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UAlbany MBB Updates, News, and Related MBB Stories -2024


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From today's Times - Union:

Editorial Comment: Once again, the 2024 pre-season word(s) is defense mentality, similar to the 2023 pre-season thoughts. Can Killings and his staff blend his team of returning, portal transfers and freshman into a credible team?  Time will tell, all I can say for sure is that Killings time with us is not get longer than his contract unless something big happens this season.  Going out on a limb, if this team produces a winning team, goes deep into the America East Tournament, Benson will likely extend the contract for 2-3 years vs. facing the prospect of hiring a new coach in the nearer future.

Danes focusing on ‘D’ UAlbany seeks to improve results with upgrades, versatility

BY MICHAEL KELLY ALBANY — The University at Albany men’s basketball team upped its tempo this past season and were one of the top offensive teams in the America East Conference.

The Great Danes, though, finished 13-19 overall and 5-11 in league play in Dwayne Killings’ third season as head coach before bowing out in the America East quarterfinals. It’s no secret why UAlbany struggled and what needs to change for the Great Danes if they’re going to stop their program’s streak of losing seasons in 2024-25.

“We’re going to be potent offensively again,” Killings said, “but we need to have that defensive mentality.”

The Great Danes report to campus this weekend and start their official offseason workouts Monday. Instilling a defensive focus will be one of the first aims, but Killings said the UAlbany coaching staff already took steps toward that goal with the players brought into the program this offseason.

“We have way more toughness, and we have guys that just want to play,” Killings said. “There’s no nonsense about them, and they just want to work.”

UAlbany only returns four scholarship players from its 2023-24 roster, and only two of them — Amar’e Marshall and Aaron Reddish — played significant minutes. The rest of the team’s 13 scholarship slots are filled with a trio of freshmen in guard Amir Lindsey, wing Kani Topuz and forward Ma’Kye Taylor, and six transfers. UAlbany coach Dwayne Killings said junior Amar’e Marshall “has a chance to be player of the year in our league.”

Among those transfers are several players Killings listed as strong defensive additions for the Great Danes, such as guards Byron Joshua and Kheni Briggs, and forward Sultan Adewale. Killings also sees Taylor, a 6-foot-8 forward, as being able immediately to add interior toughness for UAlbany.

“We didn’t have that in our frontcourt — or our backcourt, to be honest — last season,” Killings said.

At times, UAlbany had strong defensive stretches during the 2023-24 season. UAlbany brought in assistant coach Jim Whitesell prior to that season to help remake the program’s defense, and the Great Danes were better with their ability to guard the ball and mix up their defenses. Rebounding, though, was a struggle, as the Great Danes ranked second-to-last in defensive rebounding percentage in conference play, and matched that rank in blocked shots.

On a per-possession basis, UAlbany was one of the top America East defenses this past season in forcing turnovers. Killings, though, wants to see the Great Danes improve further in that area.

An offseason priority was adding speed and length, and UAlbany wants to maximize those traits. “We’re going to go after people this year,” Killings said. “I think this past season, we reacted a lot.” While UAlbany’s focus is on improving its defense, conference foes will struggle to defend the Great Danes. While leading scorer Sebastian Thomas is one of the players who left the program following this past season, Marshall (16.7 points per game) is someone Killings said “has a chance to be player of the year in our league,” after staying with UAlbany following a spell in the transfer portal, while transfer wings DeMarr Langford Jr. and Kacper Klaczek — from Central Florida and Saint Joseph’s respectively — are players expected to become significant contributors. Killings also singled out Reddish, a 6-foot-7 forward who is starting his fourth year with the program, as someone the Great Danes know can provide valuable minutes.

Meanwhile, forward Justin Neely is the program’s wild-card piece. Like Reddish, Neely is in his fourth season with the Great Danes. The 6-foot-6 forward, though, has missed nearly all of the past two seasons due to a knee injury. In his only full college season, Neely was the America East Rookie of the Year. UAlbany hasn’t had a winning season since the 2017-18 campaign and hasn’t won a playoff game since the season prior to that.

The goal is to change all that in 2024-25, and Killings said he has a group capable of doing it. “We have a lot of versatility,” Killings said, “and we need that to win our league.”

Edited by cwdickens
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From today's edition of the Times-Union (07-11-2024:

BY MICHAEL KELLY ALBANY — The message from the University at Albany men’s basketball program stayed the same throughout this past season regarding Justin Neely’s recovery from knee surgery.

The return timeline was up to Neely and depended on how he felt, both physically and mentally, as he worked back from the injury he suffered in the Great Danes’ 2022 Albany Cup rivalry game against Siena College. There were good days for Neely, but the bad ones outweighed them as he tried to regain the form that helped the 6- foot-6, 210-pound forward earn America East Conference Rookie of the Year for the 2021-22 season. After missing the start of the 2023- 24 season, then playing sparingly in six games, the decision was made to shut down Neely for the rest of the campaign. Effectively, it amounted to a second consecutive missed season for the Miami native, as he headed early into the offseason.

This summer?

There’s no question about the status of Neely, who is starting his fourth year with the Great Danes. “I’m back, 1,000 percent,” Neely said Wednesday. “So, I’m happy, I’m blessed and I’m ready to have a big year.” Neely looked healthy and strong during the portion of Wednesday’s workout, the Great Danes’ second of the summer, that was open to reporters. His movements were crisp and confident in a way they Justin Neely was the America East Rookie of the Year as a freshman during the 2021-22 season.

He’s played just 64 minutes since that season. rarely were this past season. The prior day, UAlbany coach Dwayne Killings said the Great Danes had worked through some 5-on-5 scrimmaging, and Neely looked, well, like Neely.

“He had a couple of possessions where it was kind of like what you saw as a freshman: aggressive in the paint, rebounding the ball, finishing,” Killings said of Neely, who averaged 6.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in 16 minutes per game as a college rookie.

Neely tore his left ACL in November 2022 and had surgery the next month. During this past season, just as he started fully to trust the strength of the knee, he started to experience swelling in it that led to the decision to end his comeback attempt for the season. “It was a long process. It’s up and down. Some days, you feel good. Some days, you don’t,” Neely said. “One day, you’re full-go practicing, and, the next day, you can’t. It’s just what it is. But I’m at the point now where I’m fully recovered and I’m rolling, so got to keep it up.” “I’m happy for him,” said teammate Aaron Reddish, a senior forward who joined the Great Danes the same offseason as Neely. “The whole extensive process that he went through with his injury, I saw it firsthand, close up. … It’s just nice to see him on the court.”

Coming off his freshman season, Neely was the expected centerpiece for the Great Danes during the 2022-23 season that saw him originally hurt his knee. Then, this past season, there was hope Neely could find his way back into the starting lineup for a team that badly needed the athleticism and rugged rebounding he could offer. This time around, expectations seem more measured. The 2024-25 Great Danes are built around redshirt junior guard Amar’e Marshall, who averaged 16.7 points per game this past season, and transfer wings such as DeMarr Langford Jr. and Kacper Klazcek.

Neely certainly has the ability to become a key player this season for UAlbany if he stays healthy, but he said to “just be a leader” is his top goal for the season. “I’m trying to be the most consistent guy, every day, and bring guys along with me,” said Neely, who was only able to play 64 minutes in the past two seasons combined.

“The season’s going to go up and down, and everybody’s experience is going to be different, so I think it’s going to be my job to help … (my teammates) stay level-headed the whole time.” UAlbany finished 13-19 this past season, the program’s sixth consecutive losing campaign.

The Great Danes lost several key contributors from 2023-24, including leading scorer Sebastian Thomas and leading rebounder Jonathan Beagle to the NCAA transfer portal, but Killings has expressed confidence in the way his coaching staff restocked the program for next season.

Games don’t start until November, but the fourth-year coach said he’s liked the attitude and approach of his team during its first days together this offseason. “They love to be in the gym. They’re very mature,” Killings said. “No nonsense to them. They just want to get better.” Neely seconded that. He said he’s thrilled to be able to be back on the court, and wants to take lessons he learned from mostly watching the past two seasons to help the Great Danes become a winning program again.

It hasn’t been an easy ride for Neely during his college career, but he’s excited to travel the path ahead. “Each year has been a different experience for me — and I’ve enjoyed it,” Neely said. “This is my fourth year in college — which is crazy to me — but I love every day. “I’m excited to win with these guys.

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From Saturday's Times-Union:

Marshall stepping into a starring role for Danes

BY MICHAEL KELLY

ALBANY — When Amar’e Marshall entered into the NCAA transfer portal this past spring, two things happened right away for the 6-foot-4 guard. He received a lot of interest after averaging 16.7 points per game as a redshirt sophomore for the University at Albany men’s basketball team.

And, for a time, he struggled to see what was the best path forward for him. “At first, it was kind of, like, distracting for me,” Marshall said of the combination of recruiting interest and potential NIL opportunities that came his way. “I had to really buckle down and think (about) what’s the best opportunity for me to grow as a player, and come out here and show what I could do, and win.”

And, after some time, that thinking brought Marshall back to UAlbany in a decision coach Dwayne Killings thinks made others take notice and view the Great Danes differently heading into the 2024-25 campaign. “I would say people in the league right away were like, ‘Oh, shoot — we’ve got to guard Amar’e Marshall,’ ”

Killings said earlier this week as the Great Danes got started with their summer workouts. That’s the type of confidence Killings has in Marshall, who transferred to UAlbany this past year after two seasons with Hofstra. Marshall was a thirdteam all-conference player this past season in the America East Conference, and Killings said the guard’s goal should be to become UAlbany’s first conference Player of the Year since program legend Jamar Wilson won the award in both 2006 and 2007.

Killings said he discussed that goal with Marshall during their first meeting together this summer, and the player said it helped bring his confidence to another level. “For him to have that faith in me,” Marshall said Wednesday, “it means everything to me. … I’ve never had a coach that had that much faith in me. So, it’s really important to me, and I’m looking forward to living up to it.”

UAlbany will likely need to improve its record to give Marshall a real shot at winning the league’s top individual award, which went this past season to New Hampshire’s Clarence Daniels after he nearly averaged a double-double. Prior to Daniels claiming the award, a player from Vermont — the conference’s top program — had won it seven consecutive times.

UAlbany finished 13-19 overall this past season and 5-11 during the conference’s regular season. The Great Danes haven’t had a winning season since the 2017-18 campaign, but Killings said the team’s coaching staff “found guys that have that grit in their DNA” during this past recruiting cycle, and that should allow the team to make the defensive improvements it needs to make to be a contender. “Our expectation is that we want to try to finish top four in the league and try to win the America East championship,” Killings said.

Central to either of those goals will be a big season from Marshall. Kacper Klazcek and DeMarr Langford Jr. are expected to be high-impact transfers for the Great Danes and Killings praised the versatility they offer, but it’s Marshall that likely needs to be the centerpiece for UAlbany. This past season, Marshall starred in some games, but also took a backseat occasionally to lead guard Sebastian Thomas, who led the Great Danes in scoring before transferring back to Rhode Island following one season with UAlbany. Marshall, though, impressed throughout the season with his ability to score. He made 43.4 percent of his field goal attempts, including 37.2 percent from 3-point territory. He also got to the foul line, and made 76.1 percent of the 4.2 foul shots he earned per game.

“Now,” Killings said, “can we make him a complete player, where he can be a high-level defender, too? Amar’e is going to make a lot of money (as a professional) because he can score, but I still think he can be a high-level facilitator, a high-level defender. I think there’s a lot of things he can do. We want to be able to push his talent this offseason to prepare for the season.” Marshall’s on board with that. “I’m looking to improve on my overall game, in every aspect. Clean up turnovers, getting in (better) shape, raise my free throw percentage — stuff like that,”

Marshall said. “Just tighten up my game and make my overall game better than what it was last year.” Marshall said he’s eager to be one of the Great Danes’ leaders, and Killings said he’s already started to take on that role with the team that started its summer workouts several days ago. Between freshmen and transfers, UAlbany has nine new players from this past season, and Marshall said the attitude has been where it needs to be for the group. “Everybody on the team is ready to win,” Marshall said. “That’s the main goal."

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  • cwdickens changed the title to UAlbany MBB Updates, News, and Related MBB Stories -2024

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