Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Gary Johnson's return gives UAlbany a lift

ALBANY - Before Sunday's game against New Jersey Institute of Technology, Gary Johnson couldn't feel his foot.

The trainer had wrapped his rolled ankle so tightly that the senior couldn't feel anything.

Coach Will Brown told him that was a good thing, but Johnson who hasn't had to deal with too many injuries in his career was nervous, when he got out on the court.

After missing two games, due to an ankle sprain against Duquesne, Johnson didn't look nervous.

He scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench, giving the Great Danes a lift.

"He was good," said Brown. 

Johnson got heavily into the mix at the end of last season and was a big reason why the team won the America East and advanced all the way to the NCAA tournament, so getting him back from injury was a big deal.

“It’s great to have him back," said sophomore Peter Hooley.

Johnson's length makes him one of the most versatile players on the team and his athleticism is near the top of the team.

“We’re a completely different team (with him)," Hooley said. "He’s our best perimeter defender and he’s a great slasher offensively."

Johnson's absence actually allowed fellow senior David Wiegmann to pick up more minutes and allowed some of the bench players to get more comfortable on the floor for UAlbany.

"I think having Gary out allowed David to get more comfortable out there," Brown said. "Now, having Gary back, I think we have some really good balance out there."

Johnson wasn't quite in terrific shape, having not had much practice time since injuring the ankle, but he still provided the team with some solid play.

"He made a bunch of plays for us, especially defensively," said Brown.

Johnson won't start on Wednesday against Holy Cross, again coming off the bench. Another injury update is that transfer Anthony Odunsi will be out for at least another week, after suffering a concussion in practice and missing the past two games.

UAlbany Athletics

One thing Brown isn't too thrilled about is rebounding. A statistic that is usually a staple of UAlbany teams since Brown has been at the helm has just been so-so this season.

The Great Danes are just plus-1.3 so far this season, something Brown would like to see improvement on.

"We have to rebound better," he said.

Even though UAlbany is over .500, the Great Danes haven't played a complete game yet this year, according to the players. The team has played 20 good minutes here and played 30 solid minutes against Rider last week. They have actually trailed, at halftime, in six of the seven games so far this season. 

“It is encouraging to know that we have these spurts where we play really good basketball, Hooley said. "And when we don’t have good spurts, we become good when we need to.”

Still, it's something Coach Brown acknowledged, earlier in the year, that will catch up with them eventually. 

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