Albany County

Huerter boosting Siena men’s basketball

Saints play Friday at Manhattan
Thomas Huerter, right, has returned to Siena's playing rotation.
Thomas Huerter, right, has returned to Siena's playing rotation.

LOUDONVILLE — It had nothing to do with what anyone did for him.

It was all about what Thomas Huerter did for himself.

And that’s in a good way, because there is nothing selfish about showing up to practice each day with a positive attitude and ample energy. That’s what Huerter did during his nearly two-months-long break from playing meaningful minutes for the Siena College men’s basketball team, a hiatus from significant game action that ended last weekend.

“There was really nothing extra that we did with him as coaches,” Siena assistant coach Ryan Devlin said of Huerter, a junior who started the season as a member of the regular rotation before losing that spot after the Saints’ ninth game. “It was all about what he did and his mindset.”

What Huerter did as he watched nearly every minute from the bench of 12 consecutive Siena game was stay engaged. That meant cheering for his teammates during games, and using his time at practice and before games to prepare as if Siena head coach Jamion Christian might suddenly insert him into the lineup one night for 30 minutes.

“It was more about just doing what I was doing before, just not getting away from my routine. Keep sticking with things,” Huerter said. “In a position like that, where guys can go wrong is that they stop doing what they’ve been doing. They kind of give up, don’t put up extra shots or don’t do extra film work or whatever they do. So I just tried to treat every day the same, treat every day like I was playing even though I knew I wasn’t playing. I just stayed in my routine.”

That perseverance was rewarded last Saturday at Iona with 19 minutes and 13 against Fairfield on Monday. The Saints won both those games, as Siena (6-4 MAAC, 11-12 overall) heads into Friday’s 7 p.m. game at Manhattan (5-6, 7-16) seeking to earn its third consecutive victory.

Huerter is not the only Siena player this season to go from within the Saints’ regular rotation to outside of it for a lengthy piece of time. Fifth-year senior Braedon Bayer has been in and out of the team’s rotation at different points this season, while freshman Georges Darwiche recently went from the starting lineup to not playing in back-to-back games. Huerter’s return to the rotation has coincided with Darwiche’s drop in playing time.

“I want them to know that we’ve got a rotation . . . but, every day, it’s a competitive environment [and] that you’ve got to be at your best,” Christian said. “If you’re able to put together more competitive days than someone else, you’re going to have the opportunity to step into the game and make those kinds of plays. I think that’s important for growth; it’s important when you’re on a job to know that you have the ability to be promoted. I don’t want these guys getting stagnant with it. I want them to know that everything they’re doing every day counts.”

Early in the season, Huerter wasn’t finding enough ways to contribute during the playing time he received. Huerter recognized that, and used his practice time on the Siena’s scout team — the “Grey Squad” — to rediscover the aggressiveness he needed to play with to be an effective role player for the Saints.

“I had been second-guessing myself,” Huerter said. “I had been playing not to make mistakes.”

Before Christian told Huerter last Friday to expect to play Saturday at Iona, the Siena coaching staff had liked the way the 6-foot-7 wing had improved in practice.

Huerter’s attitude throughout the process mattered, too.

A lot.

“Tom just came in every day and did his job. He performed his duty on the ‘Grey Squad’ and that’s a testament to who he is as a kid and how he was brought up,” Devlin said. “He came in every day and just worked. He didn’t sulk. Didn’t pout. Then, when his number was called, he performed.”

Against Iona, Huerter had five points and three rebounds. In Monday’s win against Fairfield, he offered a rebound and an assist. In both games, Huerter was reliable with the ball and offered above-average defense.

“I’ve just tried to be aggressive,” Huerter said.

Huerter’s return to the playing rotation has further helped an already close team, too. While Huerter receiving minutes again means some other players have seen less court time, Devlin said the junior’s return to the rotation has provided a “morale boost” for the Saints as they continue their charge up the MAAC standings.

“And that’s just a testament to who Tom is as a person,” Devlin said. “Forget basketball. He’s just a good kid, a great person and his opportunity came — and he’s nailing it.”

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

Categories: -Sports-, College Sports

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