Danes’ starting lineup a mystery

BY MICHAEL KELLY Gazette Sports Editor
 
 ALBANY — Will Brown won’t say yet what way he is leaning when it comes to determining a starting lineup for this season’s University at Albany men’s basketball team.
 
 Even his players aren’t too sure where things are headed.
 
 “Honestly, at the moment, no, not at all,” UAlbany redshirt freshman forward Adam Lulka said after Wednesday’s workout at SEFCU Arena, three days before the Great Danes’ first preseason scrimmage of the year. “Coach has just been changing up lineups all the time.”
 
 Senior Devonte Campbell appears likely to start on the wing after making 31 starts last season, while Brown has often used lineups with the three-man combination of junior Ahmad Clark, Lulka and senior Rayshawn Miller on the court together during sessions of practice open to media members.
 
 But Brown cautioned against reading into any clues he appears to be offering about who will start for the Great Danes when they play Iona next month to tip off their 2018-19 season.
 
 “Right now,” Brown said, “I’m just really taking it slow, and to be all honest with you, I wish we were practicing Saturday myself.”
 
 That is when the Great Danes will play their first scrimmage of the preseason. Brown did not confirm UAlbany’s opponent for this weekend, but allowed it is a program “highly regarded in mid-major polls.”
 
 (While unconfirmed, it’s believed UAlbany is scrimmaging Buffalo this weekend, a program the Great Danes were going to scrimmage last year before both programs instead played in charity exhibition games from which all proceeds were donated to the American Red Cross for hurricane relief efforts. That charity exhibition last year for UAlbany was played against West Virginia.)
 
 Brown said he plans to find minutes for as many players as he can during this weekend’s scrimmage. For the Great Danes’ second one, that won’t be the case.
 
 “The first scrimmage is going to be an opportunity scrimmage where there is going to be opportunity given,” Brown said. “The second scrimmage is going to be more [based on] opportunity earned.”
 
 Lulka said the Great Danes have embraced the ongoing competition for starting lineup and rotation spots.
 
 “With so many new guys, it’s not so much angst as it is encouragement for us to work even harder,” Lulka said. “We all want to strive to be in those positions.”
 
 For Lulka, the chance to compete in this weekend’s scrimmage carries extra meaning. After injuring himself before the start of last year’s preseason, this weekend’s action will be the first against another team for Lulka since he got to UAlbany.
 
 “It’s my first college game experience,” Lulka said. “I’m stoked. It’s going to be awesome.”
 
TIED FOR 4TH
 
 The America East released Wednesday its preseason men’s basketball poll, and UAlbany tied for fourth in the ranking with Stony Brook.
 
 “Expectation is to win the championship,” Campbell said in response to that ranking. “No doubt about that.”
 
 Campbell, though, allowed he was “surprised” the Great Danes were picked so high in the poll after losing eight players from last year’s roster.
 
 The senior perimeter player did offer a reason for UAlbany’s strong showing in the preseason poll, which is determined by the league’s coaches.
 
 “They believe in Will Brown basketball,” Campbell said
 
 Around UAlbany and Stony Brook in the poll, in order, were Vermont, Hartford, UMBC, Binghamton, Maine, New Hampshire and UMass Lowell. Maine and New Hampshire tied for seventh place.
 
Reach Michael Kelly at mkelly@dailygazette.net or @ByMichaelKelly on
 
Twitter.
PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
 
UAlbany men’s basketball coach Will Brown is still tinkering with the Great Danes’ starting lineup.