ALBANY — For months, redshirt junior Jojo Anderson battled to make himself an option for this season’s UAlbany men’s basketball program.
His left knee, though, just didn’t cooperate.
“So we’re going to shut him down and have the surgery, sooner rather than later,” UAlbany head coach Will Brown said Tuesday in a phone interview. “He just wasn’t comfortable out there, and he wants to get back to his normal self, sooner rather than later.”
Anderson injured his left knee before the Great Danes started their preseason and had a meniscectomy in mid-October in order to give himself a chance at playing this season. At the time, it was known he’d also eventually need to repair the knee’s ACL, but it was possible that could wait until the offseason.
Anderson — who transferred to UAlbany last year from Nevada — played in six games after missing UAlbany’s first 13 games, but he played fewer minutes in each game as he went along. Anderson played a season-low three minutes Saturday in a loss at Stony Brook, then met Monday with Brown to discuss moving up his second surgery.
Brown described Anderson as “mentally and physically drained” from the process of trying to put himself in position to contribute meaningful minutes for the Great Danes. In all, Anderson scored a dozen points in 64 minutes this season for UAlbany.
“Everybody is confident that he’ll be as good as new [after his next surgery] because now he’ll have the ACL [repaired], and have that burst and quickness. He’ll get that back,” Brown said of Anderson, a slashing guard who struggled to play his style of basketball during his abbreviated first season with the Great Danes. “He’s frustrated. He wants to help the team, and I just think it’s one of those situations where he’s just not comfortable right now. The hard part is he knows the physical limitations of it, but mentally it just wears on you.”
Anderson will have ACL reconstruction surgery, and a date for that procedure could be finalized as early as Wednesday when the Great Danes play at 7 p.m. against UMass Lowell at SEFCU Arena. Expected recovery time for Anderson is six to eight months, which means he should — if everything goes well in his rehabilitation — be ready for the start of the 2020-21 season.
Brown commended how hard Anderson worked to try to play this season, and the coach said he expects Anderson to have a “great final year” with the Great Danes. The 6-foot-3 guard was expected to be a key contributor this season after he impressed during UAlbany’s series of exhibition games in Canada last summer, and he projects to be one of UAlbany’s top guards for the 2020-21 season, if he is healthy.
“I know the Jojo we had in August, and he was pretty darn good,” Brown said. “He’s nowhere near that level right now, and that’s not his fault.”
PAIR OF STARTERS HURTING
Brown said senior Ahmad Clark is “definitely nowhere near 100%” and that freshman Trey Hutcheson didn’t practice Tuesday after taking a “bad spill” early in Monday’s practice.
The fall affected Hutcheson’s sacroiliac joint, and Brown said the freshman needed to have his “hips realigned.” Brown didn’t rule Hutcheson out from playing against UMass Lowell, but his status is more questionable than that of Clark, who is expected to play.
In recent weeks, Clark has dealt with issues related to his back and thumb, and he recently added a “knee contusion” to his list of injuries. Brown said Clark will be “monitored closely” against UMass Lowell, as he was against Stony Brook.
“We need to get through Saturday’s game [against Hartford] with him, if we can,” said Brown, who then could give Clark both Sunday and Monday off to rest. “We’ll see how he is at shootaround, but I know what he’s going to say. He wants to play.”
PLAY ITS GAME
Against UMass Lowell (2-2, 8-11), UAlbany (3-1, 10-9) cannot try to run with its America East Conference opponent.
“It can’t be an ego thing,” Brown said. “Guys got to understand this is how [UMass] Lowell plays. If you want to keep up in pace with them, that’s what they want.”
According to kenpom.com, UMass Lowell’s offensive possessions last for only 15.9 seconds, which ranks as the 36th-fastest in the country. Meanwhile, UAlbany is at No. 218 in the country with its average possession length at 17.7 seconds.