It was a tale of two sitters.
Edwin Ubiles is being looked at by NBA scouts; Erik Harris surely is not.
They both came off the bench on Saturday night and made an impact — each in his own unique way — on Siena’s 71-64 victory over UAlbany at the Times Union Center.
Coming into the season, Harris, a 6-foot-9 senior center, had played a total of 38 minutes in his entire Siena career; Ubiles, a junior, has averaged more than 38 minutes just in the three UAlbany games he’s played in.
Turns out Eddie thought shootaround was scheduled for 11:30 Saturday morning, so he made an appointment to get a quick haircut before the big game. Shootaround was at 11:15, Ubiles was 10 minutes late, so head coach Fran McCaffery told him he wouldn’t be starting. Small infraction, maybe, but an easy call for a coach to discipline. The haircut, by the way, came out nice and tight.
Harris doesn’t have any problems with being where’s he’s supposed to be, but it does take his senior knees a little time to catch up when he’s called to duty, which isn’t very often.
When he saw that starting center Ryan Rossiter wasn’t on the bench as they were getting ready for the second half, he knew something was up. Rossiter banged his head at the end of the first half and wasn’t cleared to play, so an already depleted front line was going to need Harris to serve as a bridge to the closing minutes. Then McCaffery could bring in the experienced and steady Josh Duell, who’s still working his way into playing shape after missing most of the preseason with an injury.
Harris finished with 13 minutes, 12 more than he’s averaged in four other games this year. His stat line was unremarkable:
2-for-2 from the field, one block, one foul, zero rebounds.
“I was on the bench doing my thing,” he said. “If I don’t play in the first half, my knees kind of go on, like, cruise control. My whole legs, for that matter. It’s like an old car in the winter, you’re just trying to get it started. Then it runs pretty good.
“I had no idea. It wasn’t until the five starters sat down on the bench and coach got in the huddle and I saw Duell, and I was looking around trying to put it together. Where’s Ryan? That’s when I
realized I needed to be ready.”
“I’m really proud of him,” McCaffery said. “He was part of my first recruiting class, and he was a big, gangly 180 pounds and just
really worked himself into a player because he’s got phenomenal character.
“Josh was struggling, Ryan’s out, Cory Magee’s out … OK, big fella, you’ve got to do it. This is your chance. And what an opportune time for him to have this kind of game.”
Harris’ kind of game was pretty simple: a lot of dirty ground work.
Ubiles, meanwhile, is in full bloom, producing the kind of gorgeous plays that spring up at you in the full spectrum of color.
After his little sitdown, which lasted 3:23 into the game, he missed a soaring throwdown dunk midway through the first half that drew a loud “OOOOHH” from the crammed Great Danes student section behind the basket, but he responded with three dunks, including two on alley oops, and the game-breaking three-pointer with 2:04 left.
“I’ll take the punishment,” he said. “I did come late. But that wasn’t going to stop me from
doing what I do.”
“I told him maybe he should come late again next week,” McCaffery joked.
“Every time he’s late or something, he has a good game,” senior Kenny Hasbrouck said. “I don’t think coach likes it, but I guess if you get Ed a little bit mad, he’s
going to go out and kill.”
“He’s got to be the best sixth man in the MAAC,” UAlbany head coach Will Brown joked. “My staff came in today and said Ubiles isn’t starting. I said, after the jump ball, he’s going to run to the scorer’s table, and sure enough, two minutes in, he was in, and he was killing us.”
With Ubiles, the lapses in judgment and slip-ups sort of come with the package, and you deal with it. Last year, he missed a start because he and two teammates were a little late getting back from a holiday break, and he was suspended by the team during preseason because he needed to get caught up on his academics.
Harris’ knees must hurt just watching some of the things Ubiles can do above the rim, but he was smiling just as brightly as anyone else in the locker room after the game, even when Rossiter threw a couple jabs his way. “Very funny, very funny, Ryan,” Harris said. “His knees aren’t in shutdown mode, in airplane mode.”
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