Albany County

Siena men’s basketball heads to Harvard

Saints coming off win vs. Bonnies
Siena's Don Carey takes a shot during Tuesday's game.
Siena's Don Carey takes a shot during Tuesday's game.

​LOUDONVILLE — With his team, Harvard men’s basketball head coach Tommy Amaker is concerned with developing “rhythm and momentum.”

In preparing to face Siena, Amaker suggested he’s seen a club with both.

“They look very confident,” Amaker said of the Saints ahead of their trip to play Harvard at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Both Siena and Harvard are 2-1 ahead of their matchup, a rematch from last year when Saints won 67-64 in Albany. Siena heads into the contest off a win Tuesday against St. Bonaventure in which its core four of fifth-year senior Elijah Burns, junior Manny Camper, redshirt sophomore Don Carey and sophomore Jalen Pickett starred, while it’s uncertain what Harvard will show up Thursday with in terms of its lineup.

Harvard has been without top players Bryce Aiken and Seth Towns — both seniors — so far this season, while senior guard Christian Juzang missed the team’s last game. Amaker said Wednesday afternoon that he didn’t know if any of those three would-be starters will play against Siena. Towns missed all of last season after he was the Ivy League Player of the Year for the 2017-18 season, while Aiken was a first-team All-Ivy League selection last season despite only playing in 18 games. 

Harvard, the Ivy League preseason’s favorite, has continued to win at a high level despite missing key players.

“But not having our normal guys that we anticipate having, or hope to have later as the season goes on, is somewhat frustrating,” said Amaker, Harvard’s veteran coach who played at Duke.

After beating MIT, Harvard lost to Northeastern before topping Maine. Meanwhile, Siena topped American and lost at Xavier before its win vs. St. Bonaventure. Against the Bonnies, Siena received 19 points apiece from Burns, Carey and Pickett, while Camper collected 15 points and 17 rebounds for his first career double-double.

Camper struggled early against St. Bonaventure, missing his first four free throws, but the 6-foot-7 junior didn’t let those misses affect the rest of his game. In 38 minutes, Camper made 4 of 5 shots from the field, added three assists, plus had a steal and a block.

“This year, he’s playing with more confidence,” Pickett said after Tuesday’s win. “This is the Manny we wanted last year, and now he’s playing with that confidence this year.”

Siena’s game at Harvard starts a stretch of four consecutive road games for the Saints. Siena won’t play at Times Union Center again until Dec. 21 vs. Bucknell.


Within Siena’s game-sealing 9-0 run against St. Bonaventure, back-to-back plays demonstrated the improved nature of the Saints’ offensive attack this season.

With Siena ahead 62-56, the ball ended up in Carey’s hands late in the shot clock. The redshirt sophomore motioned Pickett — Siena’s sole playmaker last season — toward the corner, then Carey used a pick from senior Sammy Friday, dribbled to force Pickett’s defender to help, and found Pickett for a wide-open 3.

Seconds later, Camper grabbed one of his career-high 17 rebounds and brought the ball up the court before finding Carey. From there, the redshirt sophomore who sat out last season after transferring from Mount St. Mary’s made a move toward the basket and whipped a left-handed bounce pass to a waiting Pickett for a layup.

“If we can just keep sharing it like that and getting [multiple] people in double-figures, we’ll be pretty good,” Pickett said.

Last season, Siena relied nearly exclusively on Pickett to create scoring opportunities. Not only did Pickett average 15.8 points per game — just behind then-senior Evan Fisher’s team-leading 15.9 — but the guard’s 221 assists were 27 more than his teammates’ combined total in that category.

Pickett is still starring this season, but he no longer has to be the Saints’ first, second and third options as a playmaker. Pickett is averaging a team-high 19.7 points per game, but his teammates have 26 assists and he has a dozen through three games.


Through three games, Burns is averaging 19 points.

The math on that one has been easy to figure out.

Burns, a Troy native who transferred to Siena last season after graduating from Notre Dame, debuted for the Saints with 19 points against American . . . scored 19 at Xavier . . . and had 19 in Siena’s win against St. Bonaventure.

On the season, the 6-foot-8 forward is shooting 63.6% from the field and is averaging six rebounds per game.

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

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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