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Freshmen provide hope for UAlbany men's basketball

Freshmen provide hope for UAlbany men's basketball

Notes on the Great Danes
Freshmen provide hope for UAlbany men's basketball
UAlbany's Adam Lulka goes for a loose ball.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

ALBANY — The team’s record is 4-9.

University at Albany men’s basketball head coach Will Brown isn’t thrilled with that. 

He’s also not too concerned about it, either.

“We’re going to be good,” Brown said after Thursday’s 10-point win against Manhattan. “I have no doubt about it.”

Like, next season, Coach?

No.

“We’re going to be good this year,” Brown said.

While the overall record is one UAlbany — a program that achieved four consecutive 20-plus win seasons — is not accustomed to having, there are reasons for an optimistic outlook toward the rest of this season for the Great Danes. The top reason on that list is UAlbany’s embrace of its young talent, seen Thursday when the Great Danes started four freshmen — Brent Hank, Cameron Healy, Adam Lulka and Antonio Rizzuto — for the first time this season. That group started fast, as UAlbany made its first five shots and took a 12-5 lead into the game’s first timeout.

“I think it definitely set the tone for us,” Lulka said of the Great Danes’ start in a game they never trailed. “It showed that we were going to come out and play.”

Healy, Lulka and Rizzuto combined for 40 points in the victory, while foul trouble limited Hank to nine minutes.

Another source of optimism for the Great Danes? Sophomore Philip Flory (foot) is expected to debut for UAlbany when it plays at Kent State next Friday. The guard is expected to play significant minutes right away for UAlbany on the perimeter.

‘HE’S OUR BEST PLAYER’

Late in Thursday’s win, junior Ahmad Clark charged forward on a one-man fast-break against multiple Manhattan defenders.

Predictably, the decision ended in a turnover. In the moment, Brown reacted angrily on the sideline, but the coach didn’t consider removing Clark from the lineup because of the error.

“Listen,” Brown said, “I’ve got to let Ahmad play. I’ve got to let him make mistakes. He’s our best player. He’s the one guy that can consistently create for us. So I have to live with some of the mistakes.”

There were plenty of mistakes Thursday for Clark, but they were outweighed by the first-year starter’s positive contributions. While Clark made six turnovers against Manhattan’s pressuring defense, the junior also scored 23 points, dished six assists and grabbed four rebounds in 35 minutes.

Notably, UAlbany’s season-leading scorer at 18.6 points per game made his way to the foul line for 15 free throws. Clark, a 78.1 percent shooter from the foul line this season, made 13 of those attempts.

“Still think I should have made them all,” Clark said.

HOLIDAY PLANS

After practicing each day this weekend, UAlbany breaks from basketball-related work until it returns to practice on Wednesday evening.

For most players and coaches, that means getting to spend some time at home. For UAlbany’s players from a great distance, though, it means getting to spend some extra time with their coach.

“They get to spend [Christmas] with the Browns,” Brown said.

That group includes each of the team’s three Australians — Hank, Healy and Lulka — and potentially junior Kendall Lauderdale, a California native.

“It’s very important to me that the guys [that] cannot get home, that they come join my family and celebrate the holidays with my wife, and my boys and my relatives,” Brown said.

Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.

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