Albany, N.Y. - After advancing to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments in 2006 and 2007, the University at Albany men's basketball program fell on hard times for a brief period. Those struggles appear to be in the rearview mirror after the Great Danes provided their second-best improvement in 97 seasons one year ago.
Head coach Will Brown's squad finished 16-16, bettered its win total by nine from the previous season, and tied for third in the America East Conference standings. The Great Danes return four starters, including two all-conference guards from the 2010-11 team.
"We have a nice group returning with six of our top seven players returning, explained Brown at UAlbany's basketball media luncheon on Wednesday, Nov. 2. "We have some talented newcomers and we are trying to acclimate them on what we are doing, but our guys are working real hard and that's what we have been talking about is to play as hard as you can for as long as you can. I think our guys are starting to buy into that, we are trying to do a lot in practice to make practice more difficult than the actual games."
Logan Aronhalt and Mike Black, a pair of All-America East third-team selections, form one of the top scoring backcourts in the region. Aronhalt, a 6-foot-3 junior, was among the conference leaders in scoring at 14.6 points per game. He scored in double figures 23 times and canned 73 three-point field goals. Black, who runs the point position, averaged 12.3 points and 2.9 assists. He struck for a career-high 26 points at Maine, as his team ended the regular season with a four-game win streak.
"I am very excited," Aronhalt said. "I think we have a very talented team this year. The season starts a little more than a week away, so our first game against Pittsburgh is going to be very exciting going to a big stage. I think the team is ready to go."
Luke Devlin had a major impact in his first season as a collegian. The Australian forward was named to the conference's all-rookie team and earned the league's weekly rookie award five times. He led the team in rebounding (6.9 pg) and scored at a 7.4 clip. Devlin recorded seven double-doubles in points and rebounds.
Blake Metcalf, a 6'9" junior, and John Puk, a 6'10" sophomore, bolster the baseline. Metcalf, who does all the dirty work and shoots better than 53 percent from the field, adds 4.0 points and 4.8 rebounds on the baseline. Puk, whose three uncles each played major college football, blocked 37 shots in his first collegiate season. He has added 20 pounds to his frame. Ralph Watts, a 6'5" swingman, and Jacob Iati came off the bench last year and had productive minutes.
The Great Danes have added six new faces to the roster and each received an introduction to the college game during a seven-day Canadian tour last summer. Gerardo Suero, a junior college player who hails from the Dominican Republic, was a consistent double-figure scorer in UAlbany's five exhibition games. Jayson Guerrier, an honorable mention junior college All-American, also showed promise.
Enhanced recruiting efforts on the continent of Australia provided the addition of Peter Hooley, a 6'4" guard, and Sam Rowley, a 6'5" forward. Hooley won a bronze medal at his country's under-20 national championship. The coaches went back to familiar areas to find two freshmen. Tanner Gibson, a speedy point guard, played for the same Ohio high school that produced Aronhalt, while Chris Page attended Metcalf's Plainfield High in Indiana.
"I feel that I am one of the grandpas of this team and I always joke around with the young guys," Black offered. "I am trying to become more of a leader on the team knowing that I am a junior not a freshman so I am out there trying to let the guys know where they should be on the floor and help them grow."
Paw Prints: The Great Danes will scrimmage for a brief period at the beginning of Friday's Purple & Gold Event at SEFCU Arena, sponsored in part by the UAlbany Alumni Association ... UAlbany meets Pittsburgh, ranked No. 10 nationally in the Associated Press preseason poll, on Friday, Nov. 11 in the season opener ... the Great Danes will compete in the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off on Nov. 14-15 in Syracuse, N.Y.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Posted by BRE at 4:55 PM