ALBANY — For a season, both UAlbany basketball programs struggled to win.
This season, that’s expected to change for both, as each of the programs expects to get back to normal in terms of which side of .500 it ends up.
“We have the talent,” said Cameron Healy, a redshirt sophomore on the school’s men’s team. “That’s where excuses go out the window.”
Both UAlbany teams gathered Thursday night at SEFCU Arena for the school’s second annual “Great Danes Basketball Bash,” a fan event that doubled this year as media day for the teams.
Both teams, too, find themselves in similar spots ahead of the 2019-20 season, which starts Nov. 5 against Columbia for the UAlbany women and Nov. 9 against Lehigh for the UAlbany men. Each is coming off a rare losing season in which the programs needed to be restocked and rebuilt, as both teams finished under .500 in the same season for the first time since 2009-10.
This season, both programs are expected to finish in the top half of the America East — and, both programs’ head coaches are cautiously optimistic ahead of the 2019-20 campaign.
UAlbany women’s head coach Colleen Mullen spoke Thursday night of her program needing to continue on the “upward trajectory” it showed in her first season leading the Great Danes. UAlbany went 13-18 after starting 1-9, and the Great Danes went 9-7 in America East Conference play before advancing to the conference tournament’s semifinals.
“We have a long way to go with our six freshmen, but we’re competing at a high level,” Mullen said.
“And we definitely have a talented freshmen group,” UAlbany women’s junior Kyara Frames said. “They’ll make a difference for us.”
A season ago, the UAlbany women’s team spent much of the season learning as the program’s players adapted to their third head coach in four years.
“We pretty much were all freshmen, at first,” redshirt junior Khepera Stokes said.
While the UAlbany women’s team needed to get used to a new coach, the men’s team had a veteran head coach Will Brown needing to figure out how to best use a revamped roster that ended the 2018-19 season with five of its freshmen starting.
Brown has repeatedly said he won’t start five sophomores during the 2019-20 campaign, but also still hasn’t announced what starting five he plans to use when the Great Danes open against Lehigh. Brown, though, expects his group of sophomores highlighted by Malachi de Sousa, Healy, Adam Lulka and Antonio Rizzuto to compete for an America East championship before too long.
“Can we do that this year?” Brown said. “That’s the goal. That’s the expectation.”
After a 2018-19 season in which Brown had his young players gobble up minutes during a 12-20 campaign, Healy said the Great Danes have a better understanding of what it takes to win at the college level.
“A lot of it comes down to being tougher than other teams,” Healy said.