ALBANY — If you dunk in the NBA or college basketball, there’s a chance you’ll wind up on a highlight show.
You do it in lacrosse, there’s a chance it’s the most ho-hum part of a scoring play, the end result of precise — maybe even flashy — passing that sets somebody up for an easy finish.
Corey Yunker has been dunking a lot for the UAlbany men’s lacrosse team, a reflection of an offense that’s in tune. Head coach Scott Marr has been stressing the importance of assisted goals, as opposed to one-on-one play to generate scoring, and Yunker sometimes is the beneficiary of that.
Funny thing is, Yunker might be the player on the roster least inclined to look for the spotlight, and if he slams one home, it’s merely the play that the team needs in that moment. He’ll soon move into third place in points on the team for the season, and when he does, it’ll be the product of his unselfishness as opposed to trying to boost his personal stats.
As the Great Danes (4-2 America East, 6-3 overall) head into the final stretch of conference play with a home game against NJIT this coming Saturday, the junior attack from Churchville-Chili epitomizes what Marr and his staff are looking for in a player.
“Corey Yunker is the quintessential teammate,” Marr said after UAlbany came up with an important 14-9 win over UMBC last time out. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had a kid that plays with the demeanor that Corey does.
“You take Corey out, he gets on the sideline, he cheers for his teammates, he’s engaged in the game. You put him back in, he’s ready to play. Just really proud of how Corey Yunker responds to coaching and going in and out of the lineup and not feeling like he’s being pulled for this reason or that reason. He never complains, he never says anything, he just goes out every day, in practice and in games, and just does what he’s asked to do.”
Of the 53 players on UAlbany’s opening day roster, Yunker is one of nine non-goalies who have played in all nine games, with five starts.
After he scored four goals in the second half — three of which were dunks — and assisted on two others in the UMBC game, Yunker has 13 goals and eight assists on the season for 21 points, two behind Tehoka Nanticoke (who has been dismissed from the team).
With two regular-season games left, pending a possible re-scheduling of the postponed Vermont game, Jakob Patterson (20-7-27) and Graydon Hogg (6-21-27) are tied for the team lead in points.
Yunker may lead the team in steady play.
“We shuffle Corey in and out a lot of times, and he does a lot of good things for us,” Marr said. “He’s a really consistent player. Last week [April 8] against Syracuse, he had the first goal of the game and played the rest of the game flawless. He didn’t make any mistakes, didn’t throw the ball away. He didn’t score many goals, but at the same time, just a good, solid player.”
“I definitely just try to be a good teammate and try to do all the little things well and just focus on doing my job,” Yunker said. “I believe that if I do that and just be a good person and teammate, everything else will fall into place for me. So I try to do that very day and try to get the best out of myself and the best out of my teammates.”
Against UMBC, his job was to simply slam balls past Retrievers goalie Tommy Lingner.
The Great Danes trailed 8-5 after a slow start to the second half, and after Patterson cut it to 8-6, Yunker scored two straight to tie it and gave the Great Danes a 10-8 lead with 6:30 left in the fourth quarter, as UAlbany’s offense cranked it into high gear.
Thirteen of the Great Danes’ 14 goals were assisted, including all four of Yunker’s. His fourth gave UAlbany an 11-9 lead during a torrid span of 38 seconds in which UAlbany outscored UMBC 3-1.
“He’s not that flashy star,” Marr said. “He’s not Jakob, he’s not a Lyle Thompson, he’s just a good, steady player. He’s not underappreciated on this team, I know that. His teammates see what he does, how hard he rides, the ground balls that he gets.
“A lot of his goals are on the doorstep. He dunks on people. The Syracuse goal, he just dunked it. But those dunks come because our offense is doing the right things, and he’s just the last guy on the chain, and he gets to finish those balls, and he’s in the right spot. Corey understands the game.”
Marr pointed out that Yunker is already committed to being UAlbany’s volunteer coach in two years after he graduates.
“I just love lacrosse that much,” Yunker said. “So I figured that after graduation, I definitely want to get into coaching. Obviously, learning from coach Marr and coach [Merrick] Thomson and coach [John] Maloney, good people to learn from. So I’m excited for that.
“He lives and breathes it, he wants to be a coach and he just knows what to do,” Marr said.