Clareth ready to get jump on season

Siena guard still recovering from June knee surgery
Head coach Jimmy Patsos, left, directs a drill alongside Nico Clareth during the Siena College men's basketball team's official opening practice Monday at the Alumni Recreation Center in Loudonville.
Head coach Jimmy Patsos, left, directs a drill alongside Nico Clareth during the Siena College men's basketball team's official opening practice Monday at the Alumni Recreation Center in Loudonville.

Assembled to hear from head coach Jimmy Patsos at the start of Monday’s first official practice of the 2016-17 season, the members of the Siena men’s basketball team instead first got a dose of Nico Clareth.

“First day, let’s go, let’s go, let’s get better,” Clareth shouted as he walked along a line of his teammates, slapping their hands.

Clareth is still recovering from a June surgery on his right knee, in which he’d developed patellar tendinitis. His energy, though, was at its usual high level Monday as the Saints got to work in their school’s new hoops practice gymnasium.

“My new house looks good,” Clareth said of the facility. “I like what they did with the furniture.”

Patsos said Clareth — Siena’s sophomore guard who set a freshman scoring record with 447 points last year and was the fourth-leading Saints scorer per game at 13.1 — is operating at about “80 percent” as the Saints officially open their preseason. The plan is for Clareth to gradually build up his stamina in advance of Siena’s Nov. 13 opener against Cornell. At present, he’s able to practice for up to an hour.

“And I’m still getting buckets,” Clareth said, “so [playing at] 100 percent should be fun.”

“He’s been good,” redshirt senior forward Brett Bisping said of his teammate. “He’s been taking it slow just because there’s been no need to push it, but he looks great.”

Being patient, Clareth said, has been the toughest part of the recovery process.

“I love basketball more than anything, so to play is everything,” he said.

When he’s all the way back, Clareth — last season’s MAAC Sixth Man of the Year — expects to show off more facets of his game than he did a year ago. The ailment he had surgery to correct is one that typically hits athletes competing in sports requiring frequent jumping, and the Saints player is excited to see what he can do after playing with pain in his right knee going back to his high school years.

“I can’t wait,” he said.


Five players return for Siena who played at least an average of 28.3 minutes per game a season ago for a squad that finished 21-13. That type of returning talent and experience means there will be heightened expectations this season for the Saints, but senior forward Javion Ogunyemi said they’re tuning that noise out.

“We’re not going to worry about March,” said last season’s MAAC Defensive Player of the Year. “Our job right now is to get better every day in October.”

And, that’s needed.

“Everybody’s harping on [our] experience, which is nice,” Patsos said, “but that experience only got us [last year] to third place.”

Crafting his experienced players and his newcomers into a cohesive unit is Patsos’ primary aim during the next six weeks. The talent at his disposal is why Patsos’ team will be one of the favorites in the MAAC this season, but the coach also knows distributing playing time and touches will be tougher with this group.

“The most important statistic is minutes,” Patsos said. Later, he added: “It’s human nature that they all want to score, so I’ve got to kind of temper that.”

While that goes for the team’s veterans— “the old guys,” as Bisping, who got engaged this past summer, calls them — it’s extra important for the Saints’ newcomers to grasp. Freshman forward Thomas Huerter, who graduated from Shenendehowa in 2015 before spending a year at prep school, said he and his classmates understand how it works at the college level.

“You come in the low guy on the totem pole, you gotta kinda earn your stripes,” said Huerter, whose father played for Siena. “Not only do we have a lot of seniors returning, but we have a lot of seniors that are going to be key parts of our team returning.”

Sammy Friday, another freshman forward, said he’s “not going to start. I know that much.” But the 6-foot-9 Friday also knows how to earn more minutes as the season progresses.

“Do whatever Coach tells me to do,” he said.


Freshman guard Khalil Richard appears to have the inside track to earning the open spot in the Saints’ starting lineup.

If all healthy, Patsos said in mid-September that Bisping, Clareth, Ogunyemi and senior guard Marques Wright will start this season. Richard, a 6-foot guard from Baltimore, worked with that foursome to start Monday’s practice.

With redshirt sophomore guard Kadeem Smithen (knee) out through October, and Clareth still working back to full health, Patsos said Richard had been given more opportunities to show off his skill set during offseason workouts.

“He’s taken advantage of it,” Patsos said.

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