ALBANY – The Siena men’s and women’s basketball teams, and nearly a couple hundred of their fans, got to know a little bit more about each other Thursday.
The annual KeyBank Siena Basketball Sneak Preview took place in the lobby of MVP Arena, and what they heard from women’s coach Jim Jabir is that youth must be served. But when more understanding and maturity get added, he and the fans will like what they see.
The women’s team has nine freshmen, four sophomores, two juniors and one senior. One of the first-year players is 5-foot-4 point guard Angel Jones of Alexandria, Virginia. She brings impressive credentials to the Saints. She was all-district four years and twice an all-region selection. She was named a Washington Post All-Met Honorable Mention and was a McDonald’s All-American nominee. She competed at the AAU Championships in 2021.
But credentials aside, one still needs to learn the ways of the college game and a new team, which is where Jones finds herself now.
“I want to be the best player I can be for my team,” Jones said. “I know I have goals set for myself, but first I need to just get used to playing with these girls. It can’t just be me thinking about my goals.”
Jabir said that in general, the staff isn’t giving the team specific plays so much as greater lessons on how to play.
“You just really got to pay attention,” Jones said.
“Angel is such a good player,” Jabir said. “She lacks confidence [now]. She averaged 29 points per game in high school. I’m asking her to do a lot of thinking, and I think she slows down and has a difficult time just letting it go while still making reads and stuff. She has to marry those things together somehow. But she’s going to be great. It’s just confidence, maturity – she’s going to be really good.”
Jones agreed that the young team is being given room to learn and grow, but that the basic skill and chemistry is already there.
“We’re a very young team, but I feel like we clicked,” Jones said. “As soon as I came here, I felt love, I felt positivity. On the floor, we still have a lot of learning to do, but I feel like we’re clicking together. Games are going to start soon, so we’ve got to pick it up. I feel like [the coaches] are taking it light on us. They understand we are still learning. It’s going to come.”
In the general remarks he made to the crowd, Jabir called the team the hardest-working one he’s ever been around.
“I think we’re going to be really good. It’s just a matter of when that’s going to happen, hopefully sooner than later,” Jabir said.
Siena begins its regular-season schedule home vs. New Hampshire on Nov. 10.
NUMBERS HELP THE CAUSE
Siena men’s coach Carmen Maciariello, entering his fourth season, called his team the closest-knit group he’s had since returning to his alma mater. He acknowledged that the goal is to hang a banner every season.
“This group, the sky’s the limit,” Maciariello said. “We have to stay healthy, but every day 16 guys come to work hard in practice, so if we’ve got guys out with sickness or illness or a sprained ankle here or there, it’s the next-man-up mentality. When that happens, it just brings us closer together. Because like I told them, you’re still expected to win no matter who’s on that court and who the opponent is.”
Siena’s first opponent will be Holy Cross, in Worcester, Massachusetts, on Nov. 7. Maciariello noted that his wife is due to deliver the couple’s second son – and third child overall – on Nov. 8.
Siena face UAlbany in the Albany Cup in a neutral-site game at MVP Arena on Nov. 12, but in Maciariello’s eyes, that’s a convenience rivalry compared to the Brother Ed Coughlin Franciscan Cup against St. Bonaventure on Dec. 19.
“Our Franciscan Cup, for me, that’s our rivalry,” Maciariello said. “That’s an Atlantic-10 school, but we need everybody to come out to the Albany game to warm up for the St. Bonaventure game.”
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