LOUDONVILLE — The nine-player freshman class for Siena women’s basketball comes from all over the map — Finland, Germany, the Czech Republic and Alaska, just to name a few spots.
Compared to those trips, London Gamble’s journey to join the Saints was a bit shorter — at least she calls the continental United States her home — but the southern California native still covered some pretty decent distance to get to Loudonville.
It did, however, take a trip to the East Coast to put the 5-foot-8 guard on Siena head coach Jim Jabir’s radar.
“My last AAU tournament, I played in Philly,” Gamble said. “Coach Jabir saw me play out there and I caught his eye, and when we talked, we clicked immediately.”
That was enough, Gamble said, to get her on board with joining the Saints.
“My recruitment process with him was not like any other college,” she said. “So, I knew [Siena] was for me.”
A native of Westlake Village, California, Gamble called herself a “developing point guard” who’s still learning the intricacies of running a collegiate offense.
She put up impressive numbers during her four years at Westlake High School, including a senior season that saw her average 16.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.5 steals per game while shooting 43% from the field.
There’s still parts of her game she’s eager to refine — she made just 38 3-pointers in her high school career, including 7 of 39 as a senior — and she knows there’s maturing to do as she moves into the role of a pure point guard, but she’s gaining comfort in that role.
“In high school, I wouldn’t say I had to facilitate as much,” Gamble said. “I’m still trying to understand ball screens and reads. That’s kind of my struggle. But, I’m working on my 3-ball, I’m quick and I can pull up. I can get to the basket, and I’m eager to learn.”
During Siena’s preseason media day, Jabir gave a tip of the cap to both Gamble and fellow freshman Angel Jones as young guards who have shown flashes of brilliance during the Saints’ preparations for the 2022-23 season, which opens Nov. 10 with a home game against New Hampshire at UHY Center.
“London and Angel have shown spurts of [being] really, really good,” Jabir said.
Gamble’s one of the players that sophomore forward and co-captain Anajah Brown believes will add an extra dimension of speed that will be to the relatively undersized Saints’ benefit this season.
“Our freshmen point guards are fast, they’re smart,” Brown said. “They bring pace, which I think is what’s going to be to our benefit — because we are very fast, even though we’re undersized. That should be a good weapon.”
With nine freshmen on a 16-player Siena roster that’s got only three upperclassmen on it — juniors Ahniysha Jackson and Simone Walker, and senior Sevval Istanbulluoglu — fitting in early hasn’t been a problem for Gamble.
After all, nearly the entire team came to campus in the exact same situation as her.
“I think it made it easier to click,” she said. “You come in and you’ve got a lot of people to roll with.”
Being part of such a large freshman class was a bit overwhelming at the start, Gamble said, but she quickly realized the benefits.
The nine newcomers — from different corners of the country and the globe — all had plenty of people to lean on as they adjusted to the life of a college athlete, which made the transition much easier.
“At first I was like, ‘Geez, there’s a lot of us,’ but we became really close right away,” she said. “It’s awesome to have a lot of people doing the same things as you — new schedule, coming from new places, new everything.”
And, as was proven by a Siena team that spent its media day casually dancing around the Saints’ practice gym as players waited for their interview opportunities, it has created a loose, relaxed atmosphere around the program.
“Everybody’s chill,” Gamble said. “Everybody’s ready to learn. We’re all focused.”