ALBANY — Aggressive from the start, UAlbany men’s basketball sophomore Malachi de Sousa attacked throughout Wednesday’s 85-57 loss at St. John’s. Despite the game’s lopsided final score, de Sousa provided a glimpse at the ceiling he can reach with a 22-point night in which he made 8 of 11 shots.
As he put it at Friday’s practice, de Sousa “decided” to try to shoulder more of the offensive burden that night for the Great Danes, who have relied so heavily on senior Ahmad Clark and redshirt sophomore Cameron Healy this season.
And that part — the “decided” part — represented the frustrating part of the performance. On more than one occasion, UAlbany head coach Will Brown has described de Sousa as the player within his program with the most upside, but the 6-foot-6 sophomore wing still has a tendency to go through stretches where he is too passive. When he opts to be aggressive and look for his own offense, he stars.
“He can’t pick and choose what possessions he’s going to bring it,” Brown said. “We need him to bring it every single possession.”
The sophomore understands that, but making that happen is still a work in progress. He wants to be better, though, and recognizes the Great Danes need more from him as they move forward.
“Well, I just feel like Ahmad and Cameron have been having to do a lot of the heavy lifting, a lot of offensively carrying the load,” said de Sousa, whose team plays 2 p.m. Saturday at Monmouth. “So I feel like somebody else needs to be aggressive . . . to take some pressure off them because we can’t just rely on two people all the time.”
Healy leads the Great Danes in scoring through their 6-7 start at 16.2 points per game, and Clark is second at 14.2. Next up is de Sousa, but he’s only averaging 7.3 points per game despite shooting 47.1% from the field.
Too often, de Sousa has been content to defer to his teammates. While he has four games this season with at least 10 points, the sophomore has produced the same numbers of outings with four or fewer points.
Recently, de Sousa has been more consistent on the offensive end of the floor. He scored eight points against Boston College and 10 against Niagara before registering his career-high 22 against St. John’s. His back-to-back games with double-digit scoring represent only the second time he’s accomplished that feat in his young college career, with the first instance coming in the final two games of his freshman season, in which he averaged 3.5 points per game.
“Just keep being confident. Being aggressive offensively,” de Sousa said of his mindset in recent games. “If the shots are there, step up, knock it down, take it. Don’t be afraid to shoot it. Just to have confidence in yourself all the time.”
Against St. John’s, de Sousa produced a strong defensive effort in terms of guarding his own man. Brown, though, wants to see de Souda do a better job in terms of his overall defensive game.
“We need him to rebound more and we need a better job from him in transition defense,” Brown said of de Sousa, who is averaging five rebounds per game. “But I was pleased with him offensively in terms of his aggressiveness. He was willing to attack, and I like the fact that he came back to the huddle two or three times and said, ‘Listen, if you guys are scared, give me the ball. I’ll attack.’”
While it’s possible he waits one more game before making his UAlbany debut, all signs point to redshirt junior guard Jojo Anderson playing at Monmouth, a 5-5 team that has won its last three games.
Anderson injured his left knee prior to the preseason and had a meniscectomy in late October. Brown said the 6-foot-3 transfer from Nevada has made steady progress in his recovery and hasn’t suffered any setbacks during the process, which saw him participate without any restrictions in the Great Danes’ last three practices.
“He’s not worried about his knee at all,” Brown said of Anderson, who was not made available Friday to reporters. “He’s worried about his conditioning.”
Whenever Anderson debuts, the expectation is he’ll start off with a workload of 10 minutes or less.
“If he plays, he might be gassed walking to the scorer’s table to check into the game, so I can’t do him a disservice. I’ve got to make sure that we put him in a position to succeed,” Brown said. “But I’m also smart enough to realize that if our team is going to reach its potential, the sooner we can get him back to where he was in August, the better off we’re going to be collectively as a group.”
‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING OUT THERE?’
At the moment, freshman Trey Hutcheson is sporting zero black eyes.
That’s notable since he’s often had one this season.
“At one point, I got hit in the nose, and that gave me [two] black eyes,” Hutcheson said. “And, then, they went away for maybe two days. Then, in practice, one of my teammates hit me in the nose, and one of them came back the next day.”
His reaction: “Well, that’s great.”
Reaction from back home, though, made the perimeter player from Marion, Iowa, laugh. His family members couldn’t understand why he always seemed to have a new injury each time they watched him play.
“They only can watch the games on TV,” Hutcheson said, “so they kept texting me after, like, ‘What are you doing out there?’ ”
Most of the time, what Hutcheson has been doing during his rookie season is finding ways to earn minutes despite dealing with an assortment of injuries. Besides his collection of black eyes, Hutcheson has also sprained an ankle and tore a tendon in his left ring finger, but the freshman is the America East Conference’s reigning rookie of the week and has started the last eight games for UAlbany. He’s had three games with one or zero points, but has scored at least six points in the team’s other 10 games.