ALBANY — Barring any unexpected changes, the roster is set for the University at Albany men’s basketball program for its 2019-20 season.
That’s after a commitment last week from Sam Shafer, a 6-foot-6 wing player who redshirted during his freshman season with Southern Illinois. Shafer fills the 13th scholarship spot for next season for UAlbany, which returns nine scholarship players from last season, and has two incoming freshmen and a pair of transfers joining the program. Along with Shafer, guard Jojo Anderson transferred to UAlbany earlier this offseason from Nevada.
“When I first got into the transfer portal, UAlbany contacted me right away. They’d watched my highlights, and I sent them a couple games from high school,” said Shafer, a native of Frankfort, Illinois. “They got right to it. They took me on a visit — an official — and took me around the campus, showed me around and I really liked it. It was a great place. I loved the coaches. I know they’ve made the [NCAA] tournament a lot of times, and I’d love to go to a team that’s known for winning. I wanted to go to a winner because then you know there’s unselfish guys there and that it’s a good program.”
Last season, UAlbany uncharacteristically struggled through a 12-20 season — its first losing campaign since 2009-10 — as it utilized lineups filled with freshmen following the previous offseason’s unexpected departures of Joe Cremo and David Nichols. While the Great Danes lost more than they won, they ended the season starting five freshmen and project to break back into the upper half of the America East Conference standings next season after returning nearly every significant contributor.
Shafer is one of several Southern Illinois players to transfer this offseason after a coaching change for the program. Shafer said he also received interest from Western Illinois and Youngstown State after starting his transfer process, but didn’t take any other visits after heading to UAlbany a week before he made his commitment.
“I was focused on Albany,” Shafer said. “They told me they’re in need of a 3 or 4. They said that in their league, I could really help them scoring the basketball. . . . They were looking for someone to come in and play right away. I’ve got to go in and earn that.”
Shafer will need some help, too. Despite not playing last season, Shafer will require a waiver from the NCAA to be immediately eligible at UAlbany.
“I’m really confident I’ll be able to [get a waiver] because of my situation,” Shafer said. “I don’t know what the NCAA will do, but I’m hoping for the best.”
Anderson was a non-scholarship player at Nevada, and will be immediately eligible.
Among UAlbany’s returning players from a season ago are guards Ahmad Clark and Cameron Healy who were each third-team all-conference picks.