ALBANY — For much of his freshman season, Malachi de Sousa rarely played.
He ended his first campaign with the University at Albany men’s basketball program, though, as a starter.
So, naturally, head coach Will Brown expects more moving forward from de Sousa.
How much more?
Well, a lot.
“Some people might think I’m crazy when I say this,” Brown said recently, “but I don’t think any coach in our league thinks I’m crazy when I say this: His goal should be to be the best two-way player in our league this year.”
Such a jump would be a large one for de Sousa, a player who averaged 3.5 points and 1.9 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per game last season.
But it’s a leap Brown said he believes the 6-foot-6 wing player is capable of making during his sophomore season if de Sousa puts in the required work to make it happen.
“Even if he doesn’t, he’s going to be good,” said Brown, whose Great Danes are a few weeks into their formal summer workouts. “He has more talent than anyone in our program.”
“Watching him in individual workouts and in pickup, he’s been very dominant,” redshirt sophomore Adam Lulka said. “He’s athletic. He’s long. He can finish at the rim.”
“If he can utilize his length,” sophomore Antonio Rizzuto said, “he’s going to be good.”
Before heading back to UAlbany earlier this month, de Sousa said he tried to put himself in the best position to build off the close to his freshman season. In his final five appearances of the 2018-19 campaign, de Sousa scored 54.7% of his season’s points.
“I just tried to get better every day,” said de Sousa, who has gained several pounds this offseason to push his weight to 205. “I just worked a lot on my game. Everything. All around, I just kept working to get better.”
Early in his freshman year, de Sousa struggled to get on the court with consistency as Brown waited for the player to adjust to the expectations for him.
“And de Sousa should be much better for it. He should have learned a valuable lesson about how difficult this level is, and how hard you have to work at this level,” Brown said. “We all saw in the last five, six games how talented he is, and how good he potentially could be.”
“He and I have talked quite a bit about how dangerous the word ‘potential’ is,” Brown said. “A lot of guys have all the ability in the world and do nothing with it. A lot of guys don’t reach their potential.”
“There’s going to be plenty of days this summer when he’s not going to like me because I am going to make sure that he reaches his potential,” Brown said. “Antonio [Rizzuto] and [redshirt sophomore] Cameron [Healy] have already shown me they want to be great players. Not good players, but great players. That’s based on what they do every day — and that’s the next step for Malachi.”
This offseason, de Sousa said he feels ready to start taking that step. On the court and away from it, de Sousa said he is more comfortable as he gets his second year going at UAlbany.
“We just want to keep building chemistry, but everyone here is great,” de Sousa said. “We have a great group of guys.”
Brown wants to see de Sousa become one of the leaders of that group.
“I really do think he has the ability to be special,” Brown said.