ALBANY — They’ll play Friday to win.
The same goes for Saturday.
And Sunday, too.
While the three-games-in-three-days schedule ahead of them is a daunting one for the Great Danes, UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Will Brown said that busy stretch won’t necessarily equal the coach finding extra minutes of rest for his core players. Some reserves will see extra minutes, but the already undermanned Great Danes won’t “play guys just to play them” during their games in the Bobcats Invitational at Quinnipiac.
“But I do know we have a couple guys that are going to have to play heavy minutes for us Friday, Saturday and Sunday for us to be successful,” Brown said Wednesday.
UAlbany plays host Quinnipiac Friday at 7:30 p.m., then plays Sacred Heart Saturday at 4 p.m. and at 1 p.m. Sunday against Presbyterian. UAlbany enters the trio of games at 2-2, while Quinnipiac is 0-2, Sacred Heart is 1-3 and Presbyterian is 1-3.
On a normal schedule and with its full roster available, UAlbany would have a strong chance to sweep their upcoming three opponents. Playing the games in back-to-back-to-back fashion adds a degree of difficulty, though, as does the Great Danes’ injury-plagued roster. UAlbany will be without three scholarship players this weekend in redshirt junior Jojo Anderson (knee), redshirt sophomore Adam Lulka (ankle) and redshirt freshman Sam Shafer (shoulder).
UAlbany did receive positive news this week in terms of Lulka’s and Shafer’s injuries. Lulka’s ankle sprain was determined not to be of the high-ankle variety, so he could be back in a couple weeks rather than a month. Tests showed that Shafer did not tear his shoulder’s labrum, so the redshirt freshman won’t need surgery.
Meanwhile, Anderson continues to make progress in his recovery from left-knee surgery. Brown said his expectation is all three players will be back at some point in mid-December for the Great Danes.
That, though, doesn’t help UAlbany this weekend. While UAlbany will rely heavily on seniors Ahmad Clark and Romani Hansen, redshirt sophomore Cameron Healy, and sophomores Malachi de Sousa and Antonio Rizzuto, the Great Danes will also need contributions from reserves such as redshirt sophomore Brent Hank.
A 6-foot-10 forward, Hank started 30 games last season for UAlbany, but has been used sparingly this season. Before this season, Brown said the Great Danes wanted to put offensive threats at every position on the floor at all times, and Hank only averaged 1.8 points per game last season.
Hank has only played 22 minutes this season. He scored all four of his season’s points when he played 19 of his season’s minutes Tuesday against Division III SUNY Potsdam.
“I’ve just got to keep bringing it on the floor when I do get my opportunities like I did [against Potsdam],” Hank said.
Brown sees Hank as a potential valuable rotation piece this weekend because of what the redshirt sophomore can provide defensively, especially if the Great Danes use a zone defense to try to save some energy. All three of UAlbany’s opponents, though, are going to play zone defense this weekend, and Hank’s offensive shortcomings will be more noticable playing against zone defenses.
“So we’ll see,” Brown said. “He’s going to play this weekend just because I think we’re going to need the physicality, and he’s going to be fairly fresh and over the course of three games [in] three days, I think he can help us keep with our defensive consistency.”
UAlbany has 10 healthy scholarship players for this weekend. It’s possible, Brown said, that not all 10 will see action even with the hectic schedule.
“I’m playing every game to win,” Brown said, “and I’m going to play guys that I think can help us win.”