ALBANY — Throughout this preseason, University at Albany men’s basketball guards Cameron Healy and Antonio Rizzuto will push each other to get better.
That’s nothing new.
“We did that all summer, too,” Rizzuto, a sophomore, said after last Friday’s preseason-opening practice for the Great Danes. “Every single time we played pick-up or practiced, we guarded each other.”
Since last season’s close, the 6-foot-3 guards have gone head-to-head during as many of UAlbany’s team activities as possible. Both combination guards have similar games, and provide each other with a solid benchmark to measure against as they work toward the Great Danes’ season-opening game Nov. 9 against Lehigh.
“It’s a good relationship with Antonio,” Healy, a redshirt sophomore, said. “We push each other, and we communicate to each other what we can do better and how the other person can do better.”
Last season, Healy and Rizzuto were bright spots during a 12-20 campaign for UAlbany. Healy was a third-team all-conference pick after averaging 16 points per game and making a program-record 104 3-pointers, while Rizzuto averaged 9.2 points per game. Healy shot 42.2% from the field and 41.4% from 3-point territory, and Rizzuto shot 35.6% overall and 35.7% from 3.
While Healy had the more consistent season, Rizzuto’s rookie college season was hampered early with several injuries. UAlbany head coach Will Brown has credited Rizzuto for the strides he made during the offseason.
“He’s a kid that you love to coach because he’s so competitive and it’s important to him,” Brown said.
Going against Healy, Rizzuto said, gives him a chance to compete as hard as possible each practice. That’s provided an advantage for him heading into his sophomore season.
“In my opinion, he’s one of the best guards in the America East Conference,” Rizzuto said of Healy. “He’s really good. To guard him, it makes me better.”
“We can both hold each other accountable,” Healy said. “He gets hot one day, and I know I need to pick it up.”
UAlbany is expecting more from Healy and Rizzuto this upcoming season, as well as from several other players. The Great Danes finished last season starting five freshmen, and they return nearly all their significant contributors — plus add key newcomers such as senior forward Romani Hansen — for the 2019-20 campaign. Heading into the 2018-19 season, UAlbany had lost eight scholarship players to either graduation or transfer. Out of necessity, the program needed to be rebuilt. Heading into this season, the level of familiarity among the team’s roster is much higher as it starts work toward achieving a better season.
“We’re not comfortable,” Rizzuto said, “but we’re all more comfortable with each other.”