ALBANY — He ended last season starting five freshmen.
That doesn’t mean University at Albany men’s basketball head coach Will Brown will start five sophomores this upcoming season. In fact, on multiple occasions, he has guaranteed he won’t.
But the experience his young roster gained last season should pay off in 2019-20 for the Great Danes.
“They’re veterans now as sophomores,” Brown said Friday of the group of Malachi de Sousa, Brent Hank, Cameron Healy, Adam Lulka and Antonio Rizzuto.
UAlbany opened its preseason Friday at SEFCU Arena with a practice Brown described as “productive.” The workout was a high-energy one, but Healy — a redshirt sophomore who was a third-team all-league selection last year in the America East Conference along with current senior Ahmad Clark — said the Great Danes know they need to practice even harder in the weeks ahead of their Nov. 9 opener against Lehigh.
“Guys competed hard, and the biggest thing we can ask for is effort and enthusiasm,” Healy said. “But that’s easy to bring on the first day of practice. . . . There’s a more competitive level we can get to, for sure.”
UAlbany went 12-20 in its rebuilding 2018-19 season, a campaign that saw the Great Danes' need to reload after losing would-be senior stars Joe Cremo and David Nichols as graduate transfers to Villanova and Florida State, respectively.
This upcoming season, UAlbany expects to return to its winning ways. The team’s core returns, while additions such as senior forward Romani Hansen — a transfer from Savannah State — should give the Great Danes some extra punch.
“We have to do better this year,” Rizzuto said, “and we will do better this year.”
Redshirt junior guard Jojo Anderson needs surgery to repair a meniscus injury, Brown said Friday, but there won’t be a timeline for his return for a couple more weeks.
“We won’t know the extent of [his injury] until they open up the knee and go in,” Brown said. “There’s a chance they can fix it and get him to a point where he can play — and there’s a chance when they go in there, that they can’t fix it to a point where he can play this year, and then he’ll have to have season-ending injury.”
Anderson has Type 1 diabetes; related to that, Brown said the transfer from Nevada needs to wait at least a couple weeks before he is able to have surgery to make sure his blood-sugar levels are stabilized.
Anderson was expected to play significant minutes this upcoming season for the Great Danes.
“If he cannot play, in my opinion, that will be a crushing blow for us,” Brown said.
When UAlbany announced its co-captains for the 2019-20 season, two of them — Clark and Lulka — were obvious choices since both served as captains last season.
This season’s third co-captain, though, is likely the one most excited to earn the honor.
That’s senior walk-on Nick Fruscio who has scored a total of 10 career points in his 25 minutes of college court time.
“Obviously, if you’ve been to any games, I’m not going to do much on the court,” Fruscio said of his approach to being a captain. “But in the locker room, behind the scenes, I want to do anything I can do for [my teammates]. . . . I want to give them anything I can give them as a leader.”
News of Fruscio — who played high school basketball at Albany Academy, where his dad Brian Fruscio is the head coach — being named a captain was popular with his teammates.
“It’s awesome,” Rizzuto said. “He deserves it.”