lowell, as the West Genesee High School graduate made his college debut.
“He played with so much energy and enthusiasm,” Brown said.
In nine minutes, Amica scored six points, had a steal, dished an assist, grabbed a rebound — and committed three fouls.
“I think he fouled everyone on the court, half the media and half the people on our bench in just a few minutes,” Brown said. “But it was great to see him out there.”
Amica had an elbow injury during the preseason, then suffered a head injury in late December. When Amica has been able to practice, though, he has consistently impressed Brown with his ability to make plays for himself and others off the dribble.
“He’s such a dynamic point guard,” Brown said.
Amica has impressed his teammates, too, who have struggled to defend him during practice because he’s “unbelievably quick and fast with the ball,” as graduate student Chuck Champion put it.
“What we saw from him [against UMass Lowell] is just a little glimpse of what he’s capable of,” Champion said.
Brown said UAlbany will continue to be cautious in how it uses Amica this season since he’s a freshman who hasn’t been able to consistently be on the practice court. But Brown also said the team has three “key personnel guys” dealing with injuries ahead of this weekend’s America East Conference series against Stony Brook. Brown declined to identify those three players.
UAlbany also has graduate student Jarvis Doles and junior CJ Kelly both coming back after missing last weekend’s games because of COVID-19 protocols. Brown said those two players will be limited this weekend in how many minutes they’re able to handle, so it’s possible “with where we’re at right now, potentially, [Amica] could get some opportunities” against the Seawolves.
That, of course, would be fine with Amica who has needed to be patient during his first season of college basketball. While he’s only been able to play nine minutes, he said he has tried to take advantage of playing on an experienced team filled with juniors, seniors and graduate students.
“I’m a freshman, so they’ve all played college basketball longer than me,” Amica said. “So they know a little bit more, so I’ve just been a sponge and soaked as much information as I could in.”
REVISED POSTSEASON FORMAT
The America East announced Wednesday a revised format for its postseason, and the men’s regular season will now conclude this weekend and the women’s regular season will end next Tuesday.
That means the UAlbany men’s team’s final regular-season games are this weekend’s games against Stony Brook, while the UAlbany women’s basketball team — which is currently on pause — only has regular-season games left next Monday and Tuesday against the Seawolves.
Both tournaments will be seeded using conference winning percentage despite teams playing uneven schedules and not playing all opponents. The UAlbany men are currently tied for fifth place and the UAlbany women are in fourth.
The women’s tournament, at present, will include seven teams playing a tournament utilizing home sites of the higher seed for each game. The tournament’s No. 1 seed will automatically advance to the semifinals.
The men’s tournament will automatically send the top-two seeds into the semifinals, and the No. 3 seed will host a “pod” that includes the Nos. 6 and 7 teams, while the No. 4 seed will host a “pod” including the Nos. 5, 8 and 9 teams. Winners from each “pod” — essentially a mini-tournament — will advance to the semifinals, which will take place at the Nos. 1 and 2 home venues.
Both tournaments will re-seed after each round.
The men’s postseason will start Feb. 26, and the women’s playoffs will start Feb. 28.