ALBANY — He could use eight players.
But this season’s challenge for University at Albany men’s basketball head coach Will Brown in terms of dividing up playing time isn’t so much about how many players will see time. In reality, it’s more about how Brown will divide minutes among the players at the top of his rotation, especially on the perimeter.
Realistically, six Great Danes — sophomores Malachi de Sousa, Cameron Healy, Adam Lulka and Antonio Rizzuto, and seniors Ahmad Clark and Romani Hansen — enter the 2019-20 season expecting to play heavy minutes. That group will grow to seven players when redshirt junior Jojo Anderson (knee) returns to UAlbany’s lineup late in the non-conference season
“That will throw us for a little bit of a loop once he gets healthy,” said Brown, whose team opens its season Saturday vs. Lehigh.
That’s because UAlbany’s top six healthy players include four on the perimeter in Clark, de Sousa, Healy and Rizzuto. Anderson will add a fifth to that mix.
“When you have Ahmad, Cameron, Antonio, Malachi and Jojo on the perimeter, that’s five guys [and] there’s 120 minutes there,” Brown said. “I don’t think any of those guys would be happy with 24 minutes.”
Rizzuto and Lulka said the Great Danes understand that not everyone will be thrilled with the minutes they receive.
“We compete,” Rizzuto said, “so we know what that comes with.”
“Whether that means we have five guys playing the full game or we have 10 guys playing equal minutes each [game], it’s whatever the team needs to succeed is what we’re going to do,” Lulka said.
It’s likely, though, that the 6-foot-6 de Sousa will shift to play significant minutes at the 4 as the season goes along. It’s possible, too, that de Sousa could shift to the 4 even before Anderson returns because Brown wants a “more mobile” frontcourt than the program used in the past when it mostly played with two traditional bigs.
“One of the things that I made a commitment to at the end of last season after breaking down all the numbers, the analytics and watching an awful lot of him is moving forward I can’t put a guy on the floor that cannot score the ball,” Brown said.
That change means redshirt sophomore Brent Hank, a starter last season, begins this season without a clear role. The 6-foot-10 Hank averaged 1.8 points and 3.3 rebounds last season despite making 30 starts.
Instead, Brown is likely to rely on Lulka and Hansen at the 4 and 5, along with de Sousa and senior Kendall Lauderdale mixing in down low for the Great Danes.
“Whatever we need to do to win,” Rizzuto said, “that’s what’s going to happen.”