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Siena basketball: Young Saints eager to prove themselves

Friday, September 13, 2013
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— Siena’s annual meet-and-greet Preview Day for current and prospective season ticket-holders had extra emphasis on the “meet” aspect on Thursday.

New head coach Jimmy Patsos has been making the rounds since he was hired in May, and if you haven’t had a chance to see him somewhere around town, well, you’re just not trying.

The roster, meanwhile, has seven freshmen and Coppin State transfer Patrick Cole, who will redshirt in 2013-14 per NCAA transfer rules.

Fans mingled with the team at the Times Union Center, where the new players got their first one-on-one exposure to the public support the program enjoys. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference coaches weren’t so supportive on Wednesday, when the conference announced that Siena was voted 10th of the 11 teams in the preseason poll.

That’s a clear reflection of how young Siena is, but after an 8-24 season under Mitch Buonaguro, the Saints have to start somewhere.

“It’s not surprising,” junior shooting guard Rob Poole said. “We had a bad year last year. We only have three people coming back who really played, and we’ve got seven, eight new guys. We’re not stupid. I think we knew we were going to be picked 10th.”

“It’s a lot of motivation from that,” Marquis Wright said. “Patrick and I were looking at it yesterday and just thought it was funny, because we’re coming on strong.”

At least one of the freshmen, Troy High School graduate Javion Ogunyemi, is a familiar face to Capital Region fans.

One freshman who won’t take long to gain the same familiarity is Wright, from North Point High in Waldorf, Md., just south of Washington, D.C.

He clearly established himself as the starting point guard during a five-game exhibition tour in Montreal.

Another freshman expected to see plenty of minutes is 6-foot-6 forward Lavon Long, from Oakland Mills in Columbia, Md., outside of Baltimore.

“Marquis Wright can play,” Patsos said. “He’s our point guard, and is going to play 30 minutes a game. Lavon Long can play a bunch of positions.”

“Quis is great,” Poole said. “The thing with him is he’s looking to pass the ball first and shoot second, which is great for a shooter like me or anyone else. You’re engaged in the offense and not waiting for someone to pass it to you. He’s going to give you the ball right away.”

Despite last season’s dismal result, the Preview Day drew its usual good crowd, who were served burgers and chicken wings and got an opportunity to chat with the players from the men’s and women’s teams.

Patsos said he has an apprec­iation for how much the area ident­ifies itself by basketball.

“This is a basketball town,” he said. “George Karl’s coming here in a couple weeks [for Coaches vs. Cancer], I know Pat Riley’s from here, Phil Jackson and those guys . . . it means a lot to me to be part of that community.”

The Saints’ season begins at home against UAlbany on

Nov. 8, and the non-conference schedule will be a grueling test for any team, much less one with so many freshmen.

Siena is returning to the Old Spice Classic and will play Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., and three games in Orlando, Fla., beginning with Memphis on Nov. 28.

“All of that is getting us ready for the MAAC,” Patsos said. “This plane is taking off, it’s not landing. We may have a few bumps on the way up, but I’m glad we’re taking off.”

NOTEBOOK

Junior guard Evan Hymes, who broke his hand during the Montreal tour, had his cast removed on Monday and said he might start partic­ipating in workouts next week. . . .

The Siena women were picked seventh in their MAAC coaches poll.

 
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