Jump to content

UAlbany Athletics- America East-
SOCIAL MEDIA: UAlbany Facebook- UAlbany Instagram- UAlbany Twitter- UAlbany Blog-
MEDIA: Albany Student Press- America East TV- ESPN3- Schenectady Gazette- The Team 104.5 ESPN Radio- The Team 104.5 ESPN Radio Archive interviews- Times Union College Sports- Times Union Sports- WCDB- WOFX 980-
WINTER SPORTS LINKS: College Insider- Pomeroy Ratings- Real TimeRPI-
SPRING SPORTS LINKS: Inside Lacrosse- Lax Power Backup Stick-
OTHER FORUMS: America East Forum- Any Given Saturday Forum- Championship Subdivision forum(1-AA Discussion) The Hen House - Siena Forum- Stony Brook Forum- Vermont Forum

Blue Ribbon

Recommended Posts


As Albany coach Will Brown puts it, the Great Danes rode the "Brian Lillis Ship" for a majority of last season, relying on the senior forward to do just about everything. And he almost did, leading Albany in scoring, rebounding, assists and blocked shots. He also led them to a tie for second place in the America East Conference.


Ultimately, however, the Lillis Ship broke down under the strain of over usage, and the Great Danes lost to Boston University in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.


Although Albany said goodbye to a trio of heavily-relied upon seniors from last year -- Lillis, Brent Wilson and Jon Iati -- Brown believes this season's team will be a bit better rounded in the skill department, therefore not needing a Lillis-sized ship; the Great Danes will more closely resemble a fleet.


"Heading into this year, we have a much different team," Brown said. "We'll be a much better offensive team, but how well we defend and rebound, I don't know.


"I'm excited about this upcoming year, because there's a lot of parity in this league, and I think we have the same chance as anybody else. It might take us a little longer to click, but we have the same chance."


Albany Great Danes

Last Season 15-15 (.500)

Conference Record 10-6 (t-2nd)

Starters Lost/Returning 3/2

Coach Will Brown (Dowling '95)

Record At School 91-108 (7 years)

Career Record 91-108 (7 years)

RPI Last 5 years 309-195-120-78-206


Brown's excitement stems from his recruiting class, which is considered by some to be the best in the America East. But every young team needs a veteran to rally around, and Brown hopes the Great Danes' will be 6-8 senior forward Brian Connelly (#33, 10.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg).


"He's the guy we're going to have to lean on as our team continues to mature," Brown said. "Last year it was Lillis; this year it's Connelly."


Connelly began last preseason behind Wilson, but he quickly proved to Brown he deserved a spot in the starting lineup. Because Wilson was entrenched at the power-forward spot, Brown moved Connelly to small forward. Although Connelly appeared to do well, finishing second on the team in points and third in rebounding, including a 12-point, eight-rebound performance at Duke, Connelly played out of position. Now that he's back at the power-forward spot, Brown envisions a more productive season.


"He's very versatile," Brown said. "Spending that year playing against smaller, more athletic, quick guys has helped him.


"He'll be a match-up problem for guys in our league."




Connelly's likely replacement at small forward will be 6-5 senior Jerel Hastings (#5, 4.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg). Hastings, who transferred from Lon Morris Community College last year, and attended Stephen F. Austin as a freshman, suffered through junior college growing pains, the major symptom of which is erratic play. Hastings scored 16 points against Hartford during the regular season, but was held scoreless against BU in the conference tournament, despite being on the floor for 12 minutes. Brown, however, isn't worried. That's because Hastings reminds him of another Albany junior college transfer who struggled in his first year but excelled in his second: Jason Siggers.


"As a junior, he was a backup," Brown said of Siggers. "The next year, he was first-team All-America East. "Jerel is the same type of athlete, and I think that he's in a much more comfortable, confident place in our program. I'd be lying if I said I didn't expect big things from him this year."


A player who would have been a nice complement to Hastings would have been 6-7 center Al Turley, who averaged 2.9 points and 2.3 rebounds as a freshman. But Turley left the team at the end of August to be closer to his family in Louisiana and pursue a college football career. The job of bolstering the frontcourt will now fall to 6-7 senior Jimmie Covington (#42, 1.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg) and 6-11 junior Brett Gifford (#54, 2.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg). Covington will also provide leadership, after serving as tri-captain as a junior.


The one upshot of Turley leaving was that the Great Danes were able to give a scholarship to 6-6 forward Will Harris. Harris averaged 2.7 points and 2.5 rebounds last year at Virginia, but left because of a lack of playing time. Harris won't be eligible until next year, but Brown is already excited.


"Will brings ACC experience to our program," Brown said. "We expect him to be a major impact player in our conference, as he will be a match-up problem, with his ability to play multiple positions."


Despite the fact his team ranked in the middle of the America East in most scoring categories, Brown cited his team's lack of scoring punch last year as an area of concern. Those concerns will be somewhat mitigated if 6-0 red-shirt sophomore guard Tim Ambrose (#23) can mature as a player.


Blue Ribbon Previews

America East Take an Inside look at the America East with Blue Ribbon's 2008-09 team reports: Insider



Boston University InsiderFree



New Hamshire

Stony Brook



Ambrose lit up the scoreboard at times as a freshman. He led the team in scoring during a preseason trip to Barbados, scored 24 against Duke without the benefit of a three-pointer, and scored 19 without a three against Vermont. Ambrose, however, fixated on his offensive game, to the detriment of other areas.


"He's a guy, if I threw him out there for 30, 32 minutes a night, he'd score 18 to 20," Brown said. "But it's not OK to score 20 and give up 20.


"I think it was a lot for him, to understand what this level is all about. And I was very hard on him; I held him accountable for everything he did wrong. I think once we get him into the starting lineup, he'll start developing some good habits. I wouldn't be shocked if he averaged double figures."


Had Josh Martin returned for his sophomore year, he and Ambrose would have combined for a decent backcourt. But Martin, who finished sixth on the team in scoring and second in assists, was dismissed in May for repeated rules violations, leaving the Great Danes with no experienced point guards. That's where freshman will make the biggest impact.


The prize of this year's class is 6-1 guard Anthony Raffa (#11), who prepped last year at The Winchendon (Mass.) School, but attended high school in Wildwood, N.J. Raffa played point guard for Winchendon, and showed he can both run the point and score against some of the best prep players in the country.


"He was as good a lead point guard as there was in the New England prep school ranks," Brown said.


Raffa's future, however, might be as a shooting guard, because of his impressive offensive skill set. If Brown decides that's the case, he might hand the offense over to 6-1 junior Michael Johnson (#21), who attended Blinn (Texas) Community College last year. Johnson averaged 15.7 points, 5.7 assists and 3.4 steals for a team that sent six players to the Division I ranks.


"He's very good creating off the dribble, which we had zero of last year, outside of Lillis," Brown said. "He's a tough, hard-nosed New York City kid, from Brooklyn. He competes at a high level."


Brown is also counting on contributions from his other incoming recruits: 6-5 sophomore guard Louis Barraza (#32), from Yavapai Community College in Arizona; 6-8 junior forward Edmund "Scotty" McRae (#12), from Eastern Wyoming College; 6-4 freshman guard Logan Aronhalt (#2), from Zanesville (Ohio) High; and 6-9 freshman forward Jake Lindfors (#24), from Driscoll Catholic in Addison, Ill.


Barraza was selected Arizona Community College freshman of the year, and shot better than 50 percent from three-point range. McRae, who's originally from New York, led his team to the NJCAA tournament and averaged 16 points and two blocked shots per game. Aronhalt was voted Ohio Division 1 Player of the Year last year, and Brown compares him with Lillis, but with a better outside shot.


Albany will also have the services of 6-6 red-shirt freshman guard Billy Allen (#1), who earned a medical red-shirt after suffering a herniated disk last preseason. Allen is considered a good outside threat.


"I think these guys are going to play a lot," Brown said.







Lillis may have carried Albany statistically last year, but the loss of him, Wilson and Iati leaves an enormous leadership gap that needs to be filled before the Great Danes can even think about being competitive in the America East.


Although Albany is blessed with talent, it is once again made up of disparate parts, and most of the Great Danes have never played with each other. If they have a strength, it's their frontcourt. They were one of the best rebounding teams in the country last year, and they should be in the upper echelon of the America East, with the maturation of Turley, Gifford and Covington, and the addition of McRae.


Rebounding, however, won't matter unless Albany can find a point guard. Raffa and Johnson appear to be good options, but it's difficult for a freshman or junior college transfer to step in and run a team.


If Brown's recruiting class lives up to his expectations, and Connelly and Ambrose continue to score the way they have in their careers, Albany has a chance in a wide-open America East. If not, third place is a likely landing spot.


Kind of a sloppy writeup if you ask me.....in the middle of the article the writer talks about how Al Turley left the team and then goes on to say that the "maturation of Turly....." Obviously also written fairly early hence Will is expected to sit out....yet he picks us third. I thought Mark in his TU blog said that the we are picked 7th in the league? I'm not impressed, I thought BlueRibbon was the best......this is sloppy!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...