By Christian Hince | November 2, 2023
In no way did last season go as the Great Danes hoped. Dwayne Killings’ second season as head coach at the University at Albany saw the team finish last in the America East, going 3-13 in the league and 8-23 overall to miss conference tournament play for the program’s worst record in 13 years.
Junior guard Sebastian Thomas (pictured) wants to be a part in changing the tune around Dwayne Killings’ program.
Adding to their on-court struggles, Killings was sued by former player Luke Fizulich in relation to a November 2021 pregame incident where the coach struck the player, allegedly having “violently and viciously grabbed him, threw him up against a locker and struck him in the face, drawing blood.” Killings resolved a misdemeanor assault charge from Kentucky, where the incident happened, in March.
This season, with a true home arena and new faces from both the transfer portal and a new recruiting class, Killings looks to flip the script. “We have a lot to prove,” he said. “We’re working on this every single day.”
UAlbany placed seventh in the preseason coaches poll, only ahead of New Hampshire and Maine respectively. Vermont was predicted to win the conference. Transfer recruit Sebastian “Bassy” Thomas, a junior guard who played at Rhode Island last year, agrees with his coach. “Nobody expects us to do good, so I feel like we can prove a lot of people wrong in our conference.”
Killings thinks Thomas, who was initially skeptical of joining UAlbany due to the team’s 2022-23 performance, can be the best guard in the America East this season. “I think he's got a chance to have a perfect game, you know 10 assists, no turnovers,” he said. “He has an ability to impact the game on offense and defense.”
No player on this year’s Great Danes may have a higher standard to live up to than sophomore 6-10 forward Jonathan Beagle. In 2022-23 he was the America East rookie of the year, averaging 12.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. While Beagle spent a couple weeks in the transfer portal back in March, he chose to stay at UAlbany and hopes to become a more well-rounded big man.
“I'm trying to work on everything,” Beagle said in a September interview. “[I want to] get my teammates involved, shoot the ball a little bit.”
There’s some turnover on the veteran end of the roster for the Great Danes this year, with guard Da’Kquan Davis and forward Trey Hutcheson exhausting eligibility, and Gerald Drumgoole transferring to Delaware for his final season. Experience comes in the form of a couple other transfer portal additions.
Killings called Amar’e Marshall, a redshirt sophomore guard from Hofstra “hands down the best scorer on the court,” mentioning a December 2022 game where he scored 24 points against Purdue. He also commended the offseason growth of Marcus Filien, a fifth-year, 6-7 forward who was a team captain at Cornell.
“His body’s grown, I think his talent has grown,” Killings said.
The coach praised the enthusiasm of freshman guard Zach Matulu. “I don't know how many baskets he'll make, but he's a big part of our program because of the way he approaches the practice environment,” he said.
In a September interview, Matulu called himself “an energy guy, a guy that gets on the floor, does the dirty work, gets rebounds, kicks out, [and] scores here and there.”
On the coaching side, the Great Danes added an assistant in the form of Bill Whitesell, whose 40 years of coaching experience includes stints leading Buffalo from 2019-23 and Loyola Chicago from 2004-11.
Beagle thinks the 63-year-old’s defensive mentality will help out a team which gave up more points than any other program in the America East last season, saying, “He's an older guy [who] brings different energy, but he's really good at what he does and I'm excited for what people can see.”
Aside from the intrigue of what the Great Danes will look like this season, Killings is excited for UAlbany to practice and play in the newly renovated Broadview Arena, after they played their home games in 2022-23 at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, a point of adversity.
“I think it's a first class building to play college basketball,” Killings said. “I think it has the potential to be a really challenging place to play for opponents, when you think about just the energy and the noise and the atmosphere that can be created.”
UAlbany starts this season on the road at UMass on Nov. 7.