ALBANY– “I know everyone is handing Vermont the trophy but, bring ’em on,” said UAlbany Head Men’s Basketball Coach Will Brown.
As the UAlbany Men’s Basketball team looks forward to their 2017 season, they still have a bad taste in their mouth from the end of their 2016 campaign.
“I watched it the night we lost and I’ve probably watched it 7 or 8 times since,” said Brown.
The Great Danes led for 39 minutes in the America East Tournament Championship game in Vermont and had a nine point lead with eight minutes and 45 seconds left in the second half. Then junior transfer Payton Hensen gave Vermont the lead with 39 seconds left in the game leading the Catamount to a 56-53 win.
“We were the better team for 39 minutes, we just didn’t get the job done,” Brown said.
After a quick stop at the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) and several months of reflection, the theme for the 2017 Danes is ‘One More Game.’
“The goal is to get better every day, one game at a time and obviously we came up one game short, we’d like to get that back,” said junior Guard and Captain Joe Cremo.
Cremo (15.8 PPG) and junior Point Guard David Nichols (17.9 PPG) are one of the highest scoring backcourt duo’s in the conference and had one of their worst performances in the loss to Vermont. Nichols finished with 14 points on 6-25 shooting and blamed himself afterwards; Cremo scored six points on 2-6 shooting.
“It goes beyond that, Coach has been saying ‘One More Game’ and it’s not saying one more game against Vermont or one more game against a certain team, it’s just putting in the work to have the opportunity to in fact, win one more game,” Nichols said.
Nichols and Cremo, as well as senior Forward Greig Stire and graduate student Forward Travis Charles we’re named the four team captains at last Monday’s open practice. This is only the second time Coach Brown has named four captains in his 17 year career at UAlbany.
“I have a rule for me, minimum of two, no more than three, I just thought this was a year it could work,” said Brown “For me it’s about respecting the program, respecting your teammates, guys that I feel that can handle the responsibilities of doing the right thing on a consistent basis.”
Stire is the only senior who’s been with the program for four years and has a bond with his coaches and teammates, has a unique playing style that fits any team and averaged 7.1 PPG and a team high, six rebounds per game.
“I think something that I bring is energy and hustle and stuff like that because I’m not going to be our leading scorer or anything but I think that’s something I can bring every day that doesn’t take a lot of skill,” Stire said.
“Greg Stire is the epitome of an Albany basketball player, great kid, tough as nails, you get everything from him,” said Brown.
Entering his final season with the Danes, Stire would like to get that bitter taste out of his mouth and reach the NCAA tournament.
“Last year we played a solid game, we just let Vermont come back and take it from us at the end and that’s something that has been bothering everyone who is returning,” Stire said.
UAlbany returns all five of their leading scorers from last season received two additions in the frontcourt via transfer: sophomore Forwards Matt Conway from Salt Lake Community College, who’s out until January with a broken thumb and graduate student Forward Alex Foster from Bradley University and Texas Tech University.
Just a week into a full practice schedule, Nichols is happy with the effort of his teammates thus far, “They’re playing hard, they’re listening, and they’re out there doing everything they can at the best of their ability.”
If the Danes want a date with Vermont in the America East tournament once again, Coach Brown says there’s one specific thing they have to do, “By getting them to understand how important every single possession is every day in practice, the value of every possession, if we relax and take a few possessions off it could change the outcome of the game,” he said “But there’s no fast forward button to get us to that game, there’s still a lot of work that gets put into it.”
UAlbany will have to wait until January 24th to face Vermont again but in the meantime, the Great Danes open their season at home on Friday, November 10th vs. Iona.