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Basketball: Siena looking for a true leader

Saturday, October 19, 2013
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— If the young Siena Saints needed a close look at what it takes to be a serious player in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, they got one on Friday.

Former Siena great Kenny Hasbrouck practiced with the team at the Alumni Recreation Center, and new head coach Jimmy Patsos let him have the floor a few times.

Hasbrouck admonished the team for not communicating better, something Patsos has no difficult doing, but an element that, for now, is missing from the players on a regular basis.

That’s part of the growing process as Siena, coming off one of the worst seasons in program history, prepares for the 2013-14 season.

Patsos said he’s had some sleepless nights that have been compounded by what he considers to be a disappointing third season of the show “Homeland;” ready or not, the Siena show begins on Nov. 8, against UAlbany.

“It’s a challenge,” Patsos said. “I usually cruise through preseason. I’ve never been one of those guys who gets too upset about preseason, because I believe in games. But there really have been some nights when I’ve woken up and said, ‘I don’t know. We might not win a game this year.’ ”

It probably won’t be as bad as all that, but the Saints have been picked 10th in the 11-team MAAC, are coming off an 8-24 season and are trying to find the right combination from an assortment of players largely composed of freshmen.

One of them is Marquis Wright, who has established himself as the true point guard Siena has lacked in recent years.

Another is 6-foot-9 Troy High School graduate Javion Ogunyemi, who has played well enough in the preseason to draw consideration for a starting job.

The Saints are still waiting on junior guard Evan Hymes, who hasn’t practiced since breaking his hand in the Montreal exhibition tour. They’re also hoping to get good news soon from the NCAA on the status of Coppin State transfer Patrick Cole, who has applied for a hardship waiver to be allowed to play right away instead of sitting a year.

In the meantime, the starting lineup for next Saturday’s closed scrimmage at Army likely will be Wright, shooting guard Ryan Oliver, junior small forward Rob Poole, freshman power forward Lavon Long and Ogunyemi, with sophomore Brett Bisping waiting in the wings to spell the frontcourt.

“I see some good things going on,” Poole said. “It’s a different guy doing it every day. But we need that one guy who’s going to lead and play good every day. We still have to find that.”

“Young team. One day good; one day bad,” Patsos said. “I thought, with you guys here today [for media day] and a scrimmage coming up, that I’d have to reel them in. But they came out today and were flat.

“That’s why I’m bringing Gary Williams up on Monday, to let them know that this is what matters. We have some good pieces, but I don’t know what I have yet.”

Prior to nine seasons as the Loyola head coach, Patsos was an assistant under Williams at Maryland for 13 years, including the 2002 national championship.

Williams, who retired from coaching in 2011, will observe practice and speak to the team on Monday and Tuesday.

“He’ll tell them, ‘Don’t let anybody decide where you’re going to finish,’ ” Patsos said. “And from 12:45 to 3 o’clock every day is when you’ll decide what kind of team you’re going to be.”

Hasbrouck guarded Wright during fullcourt scrimmage time, which was a bit of an eye-opener for the 6-0 freshman.

Patsos said that Wright needs to be more vocal, a point that was reinfoced by Hasbrouck.

“It was a tough battle,” Wright said. “He’s pushing me to go harder and harder each day and be more of a leader.

“He told me in the huddle that if the team isn’t going good, I have to speak up and get the team going.”

“I know it’s his first year in college basketball, and that’s tough, but he really leads the team well as the point guard,” Poole said. “He’s a pass-first point guard, which is fun for me to play with because he’s looking for me to get shots. If he keeps playing the way he is, I don’t see why he couldn’t be an all-MAAC player next year.”

“Marquis is solid, but he’s not very emotional,” Patsos said. “Poole’s been good. Ryan Oliver’s been solid, because he can shoot the ball. I actually have been surprised with what he’s been doing. But he doesn’t say much, either.

“Marquis is fine. But he doesn’t get the other guys to do it as much as I thought. That’s the question: can he get them to do it. He’s quiet by nature.”

Patsos said he’s considering redshirting Michael Wolfe, a 6-9 freshman from Germantown, Md., and Georgetown Prep.

 
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