LOUDONVILLE — It was a quick thing, an exchange probably nobody else noticed besides Jordan Horn.
Meant a lot to him, though.
Horn had been fouled right before a timeout in the Siena College men’s basketball team’s win against Robert Morris a couple weeks ago. A 1-and-1 situation awaited him after the break, during which Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos focused on the struggling freshman for a moment.
“You’re going to make these,” Patsos told him.
He didn’t think twice.
“I got you, Coach,” Horn responded.
And, then, he did.
In the grand scheme of things, those free throws — which came in the first half — didn’t mean a ton.
For Horn? They were the first time he saw the ball go through the hoop in a game in weeks — a lifetime for a shooter.
“Early in the season,” Horn said, “my shot just wasn’t falling at all.”
Starting with those free throws, though, Horn started to repair his confidence. The work ethic had remained — Horn’s regularly the first player to Siena practices to shoot — even when the results weren’t there.
“It definitely can be disappointing,” Horn said, “but I just tried to stay positive.”
The reward for that came Sunday, when Horn delivered a career-high 12 points in 14 minutes in Siena’s 87-68 win against Bryant. In that game, he made 4 of 8 shots. After that game, freshman teammates Prince Oduro and Roman Penn led the celebration in the locker room.
“J. Horn’s back,” they chanted. “J. Horn’s back.”
Now, (J.) Horn and Siena head Wednesday to play Memphis, with both the freshman and the Saints looking to string together back-to-back solid performances. After playing Memphis (7-3) as part of the Gotham Classic, Siena (3-8) only has Friday’s home game against Holy Cross left on its non-conference schedule.
That means opportunities to earn playing time before the MAAC season rolls around at the end of the month are running out. Patsos, though, said he already has a positive view on the “body of work” Horn’s put together stretching back to the team’s trip to Montreal during the preseason.
“I think he could be a factor in the MAAC,” Patsos said.
The pain in Prince Oduro's right foot (plantar fasciitis) hasn't gone away, but has gotten worse. Jimmy Patsos says he "wouldn't be shocked" if Oduro sits out Wednesday/Friday to try to get right before MAAC play.— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) December 18, 2017
Siena already has three freshmen with firm grips on rotation spots in Christian Bentley, Oduro — who could miss a game or two this week because of ongoing pain in his right foot from plantar fasciitis — and Penn, the latter being the reigning MAAC Rookie of the Week. Horn — like freshman Manny Camper — is still finding his way, trying to find minutes after it seemed he could enter the season as a starter.
That plan fell apart for Horn when his shooting touch betrayed him during the season’s first games, but he’s shown improvement in the last couple weeks. He gained confidence from his cameo against Robert Morris, and Patsos credited Horn’s recent surge from leaning on veterans such as juniors Nico Clareth and Evan Fisher, plus redshirt junior Kadeem Smithen, in practice.
“He’s a very confident kid and he’s not afraid. His attitude’s been good,” Patsos said. “He’s going to get some more chances.”
Horn made the most of his chance Sunday.
“I just got into a rhythm early,” Horn said. “I was more relaxed and I was just doing what Patsos told me.”
Horn made his first shot of the game and never looked back, ending up with career-high totals in points and shot attempts.
“But it was nicer that we got the win,” Horn said.