ALBANY — The energy and enthusiasm has been good.
The execution, through a week of official practices, has not.
And, really, that was how University at Albany men’s basketball head coach Will Brown expected the first days with his revamped roster to go.
“They’re playing hard,” Brown said Thursday. “It’s just been real sloppy right now.”
That has been tough to deal with for both players and coaches. With a team, though, that has three freshmen and three redshirt freshmen in the mix for playing time, getting through the opening grind of the preseason is a necessary step for the Great Danes.
“It’s been a little frustrating for the new guys and [returning players], just seeing them struggle with the plays,” UAlbany junior Ahmad Clark said. “But you can definitely see we’re progressing. We’re gaining more chemistry as a team, and we just have to pick up the pace, but not be sloppy.”
Practices, Brown said, have had “too many lulls” as coaches explain — and explain again — facets to the team’s offensive and defensive schemes. Brown, though, has appreciated the willingness of his players to speak up with questions when they’re unsure about what to do.
“The lulls are because these guys want to get it right,” Brown said.
“And Coach always encourages us to ask questions. He always tells us that it’s better to ask than not to know,” freshman Malachi de Sousa said. “But the energy has been high. We’re all competing. The energy isn’t the problem. We just all need to keep building.”
One area the Great Danes have already built successfully is their ability to pressure the ball on defense. Brown sees that quality as one of this season’s top strengths for UAlbany . . . and another reason the team’s opening practices have been rough.
“The defense is forcing the offense to play at too fast of a pace, and I think that’s why it’s sloppy,” Brown said. “We’re making a lot of mistakes because guys, I think, are getting pressured into making decisions too quickly instead of just relaxing.”
UAlbany’s first game comes Nov. 9 at Iona.
As feared, UAlbany sophomore Philip Flory needs surgery on his left foot after initially injuring it in mid-August.
“Flory’s going to have surgery on Tuesday,” Brown said of the guard, who has a fracture in his fifth metatarsal. “He came [back to practice] for two days and it flared up again. So we’re going to get a screw put in there on Tuesday.”
Brown said Flory won’t be available to return to practice until “mid-to-late December” and that his status for the season is “to be determined.” Brown said a decision about whether to redshirt Flory will involve input from the player, and the coaching and training staffs.
Thursday, though, Brown seemed to be learning toward redshirting Flory.
“I think he’s a pretty good player and I’d rather have him healthy for three years,” Brown said. “But we’ll make that decision collectively.”
Already, UAlbany is without redshirt sophomore Jeremiah Starks, who suffered what is believed to be a career-ending knee injury.
Brown said both players had been penciled into spots in a hypothetical nine-man rotation before their injuries.
“That, again, creates opportunities for others,” Brown said.