LOUDONVILLE — When it comes to the new players Jamion Christian wants to bring into the Siena College men’s basketball program, his sights are set high.
“We’ve got to bring in All-MAAC players,” Christian said earlier this week.
From its 8-24 campaign, Siena was judged to have none of those during the 2017-18 season. Freshman Prince Oduro did garner a spot on the league’s all-rookie team, but Oduro has received his release and appears a near-lock to leave the Saints.
Christian, though, is not worried about the perceived lack of talent on the roster he inherited from Jimmy Patsos. Now more than a week into running his new program, the 36-year-old Christian said he is confident the program has enough returning talent to work with, and he is bullish about the level of player he will be able to recruit to Siena.
“Our ability to get high-level transfers or to bring in high-level high school kids is vast here,” Christian said.
Our @dgazette story on Jamion Christian’s first week as @SienaMBB coach.— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) May 9, 2018
Goes into roster makeup for next season, when Christian will hire his assistants & how the coach views the community around Siena basketball.
Link: https://t.co/ObaxCh9Udn pic.twitter.com/JOpLFLxdBW
During Christian’s six seasons leading Mount St. Mary’s, his alma mater, the coach often successfully recruited above the Northeast Conference in which he competed. The result was a conference mark of 67-39 — and a long list of players who left his program to transfer to schools in stronger conferences.
MAAC programs lose successful players to transfer, too, but not at the same rate as Northeast Conference schools. Christian is banking on Siena’s improved facilities in recent years, too, to help the Saints hang onto top players he is able to bring to the school.
“There’s already a great group of people here, too,” said Christian, who said he wants in particular to increase the amount of time his players spend with Ian Farrell, Siena’s head strength and conditioning coach.
What type of players is Christian looking for as he looks to fill out the Saints’ roster for next season and beyond? Christian said he wants players with positional versatility, and prizes athleticism, basketball IQ and shooting ability.
“I am an offensive coach, but our offensive philosophy is to change and react. So we’ll change our offense to fit the players we have,” Christian said. “Defensively, we’re going to play one way. We’re going to press and trap.”
Christian’s defenses have consistently created a high percentage of turnovers and defended the 3-point line well, while his offenses have produced more varied results. What has remained consistent on offense for Christian’s teams is they shoot a lot of 3-pointers, and he likes to base his attack around side-to-side ball movement and lots of pick-and-roll action.
“I’m all about having versatile pieces,” Christian said. “Our job is then to put those guys in the right spots offensively.”
The first of those "versatile pieces" was scooped up Thursday afternoon. That is when news of a commitment to Siena from Jalen Pickett, a 6-foot-4 guard who played this past year at the SPIRE Institute in Ohio, spread through social media. Pickett, who also had an offer from Canisius, played his high school basketball for Rochester's Aquinas Institute.
After Pickett's commitment, Siena appears to have two scholarships open and could have a third if freshman Roman Penn — who has received his release, but is actively being recruited back to the program by Christian — departs. Besides Oduro’s likely departure, junior Nico Clareth and freshman Jordan Horn each have already confirmed they will not be back next seasons.
Since taking the Siena job, Christian — whose got married Saturday — has stayed busy working toward finalizing his coaching staff and recruiting. Reportedly, Christian has already made several scholarship offers, but he said it is possible he could leave a scholarship or two open if he prefers players in the 2019 class to who is left available from the 2018 class.
“We’d never take a kid to take a kid,” Christian said. “This is Siena. We can get elite players here.”
And, Christian said, he will.
“We’ll find the right guys,” Christian said.