ALBANY — Two free tickets.
That’s the offer from the University at Albany to federal government employees for Saturday’s 3 p.m. men’s basketball game at SEFCU Arena against Maine.
As the United States’ partial government shutdown, which has left approximately 800,000 federal employees furloughed, continues, UAlbany will join a growing list of athletic programs offering free tickets to affected workers.
“Some other schools are doing it, and our ticket guys were looking for some way of just being able to throw a helping hand out there,” UAlbany associate athletic director Charlie Voelker said Friday. “We’ve done stuff like this before — like with military appreciation days, giving free tickets to members of the military — and Albany is a big government worker town, so we’re just trying to be good community members.”
Before Saturday’s game, federal government employees may each claim two free tickets at the SEFCU Arena box office. A form of valid federal government identification is needed to obtain free tickets, and the same deal for free tickets will also be offered for UAlbany’s women’s basketball home game next Wednesday.
UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson said there was nothing politically minded behind the giveaway for affected workers.
“There’s just a lot of people having a tough time right now, and we thought it would be a nice thing to do to give them a night out on us,” Benson said.
“This is just our way of saying thanks to our community and our fanbase, some of whom are federal workers,” Voelker said.
Other college programs that have offered free tickets to federal workers since the shutdown started are generally located closer to Washington D.C., such as American, George Mason, George Washington and Maryland universities.
Both UAlbany (0-1, 5-11) and Maine (0-2, 2-15) are coming off losses to Vermont.
UAlbany has dealt with injuries all season, and this week was no different.
The latest Great Dane to suffer some type of injury was redshirt freshman Brent Hank, who missed some practice time this week, but is expected to play against Maine. UAlbany head coach Will Brown said Hank was involved in a collision during practice with fellow big man Kendall Lauderdale.
“They both took a bad spill,” Brown said Thursday. “[Hank] rolled his ankle, and Kendall is fine.”
Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Adam Lulka continued to practice this week with a wrap on his right wrist and hand after suffering a wrist sprain last week.
“The tape’s getting less and less each day,” Lulka said of his improving wrist.
Lulka played last weekend against Vermont after Brown had said during the week leading up to that game that Lulka could miss the game. Instead, Lulka had a team-high 15 points against Vermont in 36 minutes of action.
“I don’t think [not playing] was an option, honestly,” Lulka said. “Regardless of how bad it was, I was going to play through it.”
EXTRA TIME TO PREP
After suffering its 29-point loss last Saturday against Vermont, UAlbany had its bye in league play and received some additional days to get ready for its game against Maine.
“Obviously,” UAlbany freshman Antonio Rizzuto said of the extra days, “we won’t have that for a while now.”
Starting with the Great Danes’ game against Maine, UAlbany will play seven conference games in a stretch of 22 days.
A release Friday from the school’s athletic department made official former player Greig Stire’s new role with the program.
Stire, who played basketball for the Great Danes from 2014 to 2018 before playing football last fall, will serve as UAlbany’s video coordinator.
In his hoops career at UAlbany, Stire — who played his high school basketball at CBA — averaged 6.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in 132 games.