Siena College already has a pretty good grasp of its identity as a basketball team, having lost only one bench player, Tay Fisher, to graduation after a 2007-08 season in which the Saints reached the second round of the NCAA tournament.
They’ll open practice for the 2008-09 season next Friday with only one significant adjustment to make, finding ways to keep point guard Ronald Moore from having to play too many minutes, and that’s a good position for head coach Fran McCaffery to be in.
Two players Siena had been counting on this year, junior college transfer power forward Wolfgang Gieler and point guard Chris De La Rosa, left the team, and as intriguing as Gieler was as a prospect, it will be the loss of De La Rosa that has more impact, especially after Gieler failed to fit in during summer pickup games.
As a freshman, De La Rosa was Moore’s backup and would have been the only other true point guard on this year’s roster, but he transferred to the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
Despite his slight frame, Moore can handle just about anything. Still, the Saints face a non-conference schedule that makes last year’s brutal one look almost ordinary, and Siena has every reason to believe it will make another deep postseason run, so they’ll need Moore to stay as healthy and fresh as possible.
McCaffery’s solution will be to ask senior off guard Kenny Hasbrouck, a certain Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference preseason player of the year, and junior small forward Edwin Ubiles, a first-team all-MAAC player, to handle the ball more.
“We’re going to have to be careful that we don’t overuse Ronald,” McCaffery said. “We’re going to play Kenny there some, which he likes, and in fact will help him in terms of what the NBA people are looking for him to do. And Eddie likes to play there, we can play him there some. I played him at point in Italy a little bit.”
The Saints spent two weeks in Italy this summer seeing the sights and working on their game in a series of five “friendlies” against Italian pro teams that weren’t always too friendly.
McCaffery was ejected for ripping the refs in one game against a big, slow, physical team that tried to stop Siena’s running game by force.
That’s the identity the Saints established last year, and that style — or Gieler’s inability to find a role in it — contributed to the German’s departure. At 6-foot-8, 248 pounds, he promised to bolster the Saints’ rebounding and inside scoring, but it became clear this summer that he couldn’t keep up and wouldn’t be playing the number of minutes he envisioned, so he left in September to sign with a pro team in France.
“I would’ve liked to have had the opportunity to work with him to see if we could develop him,” McCaffery said. “He’s a low-post scoring threat, that’s what we recruited him to do. He is not like what we have, which is kind of what I liked about him. He’s not a runner, he’s not a high flyer, he’s not quick, but he’s big and strong and he’s got moves in the post.
“He was going to be a 10-12 minute-a-game guy who could present something different from what we had, which is part of what makes a team. But I also think that [Ryan] Rossiter and [Josh] Duell and [Cory] Magee read his numbers and went after him a little bit, and quite frankly, he was not willing to fight the fight. We’re not allowed to be there for pickup, so a lot of what we found out was when we talked to the players subsequent to his departure, and they just said that he was getting killed every day by either Rossiter or Duell or Magee, and it was clearly affecting him.”
Siena used the scholarship opened up by De La Rosa’s departure to sign Kyle Downey, a two guard who, like Magee, graduated from Fairport High in Rochester.
The Saints have verbal agreements from three recruits for the 2009-2010 freshman class, point guard Jonathan Breeden of Harrisburg, Pa.; Denzel Yard, a 5-11 combo guard from Philadelphia; and 6-8 forward O.D. Anisoke of New Jersey. Siena has one more scholarship to offer for that class, but McCaffery said he might hold it until next spring.
The early National Letter of Intent signing period for that class is Nov. 12-19.