PROVIDENCE, R.I. – By now, largely because he’s been at the school for a good while, Will Brown has carved out a clear identity for his teams at Albany. They are typically tough and persistent, in a fashion that reflects their coach, and especially when it matters most – late in games and in the conference tournament. They know how to hang in long enough to take over and pull out games late. When his team is experienced, these are all at another level.
While Albany lost their season opener at Providence by a 64-60 count, it looks like this edition of the Great Danes is a vintage Will Brown team at first glance. The coach is talking about them as if that’s the case, too.
“I can’t fault my team’s effort,” Brown said after the loss. “My team is going to be good, and I’ll bet you it’s going to be good at the right time. We’ve just got to continue to get better. I think when our bench guys continue to get more comfortable, we’re going to be good.”
By “the right time,” he’s probably referring mostly to late in the season and especially the conference tournament. Brown’s record in the America East Tournament speaks for itself, and the past two seasons the Great Danes have won it as the No. 4 seed. They were good teams that had adversity, but played their best basketball when it mattered most, as teams hope to do.
Saturday’s opener may prove to be a microcosm of this season for the Great Danes, who have three new starters. Albany was able to hang around for much of the first half, despite some early struggles. While both teams were sloppy, Albany was more so, but they never let Providence break the game open as the deficit was never more than eight points. They finally got some momentum with a couple of three-pointers, then grabbed the lead late in the half and took a one-point edge into the locker room.
As the game wore on, you could see positive developments. The offense was still sloppy at times, as evidenced by the 18 turnovers, most of which had the effect of sapping any momentum they had, though neither team had much momentum all night. Still, you could see them hang in with good defense and ball movement, although a little less of the latter in the second half as Providence shot almost 52 percent in the latter frame. They traded runs with the Friars in a game that featured 11 lead changes, nine of which came in the second half.
You could also see Evan Singletary get better, more comfortable and more confident, and as a result he was more effective as well. Singletary is taking over at the all-important point guard spot, and he looks like he may make a good adjustment from junior college to Division I if Saturday is any indication. Singletary led the Great Danes with 18 points on 8-15 shooting and handed out three assists. He got in the lane at times, hit jumpers, and made things happen.
“I was very nervous at the beginning of the game,” said the junior guard. “I’m nervous before every game. In the second half, I got a little comfortable, and I got into the flow of the game.”
Brown said he’s been trying to get Singletary to find the right combination of calling his own number and being too unselfish. He saw the struggle, perhaps in part due to new surroundings, leading up to this game, and he and the players feel it will come in time.
One other newcomer who started right away, Ray Sanders, had his moments en route to 10 points and four rebounds on Saturday. Add them to returning starters Peter Hooley and Sam Rowley, as well as the latter’s younger brother Mike, and the Great Danes have a nice starting unit. The hope is that the bench develops over time and builds on the promise they have, from shooter Wheeler Baker to post players like Greig Stire and Richard Peters.
The names and faces may change, but with Brown at the helm, the identity seems to remain constant. Albany showed this on Saturday, never going away all night and giving Providence all they could handle. Brown will always tell you how he feels, and asked if he thought they should have won Saturday’s game, he didn’t offer an affirmative, though he knows they were in position to do it. If history is any indication, along with what can be seen with their current personnel, they may be in position to win bigger games later.
“I think we have a bunch of warriors on this team, and I think whoever we play, we’re going to compete,” Singletary said.
The newcomer has already figured out how Brown’s teams tend to be. He’s also already seen that this team appears to be another such team.