Albany

Siena basketball’s Pickett adjusting to role

Saints need Pickett to score more
Jalen Pickett is shown during Siena's win against Bucknell.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Jalen Pickett is shown during Siena's win against Bucknell.

ALBANY — Jalen Pickett’s team down 11 points at halftime of Monday’s game against Canisius, both his coaches and teammates let the sophomore know what they thought of his pass-first approach.

“They kind of got on me in the locker room,” Pickett said. “They felt like I was passing up some shots I could have had, or passing up some drives for myself.”

Pickett only took four shots in Monday’s first half at Times Union Center, then took 14 in the second. The sophomore scored 19 of his team-high 22 points after halftime, a break during which Pickett said he was told something new.

“The right play is not always the right play,” Pickett said after the Saints’ 73-72 win Monday against Canisius. “That’s what I was told.”

Pickett did make the “right play” throughout Monday’s first half, in that he routinely made the extra pass to give a teammate a cleaner shot than one available for himself. Pickett, though, is Siena’s best player, and this season’s Saints are different from the ones of last season that needed their lead guard to be as much of a distributor as a shot-maker.

“We need Jalen Pickett to be a scorer first,” Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said.

Pickett averaged 15.8 points and 6.7 assists per game last season, while this season he’s at 16.3 points and 3.9 assists. While he’s still the team’s point guard and primary ball-handler, Pickett said the Saints’ first batch of games has represented a “learning experience” for him as he adjusts to playing with a much-different cast around him. Three of Siena’s five starters are new from a season ago, and 57.9% of this season’s minutes have been played by players who didn’t log a minute for the Saints last season.

“Last season, our team was limited in what we did off the dribble,” Pickett said. “This team can really get out and create for themselves, so sometimes I try to get them more involved this year because I know they can create for themselves. I just have to learn to pick and choose my spots.”

Pickett did that throughout Monday’s second half. In the game’s final minute, he looked for his own shot and got to the free-throw line in a tie game on one possession, then found fifth-year senior Elijah Burns for the game-winning 3-pointer on the Saints’ next possession after Canisius sent a pair of defenders at the sophomore.

“It makes it a lot easier for all of us,” Siena junior Manny Camper said of when Pickett is looking for his own shot. “When he gets going, the defense has to switch their coverages up, which opens guys up and we’re all confident enough to knock down shots when the opportunity presents itself.”

4TH IN THE NATION

Before this season, Camper’s career-high for rebounds in a single game was 11 and he’d never recorded a double-double.

Nine games into this season, Camper ranks No. 4 in the country in rebounds per game with 11.8 and has five double-doubles.

“My teammates. I’m giving all the credit to my teammates,” Camper said of his rebounding prowess this season. “They do a great job of finding their men, boxing out, and I’m just using my athleticism to my advantage to go up and grab them.”

While the 6-foot-7 Camper’s athleticism has a lot to do with his impressive rebounding numbers this season and he’s also playing closer to the basket this season as the 4 in Siena’s four-guard system after playing the 2 last season, desire to go get the basketball has as much to do with Camper’s rebounding breakout as anything else. In Monday’s win vs. Canisius, a handful of Camper’s rebounds came on plays where the ball bounced to the ground first before he gained possession.

SHOWING SIGNS

Through Siena’s 4-5 start and heading into Sunday’s home game vs. Holy Cross, freshman Gary Harris said he’s learned what he needs to do to earn more minutes.

“Just to always play hard,” Harris said. “Coach has me in there to give a lot of energy, so that’s what I have to give.”

Harris played 19 minutes against Canisius, including a dozen in the second half. He had five points and six rebounds, plus an emphatic block of a fast-break layup.

Maciariello said Harris has “infectious energy,” and that the Saints need him to bring that every time he hits the floor.

“He’s got all the capability in the world,” Maciariello said.

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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