ALBANY — Justin Neely has taken the first step in his long recovery journey, but his isn’t the only injury that’s left a banged-up UAlbany men’s basketball program scrambling to put healthy players on the court.
Great Danes head coach Dwayne Killings confirmed Thursday that Neely, the reigning America East Rookie of the Year, underwent surgery on Wednesday in his native Miami to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. The sophomore forward suffered the injury during the Albany Cup on Nov. 12 against Siena, putting an end to his season after playing just 25 minutes over two games.
Killings said the procedure “went well,” as Neely now moves forward into a long rehabilitation process.
“I talked to his dad, talked to him,” Killings said. “He’s in the recovery phase. They’ve got a bed in the living room. He’s staying positive. It’s a new journey for Justin, it’s going to be hard. We’re going to be really positive with him, reaching out to him. We’ll start to get out to see him over the next couple days, spend some time with him. We’re just cheering him on through his recovery.”
The loss of Neely, the team’s anticipated top player this season, has been a major hindrance for a UAlbany squad that takes a 3-7 overall record into Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. road matchup against Providence.
But, the Great Danes’ injured list doesn’t stop at Neely.
UAlbany lost a second player for the season when sophomore guard Ny’Mire Little suffered a hip injury that will require surgery later this month. Meanwhile, freshman guard Marcus Jackson was evaluated Wednesday for a collarbone injury suffered Nov. 26 against Florida Atlantic, but still hasn’t been cleared to return to action.
Sophomore forward Aaron Reddish did return to the lineup in Monday’s 87-73 loss to UMass after missing two games due to illness, but he missed the bulk of Thursday’s practice after back soreness flared up.
“He’s got a little bit of a back injury,” Killings said. “I thought, in the UMass game, he was pressing a little bit to get himself back. I think he was thinking that he was going to play the same basketball he was before, but that takes a little time.”
With junior forward Japannah Kellogg also missing Thursday due to illness, the Great Danes had just eight healthy players on the court as they prepared for Saturday’s matchup against head coach Ed Cooley’s Friars.
The recent rash of injuries isn’t just limited to UAlbany’s players. Assistant coach Ryan Daly suffered a concussion at practice last week when participating in workouts to cover for the Great Danes’ dwindling roster.
Dealing with a lineup in constant flux hasn’t been easy, freshman center Jonathan Beagle said. Ten games in, UAlbany doesn’t have a single player who has been in the starting five every time out.
“It’s really tough right now,” said Beagle, who is one of three players on the team to start nine out of UAlbany’s 10 games. “Losing Justin really hurts, he’s one of our best players. We’re just battling through it. I mean, hopefully by conference player, this makes us the strongest team. We’ve been through a lot.”