Only five games remain in its non-conference season, and the UAlbany men’s basketball program still hasn’t played a game yet this season with its full roster available.
But the Great Danes are getting closer to making that happen. They’re still not quite there, and won’t be when they play Boston College of the ACC at 7 p.m. Thursday inside Silvio O. Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, but the Great Danes are starting to turn a corner as America East Conference play nears.
Redshirt sophomore Adam Lulka, the team’s top big man who has missed the last seven games with an ankle sprain, returned to practice Monday and it’s possible he’ll play against Boston College. Sophomore Malachi de Sousa, the team’s most versatile player, returned to the lineup in UAlbany’s loss Saturday at Bucknell, and he continues to make progress in coming back from a sprained MCL in his right knee.
Then, there is redshirt junior Jojo Anderson, the guard who transferred into the program and has been out all season after undergoing knee surgery in October. Anderson has made it through several skills-based workouts, and Brown said Anderson was cleared Monday to start adding some contact into his workouts.
The target date for Anderson to return to the lineup, Brown said, is UAlbany’s Dec. 21 game at Monmouth. By that point, Brown said he expects de Sousa and Lulka to be back to 100%, too.
“For this group, as a whole, to reach its potential, we need guys healthy,” Brown said Monday. “We need guys practicing together, and then playing together.”
With the exception of redshirt freshman Sam Shafer (shoulder), UAlbany had its full group on the practice floor Monday, in some fashion. Redshirt sophomore Brent Hank (hip flexor) did sit out the end of practice, but it seems likely he’ll be available for UAlbany against a Boston College team that brings a 5-5 record into Tuesday’s game and owns wins against Wake Forest and Notre Dame.
UAlbany, too, is 5-5 after losing its last two games, including one Saturday against Bucknell that Brown described as one that the Great Danes “just gave away.” UAlbany committed 21 turnovers in that loss, during which the Great Danes led by as many as 15 points.
“Definitely too many turnovers, for one [thing],” UAlbany senior Ahmad Clark said. “And, then, two, they made more winning plays than us in the most crucial parts of the game. They made their free throws. They got stops. Made open 3s.”
Health woes or not, Brown said his team is still one that “needs to learn how to win.” UAlbany’s core players gained extensive experience last season during a 12-20 campaign, but only Clark played — as a reserve — the prior season when UAlbany finished 22-10.
Clark said it was “definitely uplifting” for the Great Danes to see Lulka return to practice Monday and Anderson to make it through another successful workout. If Lulka does play against Boston College, Brown said the 6-foot-8 forward will be limited and that it’s possible he could appear “in short stints; two or three minutes, here or there.”
Lulka returning, though, would mean UAlbany is only an Anderson debut away from finally having all of the players expected to be in its regular playing rotation available.
“Right now,” Brown said, “we just haven’t had enough reps where everybody’s playing, and that’s frustrating.”