With Gaines out for MAAC tournament, other Siena men’s basketball players will need to step up

Siena’s Javian McCollum with the ball against Quinnipiac’s Luis Kartright during a basketball game at MVP Arena in Albany on Sunday, January 30, 2022.
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Siena’s Javian McCollum with the ball against Quinnipiac’s Luis Kartright during a basketball game at MVP Arena in Albany on Sunday, January 30, 2022.

As his teammate Anthony Gaines was undergoing medical tests Monday that the Siena men’s basketball program confirmed Tuesday revealed the graduate student had suffered a season-ending knee injury, freshman Javian McCollum said he knew what the message would be from one of Siena’s co-captains if bad news arrived.

“He’d still want us to show out,” McCollum said before Monday’s workout.

That practice didn’t include Gaines, who suffered a non-contact injury on the final offensive possession of Siena’s regular season. The school announced Tuesday that Gaines had torn the ACL in his right knee, and will miss this week’s MAAC tournament — and any other postseason play for the Saints — as he begins to recover from the injury.

“This is unfortunate news, but will just be another obstacle that Anthony overcomes,” Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said in a statement released through the school’s athletic department. “He’s a resilient young man who I was honored to coach. We have work to do in Atlantic City, and I know that this team will step up to the challenge.”

The challenge is a severe one, and not only because of the timing since third-seeded Siena starts play Thursday in the single-elimination MAAC tournament against No. 11 Quinnipiac at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. 

A third-team All-MAAC selection, Gaines provided leadership for the Saints, as well as 10.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game — and Siena, simply put, doesn’t have many options to replace that production. The Saints are down to nine scholarship players for the MAAC tournament, and that group includes sophomore Aidan Carpenter who is expected to play in Thursday’s quarterfinal after missing Siena’s final six games of the regular season. 

Gaines, though, was also one of only two Saints — forward Michael Baer being the other — who appeared in every regular-season game for Siena. As Maciariello noted Monday, the Saints are accustomed to figuring out lineups and a rotation on the fly.

“That’s kind of what this season’s been [because of] the number of injuries, and guys in and out of the lineup,” Maciariello said.

“Someone will just have to step up and be that leader — and I’m sure anyone is willing to do it,” McCollum said of the Saints’ situation. “We’ve just got to play and give it our all on the court.”

Without Gaines, it’s likely Siena turns more to a smaller lineup — and that would mean extra minutes for McCollum, the Saints’ talented 6-foot-2 guard who has averaged 6.3 points in 17.5 minutes per game. 

McCollum has dazzled, at times, with his playmaking and shot-making abilities, which served as the basis for his head coach describing the Florida native’s game as a mixture of what past standout guards Doremus Bennerman and Ronald Moore brought to the court for Siena. During the regular season, McCollum — in a limited role — had 39 assists and 25 turnovers, and made 48.9% of his field-goal attempts, 42.9% of his 3-point attempts and 86.5% of his free throws.

Throughout the campaign, McCollum’s defense has been a work in progress — something he acknowledged Monday with a smile.

“In high school, I really didn’t have to play defense,” McCollum said. “Now, you’ve got to play defense to stay on the court, so I’ve been working on that — and I’m getting pretty good at it, I’d say, getting better.”

McCollum said he’s worked on his defense through 1-on-1 play against classmate Jared Billups. An all-rookie team selection, Billups has emerged as one of Siena’s starters, along with graduate student Nick Hopkins, junior Colby Rogers and senior Jackson Stormo.

Along with Gaines, Rogers and Stormo were Siena’s only double-digit per-game scorers during the regular season. Rogers — a second-team All-MAAC selection — is Siena’s leading scorer at 14.1 points per game, while Stormo averaged 11.1. 

While there’s pressure that goes along with playing in the MAAC tournament, McCollum said he’s looking forward to his first experience playing in a college conference tournament. He said he’ll have some extra fans in the stands at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, too.

“My parents are coming, and it’s the first time they’re coming up here and watching me play [for Siena],” McCollum said. “So it’s all very exciting.”

FIELD ANNOUNCED

The full field for the 2022 ESPN Events Invitational, to be played Nov 24-27 at HP Field House at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, was announced Tuesday.

Along with Siena in the eight-team field are Florida State, Memphis, Ole Miss, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Seton Hall and Stanford.

Each team will play three games in the tournament, with opening-round opponents for each program to be announced in the summer.

Siena previously competed twice in the event that’s been known as the Old Spice Classic, AdvoCare Invitational and Orlando Invitational over the years. In 2008, Siena played Tennessee, Wichita State and Oklahoma State, and the Saints in 2013 played Memphis, Saint Joseph’s and Purdue.

Siena was scheduled to play in the event in 2020, but those games were canceled due to concerns related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Categories: College Sports, Siena College, Sports

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