ALBANY — A few weeks back, UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Dwayne Killings made the trek to one of the New York Knicks’ preseason practices.
Among the people Killings caught up with was small forward Cam Reddish, who is about to start his first full season with the Knicks after being traded from the Atlanta Hawks last January. He’s also the older brother of UAlbany sophomore Aaron Reddish, and it was on that topic that Killings had a pointed message for the fourth-year NBA player.
“I saw Cam, and I said, ‘Make sure that you keep the fire under [Aaron’s] feet every single day,’” Killings said earlier this week during UAlbany’s preseason media day. “And as long as Cam does his part, we’ll do our part.”
Motivation doesn’t seem to be a problem for the younger Reddish.
A 6-foot-7 forward, Aaron Reddish was an America East All-Rookie Team selection in 2021-22 after averaging 2.8 points and 1.5 rebounds over 18 games. He showed glimpses of potential — especially in an 11-point outing Feb. 26 against Stony Brook — but Reddish ended last season knowing there was still much more he could contribute to the Great Danes.
So, what did that mean for his offseason?
“Work,” Reddish said. “Heavy work.”
Reddish is expecting a larger workload this year for a UAlbany team that opens up its season Nov. 7 at Towson. He spent the summer preparing for that responsibility.
“Going into my second year, the game slows down a little bit, I’m expected to do a little bit more, so I’ve got to work at some things,” Reddish said. “This summer, I was really working.”
That included plenty of opportunities to bounce things off his big brother — and pick up a few pointers that he was thrilled to be able to add to his game upon his return to UAlbany.
“There was definitely a few of those moments where it was like, ‘OK, I can definitely take this back to school,’” Reddish said. “Learning from my brother, especially, playing at the highest level, there’s definitely stuff that I picked up that I can bring back here.”
Improving his ball-handling was one focus, but Reddish said his biggest emphasis was on the defensive end of the floor.
A wiry, athletic forward, Reddish knows he has the ability to impact a game on the defensive side with his explosiveness, and he’s focused on providing more than the 41 rebounds, nine steals and two blocks he tallied in 277 minutes as a freshman.
In fact, he’s got a specific goal in mind.
“I want to be an all-league defender, all-league player,” Reddish said. “That’s my goal for the year, and I think that’s what will help the team the most — especially being an all-league defender.”
From what Killings has seen in UAlbany’s preseason work, Reddish — a player that the second-year head coach described as “built a little different, he’s taller and longer than pretty much anybody out there for us” — has that goal well within sight.
Killings said that Reddish has been a disruptive defender in practice, constantly getting deflections and steals.
One particular moment in an intrasquad scrimmage stood out prominently.
“Somebody breaks away for a transition layup, he comes out of nowhere and blocks it,” Killings said. “If he can do that during the season, we’re going to be a really good basketball team.”
In that same scrimmage, Reddish showed off his evolving offensive game, going on a personal 8-0 run at one point.
“In all honesty, Aaron can do some things that other guys can’t,” Killings said. “Now, can he really tap into who he is and his talent level? He’s close.”
And while Killings implored Cam Reddish to keep his younger brother’s feet to the fire, Aaron Reddish has all the motivation he needs in seeing the path his older brother laid out for him.
“It’s amazing to watch it, having watched it all happen since I was a kid, and seeing his dream come true,” the younger Reddish said. “Now, I’m trying to get to that same place. So, it’s great to have somebody who’s been there. They’ve been in my shoes where I am right now. It’s good to have somebody to bounce those questions off — somebody who’s older than me, somebody that I trust.”
The Great Danes were picked to finish in sixth place in this season’s America East preseason poll released Thursday.
Defending champion Vermont took first place in the poll, while league newcomer Bryant took second. In between Bryant and UAlbany, in order, were UMass Lowell, Binghamton and UMBC, while Nos. 7-9 went New Hampshire, NJIT and Maine.
No UAlbany players made the preseason all-conference team. Making that squad were Bryant’s Charles Pride and Earl Timberlake, Vermont’s Dylann Penn and Finn Sullivan, UMass Lowell’s Max Brooks and Binghamton’s Jacob Falko.
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