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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)
COACH AND PROGRAM
Albany didn't just make memories last season, it made history.
The Great Danes, who upgraded their athletic program to Division I for the 1999-2000 season, set a program record for Division I victories, established a standard for America East conference victories (13), won their first conference regular-season and tournament championships, and led UConn by 12 points with 11:34 left in their NCAA Tournament debut before eventually falling to the Huskies, 72-59, in Philadelphia.
With seven of its top 10 players from last season, including America East Player-of-the-Year Jamar Wilson, returning, there is no reason to think Albany -- a program that won just five games in the 2003-04 season -- isn't capable of doing it again.
That's not to say that the Great Danes won't be challenged this season.
"As hard as it was to get our program to the NCAA Tournament, it's going to be even harder to get back," said coach Will Brown, who received a five-year contract extension through 2010-2011 less than two weeks after last season ended. "The kids have set the bar high. It's exciting, but we've got to be cautious as well."
They are not the only ones with high expectations. The energetic Brown, who turned 35 on Oct. 8, has been with the program at the bottom and is aimed at keeping it on top.
"We don't want to be good every three or four years," Brown said. "We want to compete for the league title every year. It's going to get more difficult each year, but we want to take it to the next level."
Wilson (17.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.3 spg), a 6-1 senior guard, may be able to lead them there. He more than held his own against UConn's Marcus Williams, who was taken by the New Jersey Nets with the 22nd pick in June's NBA draft, scoring 19 points and keeping Albany in the game until the final moments.
"Jamar is the type of player who can dominate a game by himself and he can also make all of his teammates better," Brown said. "Jamar was the best player in our league last season and he carried us at times."
Wilson is quick enough to get to the basket, has good range (49-of-135, .363 3PT) and makes opponents pay for fouling him (176-of-207, .850 FT). With 1,544 points in three seasons, Wilson ranks third on Albany's all-time list, and needs 308 points to pass Gary Holway, who scored 1,851 from 1955-59. This year, Brown wants Wilson, who played with Athletes in Action on a six-game tour of France in August, to carry the Great Danes all of the time.
"Jamar is a gamer, the better the opponent, the better Jamar plays," Brown said. "This year, I want Jamar to treat every opponent the same. I want him to go out and dominate every single practice."
If Wilson's track record in the weight room is any indication, that won't be a problem.
"When your best player is your best worker, then you are going to be good," Brown said. "And, Jamar sets the bar high."