It was a day that offered a reminder that Jalen Pickett’s junior season wasn’t always an easy one.
And it offered a strong hint at how Pickett’s campaign is trending.
The Siena men’s basketball guard, the MAAC’s preseason player of the year, earned a first-team all-conference spot Monday for the third time in as many college seasons for the Rochester native, but he was the only player to earn that honor that didn’t do so as a unanimous selection.
Pickett, the reigning MAAC Player of the Year, produced another strong season for Siena, but the 6-foot-4 guard didn’t play up to his usual standards for most of the season after suffering a hamstring injury in the team’s third game.
But Pickett looked fully like himself, really for the first time in back-to-back games since his injury, in Siena’s final two games of the regular season . . . so he also earned Monday the final MAAC Player of the Week award, a nod earned after a series of games against Canisius that saw Pickett average 19 points, six rebounds and seven assists while shooting 53.8% from 3-point territory.
In other words: Pickett, as he so often has during his Siena career, dominated all aspects of the game.
And that development is coming at the perfect time for the Saints.
“I think,” Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said Monday, “Jalen’s finally starting to get back in his groove a little bit, with now getting confidence in his leg.”
That’s the best possible news for a program that received a solid helping of good news Monday. With the top-seeded Saints set to start their run Wednesday in the MAAC tournament in Atlantic City, New Jersey against either No. 8 Quinnipiac or No. 9 Iona, three of Siena’s players earned all-conference selections. Senior Manny Camper, for the second consecutive season, joined Pickett on the league’s top team, while sophomore Jordan King was a third-team selection.
Pickett has earned all-conference recognition each season at Siena and Camper is a favorite to win MAAC Player of the Year this season, while Monday’s honor was one that recognized the incredible growth King has shown during his time at Siena. An Albany native who played high school basketball at CBA, King headed to Siena as a walk-on, but is now an on-scholarship starter for the MAAC’s top team.
“It just feels good to see all the hard work that I put in [during] the offseason just pay off,” King said.
King averaged 12.5 points per game during the regular season. Pickett averaged 12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, plus 1.2 blocks, while Camper led Siena in points (14.6), rebounds (10) and minutes (37.8).
In Siena’s final two-game series of the regular season, Pickett scored 15 points in Thursday’s win and 23 points in Friday’s loss. Those were the first back-to-back games against the same team that saw Pickett record double-digit scoring since Siena’s first series of the season.
“I feel really good,” Pickett said after Friday’s game. “Just like we first weekend [of league play]. Felt back to my normal self.”
Maciariello said that freshman Aidan Carpenter (ankle) and graduate student Nick Hopkins (leg) continue to make progress, and neither guard has been ruled out for Wednesday’s MAAC quarterfinal for the 12-4 Saints.
“Nick’s back riding a bike now. Hasn’t been on the court yet,” Maciariello said Monday. “Aidan was in practice [Sunday] for a little, but has not played fully, so we’ll see how it looks today.”
Maciariello said he’s “not sure the status on Nick,” but said Hopkins “does feel better” after missing the Saints’ last five games. Meanwhile, the Saints are “hoping Aidan should be good” after missing the team’s last three games.
Graduate student Harrison Curry (COVID-19 protocols) remains out indefinitely.
Siena has played its last three games with only seven available scholarship players.
ALL-MAAC FIRST TEAM
Manny Camper, Siena, Sr.; Deion Hammond, Monmouth, Sr.; KC Ndefo, Saint Peter’s, Jr.; Jalen Pickett, Siena, Jr.; Isaiah Ross, Iona, Sr.
ALL-MAAC SECOND TEAM
Marcus Hammond, Niagara, Jr.; Dwight Murray Jr., Rider, Jr.; Kobi Nwandu, Niagara, R. Sr.; George Papas, Monmouth, Sr.; Jacob Rigoni, Quinnipiac, Sr.
ALL-MAAC THIRD TEAM
Daryl Banks III, Saint Peter’s, So.; Malek Green, Canisius, Jr.; Jordan King, Siena, So.; Melik Martin, Monmouth, Sr.; Ant Nelson, Manhattan, Jr.; Warren Williams, Manhattan, Jr.
ALL-MAAC ROOKIE TEAM
Hakim Byrd, Marist, Fr.; Tymu Chenery, Quinnipiac, Fr.; Nelly Junior Joseph, Iona, Fr.; Luis Kortright, Quinnipiac, Fr.; Ricardo Wright, Marist, Fr.