ALBANY — It’s a six-week stretch that head coach Dwayne Killings sees as incredibly important.
“This is where we’re going to build our foundation, not only for our season, but for our program’s future,” said Killings, who was hired in mid-March to lead the UAlbany men’s basketball program.
The Great Danes’ summer workouts officially start Monday, the day each of the team’s 15 players — six returners, nine newcomers — are due to report to campus. That first day’s main team activities will consist of a meeting and meal together, before the Great Danes “get rolling” on the court together the next day.
“Really focused on learning each other at this point. We’ll work on fundamentals and play, but for the six returners, that’s a group of guys that’s been around our coaching [from the spring] and understand what we’re trying to do,” Killings said. “For the nine other guys, that’ll be the first time they’re in the gym together with us. So we want to get some of that anxiety out and start working.”
With restrictions related to the pandemic loosening, Killings said his coaches were able last month to visit, in-person, with the program’s newcomers. Killings said he had met all of his players at one point or another prior to last month with the exception of incoming freshman Justin Neely.
“I thought it was really important to go into their home environments,” said Killings, whose program newcomers committed when in-person recruiting wasn’t able to occur. “I think that was a breath of fresh air for everyone.”
Killings was able to work in the spring and spend ample time with returning players Will Amica, Chuck Champion, Jarvis Doles, Jamel Horton, Trey Hutcheson and Sam Shafer. Meanwhile, Killings already had familiarity with some of the new Great Danes, such as Aaron Reddish, the younger brother of Cam Reddish — now on the Atlanta Hawks — whom Killings recruited when he was an assistant coach at UConn.
“I went from recruiting [Cam Reddish] to now he was recruiting me to recruit his brother,” Killings said. “The cool thing about Aaron is he’s determined to make his own mark and have his own basketball story.”
The story of Killings’ first season at UAlbany, where he replaced long-time coach Will Brown, starts writing itself in earnest with the upcoming summer workouts. There is still a bit more than four months until the team’s first game of the 2021-22 season, and Killings said the Great Danes need to utilize that time.
“Most importantly,” Killings said, “we have to grow as a program and grow as a team.”