Ali Jaques’ brother told her that the Siena women’s basketball coach’s new bobblehead looks like Hillary Clinton.
If that’s the case, the Secretary of Defense that Jaques works closely with is Colonie High School graduate Tehresa Coles, a junior guard who spearheaded the Saints’ Blizzard 1-1-3 matchup pressure last season, Jaques’ first with the program.
Although the Saints will look for offense from a variety of sources now that Lily Grenci has graduated, they won’t have to search for a defender to make things run in that department.
Coles led the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with 90 steals, and was ranked 28th in the country with 2.9 steals per game.
“Nobody wants to play against her,” Jaques said during media day on Monday afternoon. “Nobody wants to look and see her guarding them. And there’s a fear factor there and there’s an intensity there. That’s irreplaceable.”
Siena opens the 2013-14 season on Nov. 8 against America East champion UAlbany.
The Saints, who reached the semifinals of the MAAC tournament last year, were picked seventh of 11 teams in the preseason coaches poll after finishing 13-18, their ninth straight losing season.
With her first season as a head coach under her belt, Jaques said she was pleasantly surprised with the offensive improvement several players underwent during the offseason.
In the meantime, she expects her defense to continue to give teams trouble, and that starts with Coles.
“I couldn’t have been luckier to inherit a player like Tehresa Coles, because she’s all about hustle and setting the tone,” Jaques said. “We put her in a position to do that. I tell her all the time she has no talent, she just goes harder than everybody else, and she just laughs me off.”
“Now that’s it’s the second year with coach Jaques, we’ve been able to adjust to her defensive style and offensive style, and it’s coming together,” Coles said. “We’re closer, chemistry-wise, and we have a lot more understanding of what she’s looking for from us and how we can perform at a level that’s acceptable in our league.”
Grenci was Siena’s leading scorer and rebounder last year, so those areas will have to be accounted for, but Jaques said senior forward Clara Sole Anglada and senior guard Kanika Cummings, in particular, showed up for the preseason as more polished scorers.
They’ll need to be, because the leading returning scorer is, in fact, Coles, who averaged 9.1 points per game.
“Clara and Kanika really came back better players,” Jaques said. “Kanika’s battled injuries her whole career, but she’s been lights out some days. Clara’s been inconsistent in the past, and now she’s
really consistent every single day.
“What we lost with Lily was more off the court than on it, believe it or not, because she was our clear-cut leader, our clear-cut captain, and I’m still looking for that person to emerge for us.”
That could be Coles, who is a ferocious on-ball defender and makes the rest of the team better in practice.
Getting the Coles treatment directly has been freshman Brianna Logan, who brings a built-in Siena sensibility to Loudonville by virtue of her family tree.
Her father is the first cousin of former Siena point guard Marc Brown, one of the best players to ever come to the school.
“People talk about him a lot; that’s all I hear about,” the 5-foot-6 Logan said with a laugh. “I don’t think of it as, oh, he’s my cousin, so I have to do really well. I’m my own person, and I’ve got to do it for myself.
“He told me about the fan base and how supportive everybody was. The coaching staff really sold me to come here, the environment and how they challenge you academically.”
“It’s really hard to go against Tehresa Coles every possession of every day and not lose confidence,” Jaques said. “And she’s taken that challenge head on and has run with it. She can score, she can run a team. If she’s half the player of Marc Brown, I’m going to look like a genius. It’s unfair to put those type of expectations on her, but she’s a tough Jersey kid who’s ready for anything.”
Siena will host its annual Siena Madness pep rally introducing the women’s and men’s teams at 9 p.m. on Thursday in the Alumni Recreation Center.
Siena Madness is geared toward students, but open to the general public. No admission will be charged.