LOUDONVILLE — A tattoo on his left arm reads “BEAST” in large letters.
That one projects the confidence Aidan Carpenter, a 6-foot-5, 185-pound freshman guard, brings with him to the court.
The tattoo that matches it in size and style on his right arm, though, that’s the more important one.
That one offers “HUMBLE,” and explains the approach and mindset that brought Carpenter to the Siena men’s basketball program.
“He’s a gym rat,” Siena men’s basketball head coach Carmen Maciariello said.
That’s something that gets said about a lot of players.
For Carpenter, though, it’s the first thing . . . and, the second . . . then, the third that gets brought up when someone is trying to explain why Carpenter — who will make his Siena debut when the Saints host Monmouth 3 p.m. Sunday at Alumni Recreation Center — is expected to burst onto the MAAC scene this month.
At Siena, the coaches have had to chase Carpenter out of the gym. He’d practice, work out with a coach, work out on his own, get up a few hundred extra shots — and, eventually, need to be reminded his body requires time to rest and recover.
“There’s never a day he wants to take off,” said Siena assistant coach Harley Fuller, who helped lead the Siena coaching staff’s charge to bring Carpenter — a Hamden, Connecticut native — to Loudonville.
Carpenter’s AAU coach chuckled when he heard that Siena coaches needed to monitor Carpenter’s court time. Nick Light, a founder and director of the Rhode Island Elite AAU program Carpenter played for in 2019, remembered how Carpenter declined to leave the AAU program’s home base in Providence for that year’s Fourth of July holiday. The 17U team Light led included players from throughout New England, so the team took a break from its two-practices-a-day schedule on the holiday so the teenagers could head to their homes to celebrate.
And Carpenter stayed, and celebrated in the gym.
“That whole Fourth of July, while everyone was relaxing, he was in the gym,” Light said. “There was no AC. It was, like, 102 degrees. And he was just working all day.”
Carpenter entered the 2019 spring with only a couple scholarship offers. He switched from playing for one AAU program to Light’s up-and-coming Rhode Island Elite, and got to work.
“And, from me being humble and working every day, I ended that summer with 25 offers,” Carpenter said.
But he only made two official visits. The first was to Akron. The second one was to Siena, and he made his verbal commitment days after visiting with the Saints in September 2019.
Carpenter liked the attitude around the Saints, who finished 20-10 in the pandemic-shortened season that followed and ended in March with the cancellation of the in-progress MAAC tournament.
What the Saints liked about Carpenter, beyond his work ethic, was his athleticism and mentality. He’s a guard with speed and size, and he utilizes them rather than letting defenders off the hook by relying on jumpers.
“His ability to change speeds and get the ball to the rim, that adds a different dynamic for us,” Fuller said. “His athleticism, his quickness and his ability to create shots for himself and for others — that’s what sets him apart.
“He’s not a fun player to guard.”
Maciariello said Carpenter reminds him of a former Capital Region high school star who played at Arizona and Xavier before starting a professional career.
“Aidan really reminds me of [Schenectady native] Mark Lyons, in terms of his quickness, how he handles the ball and how he attacks,” said Maciariello, who coached Lyons with the Albany City Rocks AAU program more than a decade ago. “I like big guards, and they have to be able to dribble, shoot and pass.”
That Carpenter has all those traits is why he’s expected to play 20-plus minutes right away for Siena, regardless of if he starts. He is not the best player on the 2020-21 Saints, but he is the Saint that offers the most vivid example of the type of guard that Maciariello — in his second season as Siena’s head coach — wants to build his program around as it moves forward.
Carpenter left prep school to join the Saints midway through last season as a practice player. That experience gave him a taste of what to expect ahead of his rookie season, and proved extra beneficial for him since so much of Siena’s preseason was hampered because of pauses and restrictions related to the pandemic.
It also left him hungry. He hasn’t played in a real game in more than a year, and that means he’s pushed himself through a year’s worth of workouts since he last was able to demonstrate the improvements he’s made to his growing game.
“I’m just excited to get out there with these guys,” Carpenter said.