LOUDONVILLE — Teresa Seppala walked onto the Siena College campus this year as one of nine freshmen on the women’s basketball team — and also, somewhat paradoxically, as one of the Saints’ oldest players.
Seppala’s 20 years older, and that’s a little older than normal for a college freshman, but not anything radical. However, on a Siena team where 13 of the 16 players are freshmen and sophomores, the 6-foot-0 guard from Tampere, Finland can lend a bit of age and wisdom to the Saints even before she’s suited up for her first college game.
It’s a situation Seppala’s been in before.
“I’m used to being old in the team,” Seppala said during Siena’s preseason media day earlier this week. “Last year, I played on my high school team and I was the oldest there.”
Even though she’s a touch older than the rest of her freshman classmates, Seppala is thrilled to be part of a youth movement on what will be one of the nation’s youngest women’s basketball teams.
“It’s great,” she said, “because I think our team is full of energy, and everybody is motivated.”
On a team with so many young players in leadership roles — co-captains Anajah Brown and Valencia Fontenelle-Posson are both sophomores — Siena head coach Jim Jabir is happy that with Seppala, he gets a freshman who brings a little added age and maturity into a youthful locker room.
“She’s a freshman, but she’s 20 years old,” Jabir said. “That’s been beneficial for us as well.”
But, it’s not Seppala’s age that’s going to allow her to make an early impact for the Saints, who open their season Nov. 10 against New Hampshire at UHY Center.
No, that’s where the freshman’s versatility comes into play.
In addition to being very young, Siena’s team is relatively undersized as well. Just six of the Saints’ 16 players are 6-foot or taller, and Seppala’s one of them.
Though she’s listed as a guard on the roster, Jabir said that Seppala could line up at every position except center for the Saints at some point this season.
“She can shoot it,” Jabir said, “and she’s strong and powerful.”
Just as she’s used to being a little bit older than teammates in the same academic year as her, Seppala’s also accustomed to moving around in the lineup.
It’s a product, she said, of a growth spurt during her teenage years.
“I play multiple positions, and it’s been like that for a couple of years now,” Seppala said. “When I started basketball, I used to play point guard, but then I got taller and there were so many people shorter than me, so I had to play bigger positions.”
Wherever she plays, Seppala said her game is in sync with a Siena system that’s likely to focus on team speed and fast-paced play.
“I’m used to playing fast and hard,” she said. “That’s definitely my playing style. Last year [in high school] was very similar to what we want to do here.”
That similar style has made her transition from high school basketball in Finland to college basketball in the U.S. a bit easier.
That change has gone smoothly, she said.
“The language hasn’t been, like, a problem, but I would still mention that,” Seppala said, “because sometimes I struggle to say some words during practice.
“It’s not like I start to speak Finnish — but a little, yeah.”
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