LOUDONVILLE — Subject to change.
And it may stay that way.
That’s how Siena men’s basketball head coach Carmen Maciariello sees the status of his starting lineup and playing rotation, several full practices into his team’s preseason.
Sure, senior Manny Camper and junior Jalen Pickett are going to play major minutes for the Saints. But, beyond those two returning All-MAAC first-teamers, Siena could mix and match its lineups throughout a 2020-21 season that looks likely to start Nov. 26 — Thanksgiving Day — at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
“I’m intrigued by the group, as a whole,” Maciariello said Thursday. “There’s a lot of flexibility.”
Last season, versatility wasn’t a top feature for the Saints who finished 20-10 and won the MAAC regular-season championship before seeing their season end with the cancellation of the in-progress MAAC tournament due to concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Siena headed into its 2019-20 campaign, Maciariello’s first as a head coach, knowing its season would revolve around the play of four Saints — and the team rarely deviated from that path. Approximately 40% of Siena’s minutes last season were allocated to groups made up of all four of the team’s double-digit scorers — Elijah Burns, Manny Camper, Don Carey and Jalen Pickett — plus one more player. Extending that out further, it was a rarity for Siena to play without at least one — or both — of Camper and Pickett on the floor, as both players averaged more than 36 minutes per game.
Camper and Pickett are likely to carry similar workloads for this upcoming season, but the surrounding Saints should see more variability than a season ago. That’s a good thing for the Saints, who should have more ways to beat teams in 2020-21 than they did last season.
“Each year, the team is different. You let them play and see what they kind of pull toward, or lean toward,” Maciariello said. “But I think [our rotation] depends on the opponent. . . . You let that work itself out. I would say, though, that we are physical. We are big.”
While Maciariello is steadfast in the description of his on-court system as including four guards and one big at all times, this year’s Siena roster only includes four scholarship players who are pure guards in Pickett, freshman Aidan Carpenter, fifth-year senior Nick Hopkins and sophomore Jordan King. Beyond those four players, Siena’s other eight scholarship players are a combination of wings and centers, with the wings — such as Camper or sophomore Gary Harris — leaning more toward being forwards than they are guards.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Siena will play much different from a season ago when it led the MAAC in scoring and generally eschewed long-range shots in favor of getting to the rim. But the Saints should be able to put more length on the court on a consistent basis, and in more varied lineups than they used last season.
The opportunity to play small, though, is there for the Saints because of the shooting and on-the-ball defensive pressure that Hopkins and King — both 6-foot-0 guards — can provide.
“So there could be a lineup with those guys at the 2 and 3 with Jalen at the 1 and Manny at the 4,” Maciariello said. “Then, you’re smaller, but your best shooting is on the floor.”
Newcomers such as sixth-year senior Harrison Curry and junior Dana Tate — both 6-foot-7 transfers — and returners such as Camper and Harris provide the Saints with a strong stable of players capable of playing multiple positions within Maciariello’s system. Maciariello said 6-foot-7 freshman Colin Golson is someone that could play the 3, 4 or 5, but that the Saints likely want to reduce the number of positions he’s learning in his first college season.
“But we’re trying to get these guys as many reps as possible in as many different situations to get them comfortable,” Maciariello said.
While Siena has graduated to conducting full practices after spending several weeks limited to small-group workouts because of restrictions related to the pandemic, Maciariello said the Saints still have numerous precautions in place.
Members of the coaching staff wear masks at all times. Meanwhile, players need to wear masks when they are not actively participating in on-court work.
“And we’re only allowed to have 20 people in the facility,” Maciariello said.
Siena’s roster includes 17 players. As long as the 20-person limit remains, Maciariello said it’s possible that a player who in unable to practice will stay outside the gymnasium, while coaching staff members Greg Fahey and Matt Miner — Siena’s director of basketball operations and special assistant to the head coach, respectively — have been set up to be able to monitor practices from outside the gymnasium using technology.