Throughout his first season leading the UAlbany men’s basketball program, head coach Dwayne Killings knew he could rely on his team’s veterans to provide on-court leadership and off-court examples to follow for the younger Great Danes.
“Each of them did it in different ways for us,” Killings said.
Before Saturday’s 4 p.m. home game against New Hampshire, the Great Danes will honor their six players who are either seniors or graduate students as part of a senior-day ceremony. Those players are Chuck Champion, Matt Cerruti, Jarvis Doles, Jamel Horton, De’Vondre Perry and Paul Newman. That group of players include the team’s top-four scorers and top-six rebounders.
Champion, Doles and Horton were players that stuck with UAlbany after the school’s dismissal of former head coach Will Brown. Killings has often credited the team’s returning players with making sure a foundation was set for the program to move forward.
“The biggest part of their leadership was they embraced the change,” Killings said Friday ahead of his club’s latest America East Conference game.
Cerruti, Newman and Perry transferred into the UAlbany program after Killings’ hire. The coach said those three players helped demonstrate the work ethic required of players within the program.
“They’re all every-day guys,” Killings said, “and that’s what we’re looking for.”
UAlbany (7-7 league, 11-15 overall) lost to New Hampshire (7-7, 12-11) earlier this season, a game that saw a Great Danes comeback attempt end with a 64-62 defeat. In that game, New Hampshire’s Nick Guadarrama made his first eight shots, including five from 3-point territory, during a first half that saw the senior score 23 of his game-high 32 points. The 32 points set a career-high for Guadarrama, a senior who is averaging 12.5 points per game this season.
“He can make you pay for any mistake that you make, but he’s also such a mismatch problem,” Killings said of Guadarrama, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound forward who is comfortable shooting from the outside and using his size to his advantage in the paint.
With four games left in the regular season, UAlbany is still able to earn a home playoff game — and could climb as high as No. 2 behind Vermont, which has already earned the postseason’s top seed. UAlbany defeated Binghamton in its last game.
After playing New Hampshire, UAlbany plays road games next week against Maine and Stony Brook before ending the regular season with a March 1 home game against Hartford.
Of the players UAlbany will honor before its game at SEFCU Arena in Albany, all are expected to be in uniform except Perry.
The club’s leading scorer on the season, Perry was ruled out for the season prior to a Jan. 21 meniscus surgery. In the last week, though, Perry has been participating in contact portions of practice.
Killings — as he did earlier this week — said Perry and he “haven’t talked at all” about Perry potentially playing again this season.
“The focus with Dre is just getting him healthy,” Killings said.
OFF TO NEW HAMPSHIRE
With two major games looming for the UAlbany women’s basketball team, head coach Colleen Mullen said the Great Danes know where their focus needs to be this weekend.
Squarely on New Hampshire (3-10 league, 6-18 overall), the team UAlbany (11-4, 18-8) plays at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“If you don’t go to New Hampshire with a sense of urgency, intensity and focus, then, you’ve put yourself in a position where you’re more games back,” Mullen said Thursday. “And you don’t want to do that. You have to take care of business, you have to win the games that you need to win, one game at a time.”
UAlbany hosts Maine and Stony Brook next week, the two teams ahead of the Great Danes in the conference standings. Both those clubs, too, defeated the Great Danes earlier this season, while UAlbany bested New Hampshire 50-39 in January.
“Right now, primary focus: New Hampshire,” UAlbany’s Morgan Haney said. “And that’s easy for us. We’re always . . . taking it game by game, quarter by quarter, half by half.”
UAlbany is coming off a win against Binghamton that pushed the Great Danes’ record at SEFCU Arena to 13-0. UAlbany is 5-8 away from its home court, and likely needs a road win this weekend to keep alive its chance to host throughout the conference playoffs.
First-place Stony Brook is ineligible for the postseason, while Maine is a half-game ahead of the Great Danes in the league’s race for the postseason’s No. 1 seed.
SIENA WOMEN PLAY MARIST
On its senior day, the Siena women’s basketball team will look to end a five-game MAAC losing streak.
Siena (6-9 league, 6-17 overall) hosts Marist (5-10, 7-16) at 5 p.m. at UHY Center in Loudonville.
Siena defeated Marist 69-53 in a mid-January game in Poughkeepsie. That victory was part of a five-game winning streak for Siena, a stretch that followed the Saints losing their first 10 games of the season. Since the team’s winning streak, though, the Saints have lost seven of eight games.
With five MAAC games left, Siena is in seventh place. Marist is in second-to-last place in the 11-team MAAC.