Driving Force

Kenny Hasbrouck became available late in the recruiting process, leaving Siena with a mere two weeks
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Kenny Hasbrouck became available late in the recruiting process, leaving Siena with a mere two weeks to figure out a way to convince him that the small Loudonville campus in upstate New York was the place for the Baltimore-area native to go.

Hasbrouck visited Jacksonville, then decided to sign with the Saints, the biggest turning point in then first-year head coach Fran McCaffery’s rebuilding process.

Hasbrouck, Scotia native Josh Duell and former walk-on Erik Harris will be honored at Senior Night when the Saints play Manhattan at 7 tonight at the Times Union Center.

After Siena beat Loyola on Monday, Hasbrouck predicted that Duell would be the one to lose his composure during the Senior Night ceremony, but not because Hasbrouck doesn’t have fiercely emotional ties to the school.

The versatile 6-foot-3 guard has piled up all kinds of awards, like Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament MVP last year and preseason MAAC player of the year last fall.

More than that, though, Hasbrouck, who has started all 119 of Siena’s games since the beginning of his freshman season in 2005-06, has been the heart and soul of a team that is 77-42 (.647) and the driving force behind Siena’s turnaround.

“When he said yes, I felt like, OK, we can get this thing rolling here,” McCaffery said. “If you are a Siena basketball historian and look back, you can look at that day as a very, very important day in this team’s emergence to be able to get where we all hoped it would go.”

“Everybody keeps talking about Georgetown and Maryland, if I had went there, but I had a great career here, and I love my coach and love my teammates, so I think it was a great decision,” Hasbrouck said.

Lately, Hasbrouck has been a scoring machine for the Saints.

He had 33 against Saint Peter’s last week and 29 in the loss at Rider on Saturday, and has moved into the scoring average lead on the team.

Usually, those numbers would be good enough to win MAAC player of the week, but Justin Robinson was on the winning side of Rider- Siena and scored 25 points in his only game last week, so he got it.

Hasbrouck has never been about personal accolades, though.

“I trust him to be the ultimate team player,” McCaffery said. “Because he really could’ve looked at this season from a selfish perspective, if he wanted to. He could’ve said, ‘Look, this is my turn, you guys can have it next year, but I need to put up numbers, I need to get to the pros.’ But he never did that.

“Our team would never have had the success we’ve enjoyed the last couple of years were it not for that kind of mentality. I’ve said this before, but this is his team.”

The Saints are 13-1 in the MAAC and 19-6 overall, facing a team that is coming off a strange victory over promising Iona on Monday in which the Jaspers (8-6, 14-10) shot 31.4 percent from the field and still won by 13.

That’s because Iona was even worse, going 8-for-43 (18.6 percent). Manhattan led at halftime, 19-11.

“It wasn’t like Manhattan was killing it, either, but what Manhattan will do is they’ll defend,” McCaffery said. “We all know Iona’s better than that.”

Few players have been better than Hasbrouck lately.

At times this season, he has sacrificed scoring to help out at the point, and he’s guarded three different positions.

His recent scoring burst elevated him to first on the team, but it’s tightly balanced between Hasbrouck, Edwin Ubiles and Alex Franklin.

What hasn’t fluctuated has been Hasbrouck’s commitment to doing whatever it takes to win, and his pos­ition as the gear around which the rest of the team turns.

“People say this guy’s a leader by example or he’s a vocal leader . . . Kenny’s both,” McCaffery said. “That’s a rarity, when your best player’s your hardest worker and also calls it like it is. They’re the only guys that have the credibility to do that. If you’re a dog, you can’t tell somebody else to do anything even if you’re better than him, because they won’t listen to you.”

McCaffery said there’s a chance that Duell, who has been out since spraining his knee against Kansas on Jan. 6, could play tonight.

The Christian Brothers Academy graduate is in his second season of play with the Saints after transferring from Vermont, and besides adding a badly needed big body off the bench, he also brings leadership, experience, smarts and three-point shooting to the lineup.

“To get Josh Duell to transfer in and be such an integral part of our championship run, the big shots he made and the way he complemented the other four players was really a thing of beauty,” McCaffery said.

“It’s been upsetting to watch how his senior year has unfolded, but at the same time, it’s been great to watch him work so hard to get himself back, and I’m fairly certain he’s going to play Thursday night and contribute the rest of the season.”

Hasbrouck predicted that Duell will be the one to lose his composure during the Senior Night ceremony, and that Hasbrouck would not. Maybe not.

“Hopefully, not emotional. Hopefully,” he said. “I’ll try to keep the tears back. Definitely, I can see Duell crying. He’s a real emotional guy, he’s had a long career, he’s had a long season, so he’s probably going to let some go.

“I can’t wait. It’s going to be a good, fun time.”

“My impression of how it’s going to go down is Kenny will not do that,” McCaffery said. “He’ll want to take care of business. Yeah, he’s going to hug his mom, he’s going to kiss her, and then say, ‘OK, let’s go, we’ve got to tip it up and play.’ I could be wrong. But he is such a fierce competitor that my sense is that that’s how he’s going to respond.”

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