Siena will lose a large chunk of its starting lineup with the graduation of Alex Franklin, Edwin Ubiles and Ronald Moore, but the Saints could still be in position to maintain the momentum they’ve established through three straight NCAA tournament appearances.
The most difficult to replace will be Moore, who broke the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference career record for assists.
The point guard role will likely fall to Kyle Griffin or Jonathan Breeden, unless Siena is able to sign Bryon Allen, a highly recruited guard from St. Thomas More in Connecticut, and he proves capable of taking the point as a freshman, like Moore did four years ago.
Replacements Siena knows it can count on next year are 6-foot-9 Brandon Walters, a Seton Hall transfer who sat out this season due to NCAA transfer rules; incoming freshmen Trenity Burdine, a 6-6 swing man from Reading, Pa., Franklin’s hometown; and 6-7 Melsahn Basabe of Glen Cove.
In the meantime, the Saints can comfort themselves with memories of another spectacular season under head coach Fran McCaffery that ended on Friday with a 72-64 loss to Purdue in the first round of the NCAA South Regional in Spokane, Wash.
“I had a great career here,” Moore said after the game. “It’s going to be a quiet trip back to Albany, but I’ll tell the guys to keep their heads up, including myself. We’ve got great players here, and hopefully, they can make another run.”
“I hope I get an opportunity to coach kids like that again,” McCaffery said of his three senior starters. “They come to work every day, and to have these three on your team, it doesn’t get any better than that. It makes it fun. This business can be a grind. It can really wear on you if you don’t have those kind of people. It’s a long season.
“I don’t know if I’ll have another one like him [Moore]. Right up to the end, they were trying to wear him out, and you just can’t wear him out. He keeps coming. His decision-making was great, he made plays and our press, with his energy level, was really incredible.”
Moore made a short, emotional speech to the team after the game in the locker room, and Franklin was still crying when he left the locker room to go to the interview room.
What Siena can be certain of is that they’ll have two starters back, Ryan Rossiter, a double-double machine who will be a MAAC Player of the Year candidate next season, and shooting guard and classmate Clarence Jackson, who missed the Purdue game with a sprained ankle.
Jackson said he’s going to use that sour experience as a motivating force next season.
“I learned a lot. You’ve got to play with heart, be tough and lead by example,” he said of the impact of the outgoing seniors. “You’ve got a lot of young guys looking up to you. Next year, I’m going to make sure I do that the best way I can. It’s just unfortunate we had to go out this way.
“I know that I have to keep fighting. This hurts me more than anything. You work so hard all season, and what I worked for was taken away. Now, I’m going into next season with more hard work and dedicating time to the gym, making sure this doesn’t happen next year.”
Siena loses its vocal leader, Moore, but McCaffery said Rossiter will slide easily into that role next year.
“It’ll be Rossiter’s team next year,” he said. “He’ll get some help from Jackson, but anybody who was in the huddle for the Fairfield game down the stretch would know it’s Rossiter’s team.”
“I’m just worried about this year, enjoying it, looking back on everything, how much fun I had with these guys,” Rossiter said. “Once things settle down, I’ll start worrying about next year. Right now, our season just ended, but it really hasn’t set in yet.
“I learned a lot from them from the basketball aspect, but it’s moreso what I learned from them, going to Siena, looking at them as leaders, and I’m going to try to take everything they had and try to be the same leader that they were.”
Ubiles has been invited to the annual senior all-star game that will take place at the Final Four in Indianapolis and has also been invited to the Portsmouth tournament for NBA prospects.
He said he was encouraged by the fact that former teammate Kenny Hasbrouck was recently signed to a 10-day contract by the Miami Heat.
“I’m always confident in what I’m capable of,” Ubiles said. “I’m looking forward to the future and moving forward.
“That helps our program, and fortunately, I’ll have my opportunities to impress scouts, and hopefully, it works out great for me, too.”
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