The 2013-14 season doesn’t start until Nov. 8, but the dominos have been falling in recent weeks to shape what the Siena basketball roster will look like.
The trick now for new head coach Jimmy Patsos is to keep too many of them from falling off the table.
Siena has already lost starting guard Rakeem Brookins, who was kicked off the team after his arrest two weeks ago for allegedly stealing a wallet on campus.
Also, the Saints held their annual postseason banquet at the Troy Hilton Garden Inn on Thursday against the backdrop of some apparent flux in the potential incoming recruiting class, literally in the hours before the dinner.
Another factor that will be uncertain for a few more months is whether starting guard Evan Hymes will be back, as he mulls the possibility of transferring to a school close to home in Durham, N.C. His mother is due for eye surgery this summer, and her post-operative needs will be a part of his decision, although he said he wanted to come back to Siena.
Patsos has been in the process of working out players from the current roster, and two players from his recruiting base in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area — point guard Marquis Wright and forward Lavon Long — visited the campus and the Times Union Center on Wednesday and Thursday.
They both had committed to Loyola when Patsos was still there, but Long, a multi-faceted 6-foot-7 forward who was the Howard County (Md.) Player of the Year, has already received his release from Loyola and has verbally committed to Siena.
Wright, from North Point (Md.) High, said he was coming to Siena via his Twitter feed on Thursday, not long after Stephan Jiggetts, a guard whom Mitch Buonaguro recruited and signed to a national letter of intent, said he wasn’t coming. Wright and Jiggetts (Bishop McNamara) are friends and AAU teammates, and could compete against each other for playing time if they go to the same college.
Point guard is the key position around which the team will be shaped, and Patsos said he would have no qualms about starting a freshman at that position, if ultimately that’s the best option.
“There’s two types of freshmen, freshmen that have to take their time, and then the ones that are ready,” Patsos said. “Sure, we’ll make do with whatever we have, but I hope Evan comes back.”
Hymes was thrust into a starting role as a freshman in 2011-12 and had a terrific season, winning four MAAC rookie of the week awards as one of the leaders in the country in minutes played.
This season, he was the fourth-leading scorer and leader in assists, but also turnovers, at almost four per game.
He visited his mother in Durham this week, and still isn’t sure if he’ll be back next season.
High Point (N.C.), Wofford (S.C.) and a few other schools in the south have contacted him since he was granted his release from Siena.
“Whenever she feels comfortable telling me what she wants me to do, then you guys will be the first to know,” Hymes said. “I’ll take my time, make sure we factor in everything. You don’t want to make the wrong decision. That’s why I’m taking my time, making sure she’s OK first.”
“It depends on what Evan does,” Patsos said. “Obviously, we need a point guard, because this is the MAAC. I never played in a bump-and-grind conference. We’ve played fast everywhere I’ve been. You need point guards, you need guards. Brookins being gone, he was a pretty good player. That’s off the topic, it’s over.
“I’m sorry that Brookins is not with us anymore, but that’s part of life, too. Choices and consequences. I was just telling the players on the bus, there’s some choices that you make, and they lead to consequences. It’s about the school first.”
Brookins’ departure casts at least some doubt on the future of small forward Trenity Burdine, who was one of Siena’s best players in the last month of the season.
But that burst of productivity came after his second suspension of the season, for academics.
He also was suspended for the first three games of the season for violating undisclosed athletic department policy. According to statements made by Brookins and Burdine to Colonie police, the roommates were together the night Brookins used a debit card from the stolen wallet to gas up Burdine’s car, although Burdine claimed to not know how Brookins paid for the gas and some beer.
“I guess he’s had some issues,” Patsos said of Burdine. “They haven’t told me anything. As far as I know, he’s working out hard, he’s doing what I want to see in school. He’s got to prove some stuff, academically.
“Look, no one had to grow up more than me in life, 15 times. So, hopefully, he takes advantage of this chance, and he’s been saying the right things and had a really good workout yesterday. He could flourish in an up-tempo system. As far as getting his act together off the court, he hasn’t done anything since I’ve been here, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s a clean slate.”
Besides Long, Maurice White, a shooting guard from St. Frances in Baltimore, has made a verbal commitment to Siena, and signee Javion Ogunyemi of Troy High School has met with Patsos and reiterated that he’s coming to Siena.
That leaves the Wright/Jiggetts juggling act to be resolved.
“Wright’s really close with Jiggetts, and Jiggetts committed here,” Patsos said. “I went down and saw Jiggetts and said it’s great, we want you here. He called me last night [Wednesday] and said, ‘I thought about what you said, and everything’s fine.’
“Now, today, you get different news. I’m worried about the guys that are here at Siena, and I’m worried about the guys that are committed to it. I’ll address that situation this weekend when I go home.”
Patsos said he likes what he’s seen from Rob Poole, who will be a junior, during workouts.