Certain truths appear to be self-evident in the Siena men’s basketball lineup this season:
Yes, they have the Big Four back; yes, Josh Duell will get extensive playing time and serve in a variety of capacities, like he did last year. Sophomores Ryan Rossiter and Clarence Jackson are poised to have breakout seasons.
Where does that leave everyone else? Under normal circumstances, it would mean scrambling for meager minutes here and there, but the Saints’ schedule is so rugged that head coach Fran McCaffery wants to go at least 10 deep. And he wants to do it in November, not in January or February.
He’ll use the next four weeks to figure out a rotation that has only one true point guard with experience, junior Ronald Moore, who was one of the few Siena starters not to get a postseason award in 2007-08, but is probably the most indispensable player on the roster this season.
“You wonder how all these guys are going to play . . . well, we’re
going to have to play them all, because we’re going to need fresh bodies out there,” McCaffery said.
Because Chris De La Rosa transferred to UMBC last spring, the Saints have started developing a scheme to keep Moore fresh throughout the grind of the season, by using senior co-captain Kenny Hasbrouck and 6-foot-6 small forward Edwin Ubiles at the point.
They each saw some time running the offense during Siena’s five-game tour of Italy this summer. McCaffery is also confident that 6-2, 200-pound freshman Kyle Downey will get some minutes at the position.
“We’ve got some options,”
Because of his height, Ubiles could be a real matchup problem for opposing point guards.
He’s also an unselfish player, who, despite being known for spectacular dunks, is looking forward to the prospect of playing some point guard.
“It’ll be fun,” Ubiles said. “I had a good experience in Italy playing the point. I thought I played it pretty well, and we’re going to work on it a little more and see how it goes.”
“He would be really good there,” McCaffery said. “You have to be careful with what we’re doing. You don’t want to overload him there. But he can get you into anything you want. He handles the ball as well as anybody we have, and his length allows him to get away, he gets rid of the ball under pressure and you can’t get to him, he doesn’t turn it over. Sometimes he puts his head down and wants to go to solve the problem himself.”
For his part, Moore isn’t worried about playing too many minutes. He’s averaged over 31 in each of his two seasons and has been able to avoid injuries.
If something happens to him and the Saints aren’t prepared for it, though, they would be scrambling for a solution.
“Limiting Ron’s minutes is going to be tough because he already plays about 34 minutes a game, but we need him on the floor as much as possible,” Hasbrouck said. “But we understand that if he gets tired, I can take over the position and not play it as good as Ron, because he’s a great point guard, but I can relieve him at times. We’re going to have to figure out a system where me and Eddie are going to relieve him and keep him as fresh as possible.”
“I’m used to the long season now, so I’m really not that worried about it,” Moore said. “I’m ready for the challenge and coach has confidence in me playing a ton of minutes.
Being a junior, I know how to manage my time well. I just have to be smart about it.
“It’s a work in progress. They really haven’t played much at the position, but they’re definitely capable of it. It gives us a different look with Eddie at the point, besides. It’ll hurt other teams more than it’ll hurt us.”
McCaffery still would love to bring Duell off the bench, like the coach did last year before injuries and matchups against players like Rider’s Jason Thompson forced his hand.
By the end of the season, Duell was a fixture in the starting lineup.
McCaffery said the 6-9 Rossiter was a “rebounding machine” in Italy and is bigger now, which will help him maneuver on offense better, so he could become a starter and allow McCaffery to use Duell the way he wants to.
“We have to find out [a rotation],” McCaffery said. “Rossiter and Jackson are probably the next two guys. OK, so where do we go after that? [Cory] Magee, probably, and Owen [Wignot] and Kyle. [Steven] Priestley is making a run, and Erik Harris is 6-8, 230. So where do all those other pieces fit in?
“Do I want to put Rossiter in the starting lineup and bring Josh off the bench? That’s kind of what I wanted to do last year, but he just fit so well with the other four, so I kept starting him. He’s so good off the bench. You bring a fifth-year senior off the bench who can make shots, who doesn’t panic and doesn’t turn the ball over, especially if we have freshmen coming off the bench, then I’ve got a fifth-year senior coming in with them.”
The Saints started full team practice on Friday with a few key players nursing some minor aches and pain.
Hasbrouck had been sitting out the small-group workouts as a precaution because his back had been tightening up a little bit, but he said it wouldn’t prevent him from participating in anything now that the real practices have started.
“I played through it before, and if it comes down to it, I’ll play through it again,” he said. “Last year, my back was hurting, my shoulder got hurt, my forearm got hurt a little bit, but during the game, it was all behind me. You don’t think about those things, you just want to win, you want to compete, so on the floor I was good. Off the floor, that’s when you have time to think about it, you’ve got to be in the training room, and that’s when it started to hurt.”
Duell has a sore groin that he said wouldn’t hold him back from anything in practice.
Ubiles said he tweaked a muscle in his back two weeks ago and missed a week and half while getting treatment, but the injury isn’t considered serious.