The Outlet: Former Shenendehowa standouts excited for opportunity with Siena women’s basketball

Rylee Carpenter, left, and Simone Walker are shown last week at UHY Center in Loudonville.
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Rylee Carpenter, left, and Simone Walker are shown last week at UHY Center in Loudonville.

Time spent last year on the Siena College campus helped bring a pair of former Shenendehowa High School standouts onto this upcoming season’s Saints women’s basketball team as walk-on players.

For Simone Walker, that experience was as a “regular student,” a year that helped recharge her drive to play.

For Rylee Carpenter, the experience was as an opponent.

“We played here for an exhibition game and I was like, ‘This is so cool,’” Carpenter said last week amid helping out at the Saints’ summer camp. “It was what I always imagined for myself; having all the support in the stands, seeing familiar faces. The environment of the game that I played against Siena here was what I always wanted.”

A 2021 Shenendehowa High School graduate, Carpenter started her college career at Division II Dominican, which played the Saints during a preseason game last year on their Loudonville campus. The 5-foot-11 Carpenter averaged 2.8 points per game in 21 appearances, but transferred after one year at the school because “the fit wasn’t right for me.” Carpenter entered into the NCAA transfer portal, and consulted with a variety of people regarding what she should do next — including her former high school teammate Walker.

“And she was like, ‘You should think about Siena. I know you, and this is a school you would really like,’” Carpenter said.

Walker, a 2020 high school graduate, started her college career at Division II Adelphi. Her freshman year season was called off due to pandemic-related restrictions, and Walker decided to transfer back to the Capital Region following a school year she completed online from home.

“So I transferred to Siena and I wasn’t even going to play basketball anymore,” Walker said. “I decided I wasn’t in love with it anymore, so I just wanted to be a regular student and to come back home — and I chose Siena.”

Walker said she enjoyed the experience of being a “normal student” at the school for the fall semester, but also felt something was missing.

“I was always working out and I kept playing basketball,” Walker said. “I missed it.”

Walker connected with Siena head coach Jim Jabir last winter, and wanted to see if she could participate with the team as a practice player.

“And he was great about it, and I met all the girls, and they welcomed me with open arms,” Walker said. “I met the coaching staff, and they were all very, very nice. They gave me the opportunity.”

Carpenter and Walker are two of several 2021-22 Saints with Capital Region roots. Besides the pair from Shenendehowa, Siena’s roster also includes Albany High School graduate Ahniysha Jackson and Guilderland High School graduate Valencia Fontenelle-Posson.

“We’ve always played against each other since, like, third grade,” said Walker, who is studying communications at Siena.

As kids, Carpenter and Walker both attended the Siena camps they’ve helped run this summer. They both attended games, too, and recalled looking up to the players on the court wearing the Saints uniforms.

“So it’s crazy to be back here and to be an actual player,” Carpenter said. “It’s just so cool.”

MAKING PROGRESS

After missing nearly all of his first season with the UAlbany men’s basketball team, Gerald Drumgoole Jr. said there were “some hard days, some good days” during the Great Danes’ summer workouts that wrapped last week.

“But I feel like it was really worth it,” said Drumgoole, a transfer from Pittsburgh who only made one appearance last season before a knee injury forced him to redshirt the campaign. “When you put your best foot forward and work as hard as you can, good things come to you. So I pray as the season gets closer, I start to take more steps forward.”

UAlbany head coach Dwayne Killings said Drumgoole is “probably about 80%” of the way back to full health. Drumgoole said he still has progress to make in being able to sustain positioning himself into a defensive stance and utilizing his lower body during jump shots.

“But, other than that, I feel really good,” Drumgoole said.

TRIP TO ITALY

The Siena men’s basketball program unveiled details of its trip later this month to play a series of exhibition games in Italy.

Siena will play Stella Azzurra on Aug. 20 and Pallacanestro Crema on Aug. 26 of Italy’s Serie B league, as well as UCC Assigeco Piacenza on Aug. 27 of Italy’s Serie A2 league.

In all, Siena’s trip goes from Aug. 18-28. Per a press release issued Tuesday through the school’s athletic department, the trip “will include visits to the capital Rome, the independent city-state The Vatican, Assisi, the College’s namesake Siena, San Gimignano, Florence, and Como,” and the team will participate in “guided sight-seeing tours of notable landmarks in the “Bel Paese,” including the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel, the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps, and Lake Como, among others.”

The Saints last participated in a foreign trip in 2017 when the team played games in Montreal.

Next week, Siena’s men’s and women’s basketball teams are hosting a free fan event Aug. 10 at Lansing Park in Cohoes from 5 to 7 p.m. The event will include a court rehabilitation dedication, ice cream social and a youth basketball clinic.

Fans are asked to RSVP at sienasaints.com/rsvp by Monday.

Categories: Clifton Park and Halfmoon, College Sports, Siena College, Sports, UAlbany

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