LOUDONVILLE — Looking back over his right shoulder, Siena College men’s basketball head coach Jimmy Patsos shouted his request.
“Put seven on the clock right now,” he called out. “Put seven on the clock. Let it run.”
The command interrupted an answer Patsos was giving during a pre-practice session Wednesday with reporters. The question Patsos was responding to was about senior forward Lavon Long, who didn’t start in Monday’s loss to Rider after showing up seven minutes late for a team bus that morning.
“It wasn’t one minute,” said Patsos, who paused a few times from answering questions during the next several minutes to remark about how the seven minutes on the clock had not yet run out.
As Patsos discussed the latest disciplinary issue with Long and the ongoing struggles of his veteran team to get itself together this season, all the Saints warmed up on the school’s practice court — except Long. He wasn’t late this time, but was instead spending extra time in the training room before gliding onto the practice court on crutches after spraining his right foot against Rider. Long, who scored a team-high 19 points Monday off the bench, said he expects to play Friday at Florida Gulf Coast University, a game he’s looking forward to as he tries to put Monday’s mistake in the past.
“Mentally, I’m pretty good,” said Long, who served a three-game suspension for a violation of athletic department rules to start this season. “You know, I’m not saying I’m over the Rider game, but I’m looking forward to the next one, kind of redemption for us. Another chance to get a road win. I’m just trying to get healthy and be ready for next game, really.”
Patsos said Long was upset with himself when he realized he’d shown up late Monday along with freshmen guard Ahsante Shivers. Long, Patsos said, kept repeating how he couldn’t believe he’d been late again.
“It’s just something that happens, you know?” Long said Wednesday of the incident. “One of those things.”
For Siena, which also played without sophomore guard Nico Clareth for three games because of a suspension, there’s been too many of those things this season. Senior forward Javion Ogun-yemi said the Saints’ off-court distractions are not to blame for the team’s 3-6 start to the season, but they also aren’t helping the team’s cause. In particular, Ogunyemi said
Siena needs Long to be better going forward.
“It’s just frustrating that we’ve got to constantly keep worrying about somebody being late,” Ogunyemi said. “But, for the most part, mistakes happen. Things happen. He bounced back and played well, and we lost as a group.”
Patsos said it’s disappointing to have any off-the-court issues, especially when his team has strong role models within its roster in redshirt senior forward Brett Bisping, Ogunyemi and senior guard Marquis Wright.
College athletes, though, make mistakes. Accountability for Siena’s recent problems, Patsos said, starts with him.
“I’ll take the heat,” Patsos said. “You want to blame me? Blame me.”
Of course, winning some of the close games Siena has dropped this season could cure a lot of its ills. In four of the team’s losses this season, the Saints have been within four points of their opponent in the final two minutes. An on-court inability to pull out wins in some of those games, Patsos said, has been a bigger issue than the team’s off-court drama.
“We’ve got to make some plays to win games,” Patsos said. “We made plays to win games last year.”
After suffering an ankle sprain last week, redshirt sophomore forward Willem Brandwijk should be fully available going forward. He warmed up prior to Siena’s game against Rider, and was deemed fit for competition.
Meanwhile, Patsos said redshirt sophomore guard Kadeem Smithen recently dislocated his right shoulder. Smithen is not expected to miss any time, but he is hurting. So, too, is Wright; Patsos said Wednesday that Wright has been playing with a broken bone in his left hand that will not require surgery or the guard to miss any time.
“It’s not in his shooting hand,” Patsos said. “He’s got to play.”
Freshman forward Sammy Friday, who sprained his right knee during Siena’s loss last week to St. Bonaventure, said he’s feeling “way better.” Originally, Friday was supposed to be out for a few weeks, but he could be back a little ahead of schedule.
“I just want to get back as quick as possible,” Friday said. “I want to help my teammates. That’s all I want to do.”
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Michael Kelly at 395-3109, [email protected], or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.
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