A youthful but extremely talented Siena College basketball roster became even stronger with the official signing of Willem Brandwijk and Jimmy Paige to National Letters of Intent Thursday.
Siena, which posted 20 victories and won its first national postseason tournament at the Division I level by capturing the Collegiate Basketball Invitational earlier this month, lost only one senior in Steven Cruz. Rich Adu, a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard, and Marcus Hopper, a 6-7 junior forward, are transferring.
Although both Brandwijk and Paige will vie for playing time next season, Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos expects Brandwijk to get more minutes.
“Willem’s close to 6-9, and he can play the three, four or five,” Patsos said. “Paige will find it harder to get playing time, but I like what Dean Smith used to say at North Carolina all the time: ‘Make us play you.’ ”
Patsos said Brandwijk reminds him of a smaller version of Dallas Mavericks’ 7-foot power forward Dirk Nowitzki.
“He has that perimeter game, just like Dirk,” said Patsos. “He brings a lot more offense in if we decide to play him at the five. Paige will play the two or the three.”
Patsos said that freshman guard Marquis Wright, sophomore forward Brett Bisping, freshman guard Lavon Long and junior guard Rob Poole are probably set as starters next year, with Sean Oliver and Evan Hymes key players off the bench. Junior center Imoh Silas should also be in the mix again as the center. He was one of the leading shot-blockers in the MAAC a year ago.
Brandwijk, a native of Netherlands, is listed at 6-8 and 220 pounds. He played for the Dutch under-15 and under-16 national teams and after moving to the United States two years ago, played for the Metro Boston AAU team that also produced UConn’s Shabazz Napier, the 2014 NCAA tournament MVP. He is currently finishing up his scholastic career at the Holdnerness School in Plymouth, N.H. That’s the same school that Silas attended.
“Willem played in the best prep school league in the country. As we’ve seen with Imoh, the character and academics are a given,” said Patsos.
Paige, 6-5 and 212 pounds, attended Cape Henry Collegiate, a prep school in Virginia Beach. He averaged 14 points and eight rebounds for the Dolphins.
“Cape Henry Collegiate is one of the top programs in the country . . . so I know Jimmy is game-ready,” said Patsos.
Also committed to Siena is Cameron Gottfried of Broughton High School. The son of North Carolina State head coach Mark Gottfried made a verbal commitment in February. Patsos couldn’t comment on Gottfried until he signs officially.
The Saints, who made one of the nation’s biggest turnarounds after going just 8-24 a year ago, will also have Coppin State transfer Patrick Cole, a 6-5 guard from Newark, N.J., who had to sit out this past season because of transfer rules.
Patsos said the Saints will open up at UMass next season.