Albany County

Siena men’s basketball’s Pickett sweeps MAAC awards

Freshman earns top rookie, player honors
Jalen Pickett's strong season continues.
Jalen Pickett's strong season continues.

LOUDONVILLE — Just another week for Jalen Pickett.

So another award was earned.

Actually, make that two.

Pickett, a Siena College men’s basketball freshman, repeated as MAAC Rookie of the Week, and added MAAC Player of the Week honors, too, after averaging 20.5 points and 10.5 assists per game in two games last week. Pickett became only the fourth freshman since 1986 to win MAAC Player of the Week honors.

“Jalen’s unique with his ability to understand the game,” Siena head coach Jamion Christian said after the Saints wrapped up practice Monday, two days before Siena plays at St. Bonaventure.

That uniqueness mostly stems from possessing a high basketball IQ, one that has allowed Pickett to instantly star for the Saints despite playing a position mostly unfamiliar to him. Pickett was recruited to Siena to play off the ball, but the losses of Roman Penn (transfer) and Khalil Richard (injury) left the Saints in need of a point guard.

Pickett said he has not played point guard “much since my junior year” of high school, but is averaging a team-high 36.5 minutes per game playing the most-demanding position within Christian’s offense.

“He’s really embraced the position he’s playing right now and making great, sound decisions for our team,” Christian said of Pickett, who is averaging 16.6 points and 7.1 assists per game. “I’m really pleased with his growth in that position. [Assistant coach] Graham Bousley has done a great job with him on the offensive side of the floor.”

Pickett said he is still adapting to his new position.

“Just making the reads with the ball in your hands,” Pickett said is most challenging for him. “Not turning it over as much.”

Ball-handling, though, is an area where Pickett has been strong all season. Pickett’s only averaging 2.3 turnovers per game, and his assist-to-turnover ratio is tops in the MAAC.

“I was excited. A great honor,” Pickett said of receiving both conference awards. “But my teammates helped me get there, and I was just playing hard and Coach [was] putting me in the right spots.”

In or out?

Christian said senior Evan Fisher’s status for Wednesday’s game is undetermined, but said X-rays were negative for the “lower-leg injury” Fisher suffered toward the end of Saturday’s win against Harvard.

“Evan’s doing everything he can to be prepared for Wednesday,” Christian said.

Fisher has started each of Siena’s first eight games along with sophomore Manny Camper, fifth-year senior Kevin Degnan, Pickett and freshman Sloan Seymour. If Fisher is unable to play against St. Bonaventure, Christian hinted the Saints could make a more-involved lineup change than simply replacing Fisher with junior backup Sammy Friday.

“Man, there’s so many fun options,” Christian said. “When someone goes out, it gives you an opportunity to try some things that maybe you’ve been looking at through the course of the year and to put some guys in positions to be successful.”

Advance work

Each Siena assistant coach is responsible for specific individual tasks, and Christian offered praise Monday for the job A.J. Register — officially listed as Siena’s “Special Assistant to the Head Coach” — has done this season.

While each Siena coach plays a role in scouting and developing the team’s gameplan, Register is responsible for creating an analytics-based advance scouting report for each Siena opponent.

“It’s really particularly hard early in the year [to do that] because all these teams are changing so quickly, but he does a great job of understand [opposing] teams’ tendencies and being able to come back with three-to-five points that are really important for each opponent,” Christian said. “It doesn’t mean all year we’ve done a great job of taking those things away, but he has done a great job of identifying those things.”

Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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