The Siena Saints will watch a hockey movie, then head to a hockey town.
Thus begins the early portion of their development as a basketball team.
Starting Saturday, the Saints and new head coach Jimmy Patsos will play five games in Montreal as this year’s “international” trip that will serve two purposes: giving Siena a chance at a head start on practice and also an opportunity to shape the identity of a team that has undergone a tremendous amount of flux.
Patsos, ever alert to chances to give his teams a cultural sidelight when they go on the road, has scheduled a pit stop in Lake Placid, where the Saints will watch “Miracle”, the movie about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.
Then they’ll proceed to Montreal to face teams from the University of Quebec, McGill University, Queens University, a club team from Brookwood and Concordia.
“With a young team and a new coach and a new program, it’s invaluable,” Patsos said before practice at the Alumni Recreation Center on Tuesday afternoon. “A lot of people are critical of the NCAA, but this is one of the great things they do, letting us go.
“We had a practice yesterday [Monday] that went well, but I’m learning some good and some bad about guys. This is another learning opportunity.”
Patsos, the head coach at Loyola for the last nine seasons, replaced Mitch Buonaguro after Siena went 8-24 last year to equal the most number of losses in program history.
Siena has some starters left from that team who are projected for the starting lineup, like Evan Hymes, who will move to the shooting guard as incoming freshman Marquis Wright takes over at the point, and junior small forward Rob Poole.
The freshman recruiting class also includes forward Javion Ogunyemi from Troy High and Lavon Long, a versatile forward who is expected to be a key part of the team.
Maurice White, a 6-foot-3 guard from Baltimore who committed to Loyola, is following Patsos to Siena but won’t make the trip to Montreal because, besides the fact that he is in the process of being approved by the NCAA Clearinghouse, he is not taking summer classes and thus is not eligible for the trip.
Other new faces include forward Mike Wolfe and Coppin State transfer Patrick Cole, who likely will not play in 2013-14 due to NCAA transfer rules.
“I’m trying to get eight or nine guys,” Patsos said. “I know we have three or four from returning. And I know a couple young guys can play just by virtue of what I’m seeing because of summer school, but I’m trying to figure out who the eight or nine guys are who can play this year, because we’re going to press and run this year. We can’t play six guys the way we’re going to play.”
“We’ve got a lot of young guys, so we’re going to try to work together as a team and get a little cohesiveness,” Poole said. “We’re going to switch up some roles, have a lot of different people playing different minutes and a lot of positions. We get to feel each other out, see how we play with each other, and after that, hopefully it goes well.”
Poole is expected to be a key component of any success the Saints have this season.
Patsos has likened him to Robnert Olson, one of Patsos’ best players at Loyola, but Poole was hampered by a midseason illness that sapped much of the strength he had built up before the season.
Job one after the 2012-13 season was over was to regain that, Poole said.
“I’ve been lifting the whole time since I got back home,” he said. “My biggest struggle at the end [was] when I got sick. I was getting shoved around, getting bullied, but I went home home, ate a lot, lifted and tried to get the weight back on where I was.
“After the season we had last year, it was a big disappointment, but this year, I know we’re not picked to be a favorite to do well, but this Montreal trip is real big because it’ll bring us together. We’ll get to see what we have to work with and start early.”
Patsos is giving the nod to holdovers from last year’s team as potential starters, for now, because they’ve been through the grind of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
The Saints open the season on Nov. 9 against the University at Albany at the Times Union Center.
“Marquis is the one, Hymes at the two, Poole at the three, Brett [Bisping] at the four, [Imoh] Silas at the five,” he said. “Long looks really good so far. He’s a versatile guy that can do a lot of stuff.
“Maurice White is a big guard. I hope he’s half as good as [Kenny] Hasbrouck, but he’s got that little look, he can score, he can do a little bit of everything, he’s a Baltimore kid.”
ANOSIKE TO ITALY
O.D. Anosike, who led the nation in rebounding the last two seasons, is scheduled to leave Sunday to begin his pro career with VL Pesaro of the Serie A League in Italy, the country’s top-tier club league.
Former Saint Ryan Rossiter is scheduled to leave Tuesday to play in Japan for Tochigi Brex of the National Basketball League.
The Siena men’s and women’s teams will hold their annual Sneak Preview season ticket drive 5:30-8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12, at the TU Center. Fans can find an RSVP form at www.sienasaints.com.