ALBANY — During his first months leading the UAlbany men’s basketball program, Dwayne Killings made clear his top priorities were focusing on the six players he inherited and finding them teammates for the 2021-22 season.
“The most important thing, and we always say this, is our present team. That’s the philosophy. The guys we have in our program right now, they’re our family,” Killings said recently. “They’re everything to us, so we focus on building on that.”
Part of that building, of course, is recruiting Great Danes for the future, too. Killings and his coaching staff spent ample time on that project throughout the summer, and that work provides a solid glimpse at the type of players a Killings-led UAlbany program wants to bring into the fold. The database at verbalcommits.com shows UAlbany with approximately a few dozen scholarship offers to players set to graduate from high school in 2022 or 2023. That group includes players from a range of states, but players from Maryland, the Philadelphia area and all over New York appear to make up the majority of those Killings’ program has offered.
“I know they’re doing something really special there. I’m excited about them,” said Khalil Farmer, a rising senior at Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia.
Farmer was one of three recruits UAlbany has offered a scholarship that The Daily Gazette contacted in August. Farmer, along with Shane Lancaster and Gavin Walsh of Maryland each said they’d been impressed with the outreach from UAlbany’s coaching staff, and had either visited or planned to visit the Great Danes’ campus at some point in the near future.
“The UAlbany coaching staff, they’ve been very personable,” said Lancaster, a 6-foot-4 guard who is set to be a senior at St. John’s College High School in Washington D.C.
Walsh, a 6-foot-7 forward who is spending his senior year at Bishop Walsh School in Cumberland, Maryland, already has offers from several mid-major schools and has started to generate interest from larger programs following a strong AAU season playing for Team Melo in the EYBL. Walsh has a visit set up with UAlbany later this summer, and said he’s liked how the Great Danes coaches have made a point of their conversations with him being “not just about basketball” as they’ve recruited him.
“They’ve been great with the whole process,” Walsh said.
Killings arrived at UAlbany in mid-March with the reputation as a top-notch recruiter — and a particular strength is with securing players from the Philadelphia area, where several current Great Danes have connections. Killings had two separate stints working at Temple, and assistant coach Matt Griffin coached at Roman Catholic High School — a Philadelphia Catholic League member — prior to joining Killings at UAlbany.
Farmer played for Griffin last season. A 6-foot-4 guard, Farmer said Griffin started UAlbany’s recruitment of him, and that he’s enjoyed getting to know Killings as the process has progressed.
“Most importantly, for me, I want to go to a place where I feel like I’m at home,” said Farmer, who has more than a dozen scholarship offers from mid-major programs. “I know that’s not going to be that simple, but I want someone that’s going to push me to be the best student and athlete I can be.”
Calling the UAlbany coaching staff “transparent” and “genuine,” Farmer said the Great Danes fit that description.
“They’ve completely been that,” Farmer said.
While Griffin has been critical in Farmer’s recruitment, each of Killings’ assistant coaches have played a significant role in the program’s recruitment process; Walsh said assistant coach Hamlet Tibbs has often been in contact with him, while Lancaster said assistant coach Dannton Jackson kicked off the Great Danes’ recruitment of him.
For the 2021-22 season, UAlbany’s roster includes 15 players. Of the team’s nine new players, three are freshmen and six are transfers, a mixture that Killings said was designed to help the Great Danes “get old and stay old.” Moving forward, Killings said the Great Danes will continue to try to utilize the NCAA transfer portal, but finding incoming freshmen is crucial, too.
While UAlbany is coming off three consecutive losing seasons, Killings has said the goal is for the Great Danes to win right away. Lancaster said that desire to compete for America East championships and bids to the NCAA tournament has been communicated during UAlbany’s recruiting pitches.
“He [Killings] has a big vision for that program,” Lancaster said.