UAlbany basketball teams conduct intrasquad scrimmages

UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Dwayne Killings speaks to media before practice at UAlbany SEFCU Arena in Albany on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.
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UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Dwayne Killings speaks to media before practice at UAlbany SEFCU Arena in Albany on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.

ALBANY — Addressing the fans in attendance before the start of Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage at SEFCU Arena, first-year UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Dwayne Killings labeled that day’s action as the Great Danes’ “first chance . . . to make a first impression.”

For several Great Danes, and especially De’Vondre Perry, the afternoon’s scrimmage that was open to the public offered a positive one.

Perry, a transfer from Temple, was the top standout from Saturday’s game, which saw one group of Great Danes top another 59-46 in a scrimmage consisting of four eight-minute quarters. There were no official statistics, but the 6-foot-7, 220-pound Perry showed an ability to get to the basket, make 3-pointers, rebound and play passing lanes on defense at a high level.

“We’re looking for him to be a leader of our program,” Killings said.

Perry looked the part in leading his squad to a victory. After averaging 4.8 points and 2.9 rebounds during four seasons at Temple, Perry said he’s ready to take on a much larger role with UAlbany.

“I played my role [at Temple], but now I’m just ready to showcase everything,” Perry said. “I have the opportunity now, [so] I’m going to showcase everything.”

While Perry likely was the afternoon’s leading scorer, a number of Great Danes produced strong efforts. Freshmen Ny’Mire Little and Justin Neely each looked ready to earn minutes when the team starts its season with a Nov. 9 home game against Towson, while a trio of returning contributors from last season — Chuck Champion, Jarvis Doles and Jamel Horton — appeared comfortable in Killings’ system. Transfers Matt Cerruti and Paul Newman each offered strong sequences during the 32 minutes of game play.  

Most encouraging, perhaps, was that Trey Hutcheson — another returning player — looked more like the freshman version of himself. Hutcheson’s scoring dipped from 6.7 points per game as a freshman to 1.5 as a sophomore, but the junior perimeter player made several 3s Saturday and looked confident taking his shot. Hutcheson made 36 of 111 3-point attempts as a freshman, then only took 13 — and missed all of them — last season.

As an assistant at Temple, Killings helped lead the recruitment of Perry to that school. Killings called Perry a “front-line leader” for his first batch of Great Danes, and Perry said he’s ready to assume that role and excited to play for Killings, who left Temple for a job at UConn before Perry ever played for the Owls.

“I trust coach ‘DK’ a lot. We go way back,” Perry said. “He’s always been up front with me, pretty open and honest with me — no matter if I want to hear it or not. I respect that about him.”

TEAMING UP

The seven-man teams for Saturday’s scrimmage consisted of Cerruti, Luke Fizulich, Hutcheson, Tairi Ketner, Little, Newman and Perry vs. Champion, Doles, Gerald Drumgoole, Horton, Neely, Aaron Reddish and Sam Shafer.

Killings said his goal with the teams was “balance,” so it seems unlikely an early look at a starting five was had Saturday. The coach said, too, that the teams likely would have looked significantly different if sophomore guard Will Amica — who is dealing with a “hip injury” — had participated in the scrimmage.

Earlier this preseason, Killings referred to Amica’s injury as a “lingering” one, but the coach said Amica had practiced this past week and should be available to play when the program goes through its preseason scrimmages. UAlbany will scrimmage later this month against Saint Joseph’s and Canisius.

“Will’s been tremendous,” Killings said of the guard, who missed nearly all of his freshmen season with a variety of injuries.

Shafer was injured during Saturday’s scrimmage and didn’t return to action after he “rolled” his right ankle. The redshirt junior was wearing a walking boot when he left the court area.

PHILLIPS DEVELOPING ROLE

Before the UAlbany men’s basketball program’s scrimmage, head coach Colleen Mullen’s women’s basketball program also conducted an intrasquad scrimmage, but her Great Danes didn’t keep consistent teams throughout the action, as players rotated between the two squads.

For an extended period of the scrimmage, though, the Great Danes did feature a lineup that looked a lot like the team’s potential starting lineup, and freshman Lilly Phillips — who starred at Cambridge High School — often played point guard with that group.

“Lilly is certainly our main ball-handler, as of right now,” Mullen said. “She has really emerged as a freshman — but it’s always hard to be a freshman point guard, you know?”

Mullen clarified that she’s not ready to name a starting lineup, but the Great Danes do return four starters — Lucia Decortes, Helene Haegerstrand, Ellen Hahne and Grace Heeps — from a squad that lost starting point guard Kyara Frames in the offseason. Phillips is among three players competing to start at point guard, along with Morgan Haney and Fatima Lee.

Lee also played some minutes Saturday with the Great Danes’ returning quartet of starters, while Haney sat out the scrimmage as she recovers from “nagging injuries” that Mullen said are not related to the knee injuries that robbed Haney of nearly all the last two seasons.

“She just needed some rest,” said Mullen, who added the expectation is that Haney will resume practicing this week after sitting out recent sessions.

Phillips said she’s still learning the college game, but she’s gaining confidence.

“Every day in practice, it just seems to get even more comfortable,” Phillips said. “The upperclassmen are really helping me with the transition every day. It just gets better and better.”

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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