ALBANY — During his first season with the UAlbany men’s basketball program, Chuck Champion was still largely in recovery mode.
A 6-foot-4 guard, Champion had broken his right foot during his final season playing at Loyola (Md.), and the lack of consistent practice time last season — due to issues related to the novel coronavirus pandemic — especially hurt a player in need of extra time on the court to develop a rhythm after missing nearly all of the 2019-20 campaign. Champion ended up appearing in all 16 games last season for the Great Danes, but the graduate transfer averaged a lower-than-expected 17.9 minutes per game.
“I’m 100%,” Champion said after Tuesday’s practice at SEFCU Arena. “I’m feeling good — real good. It’s nice to have my body feeling good.”
Champion averaged 6.1 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game last season, but showed glimpses during his one year playing for former UAlbany head coach Will Brown what he could provide this upcoming season for first-year Great Danes head coach Dwayne Killings. After not scoring at all in UAlbany’s first three games last season, Champion registered double-digit scoring in five of the team’s final dozen games.
Compared to last season, teammate Jarvis Doles said Champion’s been “much more aggressive” in terms of taking on playmaking opportunities during the Great Danes’ preseason practices.
“He’s taking on more of a leadership role, too,” said Doles, who is one of six returning Great Danes from last season. “He’s being more vocal.”
Killings likes the consistency Champion has delivered on the court, plus the shot-making ability the guard from Philadelphia possesses.
“He brings a maturity,” Killings said of the guard, a graduate student in his sixth year of college. “He’s been great for us.”
Champion said he plans for that to continue.
“I’m confident, and ready to help our guys be the best we can be this year,” Champion said.
ON THE SCREEN
At UAlbany practices this season, a new fixture of the sideline scene is a TV with an almost-live feed of the on-court action.
The footage that plays on the screen is delayed by approximately 20 seconds, and allows the Great Danes coaching staff an extra teaching tool.
“If a guy makes a mistake, we can go to the TV and point things out in real time,” Killings said.
And, if the players think a foul was called in error . . .
“We can [rewatch] it,” Champion said with a smile.
Killings said KJ Baptiste, the program’s director of recruiting and video, had the idea to set up the TV. Baptiste was a graduate assistant manager for the last two seasons at Penn State, which had a similar setup.