ALBANY – Nearly 240 days have passed since he was announced as the new UAlbany men’s basketball head coach.
Dwayne Killings is trying to make the most of them as he prepares to lead the Great Dane in the 2021-22 season, starting with a 7 p.m. home game against Towson at the SEFCU Arena on Tuesday. UAlbany brings a roster to its season-opening game with nine new players, a first for the Killings as head coach.
“I get a chance to do it and they pay me for it,” said Killings, a 2003 Hampton graduate, whose coaching career most recently included a stint as associate head coach at Marquette, before he was hired. Will Brown was hired in mid-March to replace him. . “This is madness. I’m the lucky guy.”
Ahead of the first game of the Killings-era Great Danes, the new head coach has promised a team that will play an up-tempo style, a team built around a rigid, man-to-man defense that UAlbany should use. Has built the versatility of the roster. This is a team that looks more likely to play four side players most of the time, with newcomers like D’Vondre Perry and comebacks like Jamel Horton counted on to take on the team’s offensive burden.
“We want to play faster. We want to push the pace further than we did last year,” said Trey Hutchison, a junior. “On defense, we want to put more pressure on the ball and play some full-court pressure.”
“We want to make sure we play harder than the opponent and then, whatever the outcome, we will be good with the results,” said graduate student Jarvis Doles.
UAlbany was 7-9 last season, its third consecutive campaign with the losing mark. Towson is coming off a 4–14 campaign and has a number of notable newcomers to its roster, including former UAlbany captain Antonio Rizzuto, who left the program after Brown’s sacking.
The Killings briefly coached Rizzuto during a spring workout, and said he didn’t “mistake” Rizzuto—a second team All-America East selection last season—to go elsewhere.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for the kid,” Killings said. “The little bit that we had to train him, he’s competitive, he’s versatile, he can score it, he plays right. I’m rooting for him – just not [Tuesday] Night.”
Rizzuto was not made available for interviews prior to his return to the SEFCU Arena, but Towson issued a statement credited to Rizzuto last week thanking UAlbany fans ahead of his return. Towson head coach Pat Scarry said Rizzuto would be a “key piece” for his club, and he also liked the pieces the Killings were able to assemble ahead of his first season at Ulbany.
“I know they have good players,” Skerry said. “He did a good job recruiting.”
The Killings did not publicly name a starting lineup prior to their team’s game against Towson, but there have been plenty of hints. Horton and Perry have consistently earned praise from the Killings, while sophistication Will Amika, Hutchson and Dolls are regularly singled out for their efforts during preseason. Meanwhile, new players Ny’Mire Little and Justin Neely have both impressed while making parts of the practice accessible to journalists.
Killing did not commit to any players being held against Towson, but acknowledged that some players have been limited in recent days. Amika seems to be in and out of practice during preseason, and was one of the few Great Danes who didn’t participate during an open session of practice last week.
The expectations for the Killings are high for this season. He has stated that it “would be wrong” to aim for anything other than winning the America East Championship, and he sees the opening night against Towson as an important barometer for his group.
“I want to know who we are as a team immediately,” Killings said. “That way, we can get to work so we can grow.”
UAlbany stopped the scrimmage during the preseason against St. Joseph and Canisius. Horton said his team showed great progress between those two innings.
“Our second scrimmage was much better than the first. I think we’ve made a big step in terms of our culture,” Horton said. “The guys were more closed on the bench. We had more people diving on the floor. We boxed better.”
Killings describes himself as “honoured” to lead the Great Dane on his latest campaign—and that thrilled opening night is finally here.
“It’s time,” said Killings, “to play basketball.”
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