ALBANY, GA (WALB) - It's been a season of struggles for the young Albany State men's basketball team, but it's been very clear this team has improved as the year has gone on.
If you ask head coach Michael Moore, a big part of that improvement is the return of their presence in the middle.
Sophomore Devontay Ward missed the first half of the season with eligibility issues. He returned in January, and his impact was felt immediately.
"He has solidified the offense and the defense with his presence. Now we can really get out and guard guys on the three-point line, and force them to drive knowing we got him back there to protect the rim," Moore says. "On the offensive end, we know we have someone down low. When we're not hitting the outside shot, if we get the ball to Ward, he's going to deliver."
Moore says Ward's play on the post has improved the shots Albany State is getting, and now hitting.
"We're able to play an inside-out game now," he says.
The Golden Rams got in their final practice of the week Friday, preparing for Saturday's homecoming showdown with archrival Fort Valley State.
It could be a battle of the bulls in the HPER Gym paint Saturday night.
Fort Valley State will look to get the ball to center Ralph Wilson, who is listed at 7'0 and over 300 pounds.
The Americus native is a big task to guard, literally and figuratively.
"He's playing lights out right now like he's trying to get to the next level," Moore says of Wilson. "He's an interesting basketball player because he can shoot the three-pointer well for a seven-footer, and he can post you late in games. They like to get him off early on the perimeter and try to drop him off early late in games."
Moore notes the Rams will need to build a lead and not allow the Wildcats to dominate the paint late in the game.
The rivalry game tips off at 8:00 p.m. Saturday with the women tipping off at 6:00 p.m.
The game will be livestreamed at https://www.ASURams.edu/bballstream.