The Outlet: Siena men’s basketball’s Billups working back from wrist surgery

Siena’s Jared Billups reaches for the ball during a MAAC basketball game at MVP Arena in Albany on Friday, February 11, 2022.
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Siena’s Jared Billups reaches for the ball during a MAAC basketball game at MVP Arena in Albany on Friday, February 11, 2022.

The toughest part of recovery for Jared Billups?

It hasn’t been the hours spent strengthening the right wrist he needed surgery on following his rookie season with the Siena men’s basketball program.

“See,” a smiling Billups explained recently, “I couldn’t even play video games because of it. That was bad.”

Billups delivered that line with a laugh,  but his injury was no joke. The 6-foot-4 perimeter player knew he’d suffered a triangular fibrocartilage complex tear prior to the surgery, but “when they got in there, they didn’t know how bad the tear was,” and “they had to do a lot” once the procedure was underway. Billups wore a splint or a cast for approximately five weeks to protect his healing right wrist, but the offseason activity continued, anyway.

“I was still working out. Weight-room stuff, left hand, core — just nothing with my right hand,” Billups said.

Such a work ethic isn’t a surprise from Billups. A MAAC All-Rookie selection last season, Billups quickly became a fan favorite as a freshman as much for his energetic playing style and toughness as his statistical production. He averaged 5.7 points and five rebounds per game, and played in all except two of the Saints’ 29 games despite his wrist injury.

“People don’t realize he basically played the whole year on a broken wrist,” said Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello, whose team is currently on campus participating in offseason workouts. “Shows you his grit and fortitude.”

It was only a couple weeks ago that Billups was able to start participating in form-shooting drills. He’s been able to work extensively on skills with his left hand, but said the majority of his basketball growth this offseason has been from further developing his knowledge of the game.

“I’ve watched a lot of film,” said Billups, stressing the “lot.”

In mid-August, Siena will head to Italy for a series of exhibition games. Billups said it’s a goal of his to be ready to compete in those games. 

“We’ll see, as the time gets closer, but I think I’ll be ready,” Billups said.

ARENA RENOVATIONS

Changes for UAlbany’s SEFCU Arena have long been rumored, and a formal announcement regarding the status and scope of those renovations is expected soon.

UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson confirmed that an announcement “within the next few weeks” will outline a “complete renovation of SEFCU Arena’s interior,” while Great Danes men’s basketball head coach Dwayne Killings also referenced the upcoming remodeling of the arena during a session Monday with area reporters.

At the moment, a public timeline for the renovations is unavailable, so it’s unclear how much of the 2022-23 season the school’s men’s and women’s basketball teams will be unable to use their traditional home court. Killings said the Great Danes are “still trying to figure all those things out,” but acknowledged that a full slate of home games at SEFCU Arena is unlikely for next season. 

“I’m thinking that hopefully we can announce that when we announce our schedule,” Killings said of where his club will play its home games next season. “We’re working on it every day, try[ing] to [find] something that fits for both the community and for our team.”

MODEST GOALS

As a college freshman, Justin Neely earned America East Conference Rookie of the Year honors for the UAlbany men’s basketball team.

For a sophomore encore, Neely has a lot planned.

Neely wants to win America East Player of the Year . . . make the league’s all-defensive team . . . lead the Great Danes to a conference championship . . . and help UAlbany win an NCAA tournament game.

“I have these goals written down for me. I’ve got it on a board in my room, so every day when I wake up, I look at them,” Neely said Monday, shortly before the Great Danes’ first official summer workout.

Neely averaged 6.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season, and demonstrated at different points why Killings views the 6-foot-5 forward from Miami as one of the Great Danes’ building blocks. With the Great Danes’ top-four scorers from last season either graduated or playing elsewhere this upcoming college season, Neely is UAlbany’s top returning scorer and rebounder from its 13-18 campaign — and the rising sophomore said he’s ready to do even more for the Great Danes next season.

“That’s the goal that I set for myself, and I know I can achieve it with the right habits, and working hard, and doing things the right way,” Neely said of his goal to win America East Player of the Year.

Categories: College Sports, Siena College, Sports

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