LOUDONVILLE — Emina Selimovic is back for a second season with the Siena women’s basketball program.
That lone year of experience makes her count as a veteran player for a young group of Saints that will try to surprise rivals in the MAAC this upcoming season.
“Being a returner, I already have the idea of how Coach wants to play, his values, what he wants us to believe in and what we need to believe in,” Selimovic said Tuesday. “Because I do have that extra year of experience, now I can take what I learned last year and bring that to the new people and my teammates. Now I have to set a standard; setting that standard means holding myself accountable and holding my teammates accountable for what we expect in this program.”
Siena, back on campus for summer workouts, finished 10-19 in Jim Jabir’s return last season to the program as head coach. Roster turnover left the Saints with plenty of open spots to fill for the 2022-23 version of itself, and Jabir’s 16-deep club includes nine freshmen and only five players that have previously played in a Division I contest. Ahniysha Jackson, an Albany High School graduate, is the team’s most-experienced scholarship player as a rising junior, and is also the program’s top returning scorer after averaging 5.3 points per game in 19 appearances last season.
In a lot of ways, Year 2 back at Siena is more like a Year 1 for Jabir, who first coached the program from 1987-90. It’s a youthful team filled with players his coaching staff recruited and now gets the chance to mold into a winning group.
“Everyone’s had great attitudes, the talent level is pretty decent — and they don’t know what they don’t know,” Jabir said of the start to summer workouts for the Saints, who are currently missing their several players from outside of the United States. “So we’re trying to teach them as much as we can. It’s definitely a different vibe, and we’re excited about the future.”
That immediate future, the 2022-23 season, could be a tough one — and Jabir acknowledged that Tuesday shortly after the Saints finished up a conditioning session on a grass field not far from their home UHY Center. More immediate win-loss success perhaps could’ve been achieved, Jabir suggested, if he’d recruited more-experienced players via the junior college ranks or transfer portal and the youthful Saints might “turn the ball over 800 times” next season as they learn how to play Division I basketball.
“But I like them all,” Jabir said of his team’s newcomers. “I think we’ll have some growing pains this season, and probably lose some games we shouldn’t, but I think overall this is a really great foundation for what we’re going to build here.”
London Gamble, one of those nine freshmen, said she’s already learned a lot about the jump from high school to college.
“Everything is quicker. You’ve really got to hone in on your conditioning, that’s really important,” said Gamble, a guard from Moorpark, California. “Details. The coaches are very detail-oriented, and you don’t get a million chances because there’s always someone who’s looking to take your spot. Focusing is really important and listening.”
Selimovic sees the Saints handling their offseason the right way.
“This group is very eager to learn. I’ve noticed that everybody responds to what Coach wants and is looking for,” said Selimovic, who scored 29 points in limited minutes across 20 appearances last season. “They listen to the details and they want to learn. Everybody wants to absorb like a sponge, and that leaves room for growth. I think we have a lot of potential this year to grow, especially with such a young group.”