LOUDONVILLE — In the upcoming season’s first month, the Siena men’s basketball program will play nearly as many games as the number of new scholarship players on its roster.
After playing seven games in November, Siena — which features nine new scholarship Saints — will play three more games in the first 11 days of December . . . and, then, not again for more than two weeks.
Just as Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello has enjoyed the opportunity to be able to prepare his new-look Saints for the season ahead this summer, that long break in the Saints schedule — which comes between a Dec. 11 game at Holy Cross and a Dec. 28 game at American — is one the Saints’ third-year head coach said this week will be crucial for the team.
“I love that time between Holy Cross and American,” said Maciariello, whose team’s non-conference schedule was unveiled last week. “That’s a good number of days, and that’s good for self-scouting and evaluating, and being able to add things to the arsenal, adjust things, tweak things. For me, that’s really important.”
Especially given the Saints’ revamped roster, which only includes two players — graduate student Nick Hopkins and senior Jackson Stormo — who started the majority of the team’s games during its 12-5 campaign that saw Siena win a share of the MAAC’s regular-season crown. From last season, Siena only returns 38.1% of its scoring and 35.5% of its rebounding, so the club’s first batch of games likely needs to serve the purpose of allowing Maciariello to figure out lineups and rotations that work best for the new-look Saints.
Prior to the Saints’ 17-day gap between games in December, Siena’s schedule will include two yet-to-be-announced MAAC games. Each of the league’s men’s basketball teams was instructed to keep Dec. 1-5 open so that all 11 of them can play two early conference games amongst the portion of the season generally reserved for non-conference action.
Maciariello’s Saints have two more weeks of summer workouts ahead of them. While the Saints need to make the most of that time, and the team’s formal preseason ahead of their Nov. 9 opener at St. Bonaventure, Siena’s schedule already provides it with a strong 10-game sample to study and improve upon before the heart of MAAC play starts.
“You want to win every game you play,” Maciariello said, “but you also want to improve throughout [the season] and play your best basketball in Atlantic City in March.”
IMPRESSING THE COACH
In recent weeks, Maciariello said sophomore Aidan Carpenter and junior Jordan Kellier “have done a great job” helping to set the tone for the Saints.
“They both compete and play hard all the time,” Maciariello said. “Aidan is a little more physical now, too, and understands more what it takes. He’s playing more off two feet. He’s embracing how he’s going to have to play and attack.”
Carpenter is one of several returning scholarship Saints from last season, while Kellier is a transfer from Utah. Another incoming transfer that Maciariello praised this week was Michael Baer, a graduate transfer who was previously a walk-on player at Iowa.
“He’s just a winner,” Maciariello said of the 6-foot-7 Baer who spent much of the last few seasons matching up against Luka Garza — the 2021 consensus player of the year — during practices for the Hawkeyes. “He knows how to play within motion concepts and he’s a good screener. He knows how to get guys open. He’s cerebral, and he can make his own shot.”
Defensively, Maciariello said he’s liked what Baer has shown in terms of being able to switch and guard multiple positions.
“He’s a worker,” Maciariello said.
Jared Billups, a freshman from Maryland, continues to earn strong reviews from Maciariello.
“He’s physically ready to play,” Maciariello said. “He’s one of our better athletes.”
Billups is a 6-foot-5, 200-pound guard. Previously this summer, Maciariello praised Billups and fellow freshman Javian McCollum for the extra hours each has spent working on their jump shots.