LOUDONVILLE — When Valencia Fontenelle-Posson took her place on the Siena women’s basketball team as a freshman at the start of last season, the former Guilderland High standout didn’t realize that only a year later, she’d be looked on as one of the Saints’ veteran leaders.
Then again, most of Siena’s 2022-23 team is made up of players younger than Fontenelle-Posson, so the sophomore guard is more than willing to be a mentor — on the court, and off it.
Even if she still feels plenty young at heart.
“I call them ‘kids,’ but I’m also a kid as well,” Fontenelle-Posson said Tuesday during the Saints’ preseason media day. “We all have some learning to do, with the schedule, and not even practice, but off-the-court things as well. I’ve been helping out with scheduling time for homework, or nutrition, or extra time in the gym. To be there for your teammates in all aspects of life is really important.”
Fontenelle-Posson and fellow sophomore Anajah Brown were recently named co-captains of a a Siena team that projects to be one of the nation’s youngest this season.
Head coach Jim Jabir’s squad, which will open its season Nov. 10 at home against New Hampshire, features an astounding nine freshmen along with four sophomores, two juniors and just a single senior. Only five players on the roster return from last season’s team, which finished 10-19 overall and 10-10 in MAAC play.
Fontenelle-Posson and Brown both saw action a season ago, primarily as reserves, and are embracing their leadership opportunities this season.
“Even before I was named captain, I felt the need to have to lead in general, because I’m a returner — even though I’m a sophomore,” Brown said. “[Being named captain] doesn’t really make a difference with my actions, but the title doesn’t lie, especially being [co-captains] with ‘V’ [Fontenelle-Posson], because she and I are so close. We’re really good friends and I think that we complement each other.”
The two captains have done their best to foster a fun, relaxed atmosphere among a young team that’s still getting to know each other.
“We love each other on and off the court,” Brown said. “We hang out a lot. We talk, if we’re home for a break, we always talk like in our group chat or like FaceTime. We’re just really close. And I think that just helps a lot because basketball is a team sport. I think that’s going to be a benefit for us.”
In Jabir’s remarks at the start of media day, he lavished praise on the potential of this young group of Saints.
“This team is going to win championships,” he said. “I don’t even feel bad saying that, because I really think it’s gonna happen. The question is when.”
TEMPO, TEMPO, TEMPO
The Saints are young, and they’re relatively small — just five of the 16 roster members are 6-foot-0 or taller — but Jabir and many of his players emphasized that much of Siena’s success this season should come from a combination of team speed and high pace of play.
It’s a trait that’s especially prevalent among the team’s freshmen.
“They bring pace,” Brown said. “I think that is what’s going to be to our benefit, because we are very fast. Even though we’re undersized, we’re fast. So I think that should be a good weapon.”
While the Saints are far from a finished product, Jabir said he’s seen plenty of glimpses in practice of what the team can become.
“We’re playing in a very unique way, stylistically,” Jabir said. “As soon as they grasp the concept and play with the pace and make the reads, we’re going to be really hard to guard.”
“The sky’s the limit for this team,” Fontenelle-Posson said.
SAINTS PICKED NINTH
The MAAC announced its preseason coaches’ poll and awards Tuesday night, and the Saints were picked to finish in a tie ninth out of 11 teams. Siena and Canisius both finished with 13 points, with only Saint Peter’s trailing the two. Quinnipiac topped the poll.
Siena finished fifth in the conference in 2021-22, when the team was also picked to finish ninth.
No Siena players were named to the preseason All-MAAC teams.
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