LOUDONVILLE — It sounded, well, a little bit like Mayhem.
But that is how Siena College men’s basketball head coach Jamion Christian wanted it at Tuesday’s practice for the Saints, the first workout this preseason open to media members and fans. Music blared and players shouted, cheered and clapped throughout the practice session for the Saints, who are coming off an 8-24 campaign and are underway with their first preseason with Christian — and his “Mayhem” brand of basketball — leading them.
“It’s really easy to be excited the first day,” said Christian, whose team started practicing Saturday. “You learn a lot about your team on Day 3 or 4, and that’s where we are — and I can tell their enthusiasm today.”
Getting back on the court in a formal setting has upped the Saints’ spirits, too. The past several months have been trying ones for the program, which saw Jimmy Patsos resign and a number of players leave — and others join — the team after Christian’s hire. The latest to depart was announced Monday, as junior Ahsante Shivers left the program.
“We obviously had kind of a crazy spring,” said Siena junior Thomas Huerter, one of only seven remaining scholarship players from last season’s opening-night roster. “We had a summer that was kind of like introductory, both for the players and coaches. But now that we’ve been getting into it, this fall has been awesome. It’s been very productive, very busy and we’re all making a lot of great strides. We’re just excited to start playing games.”
Siena, of course, still has a while before its Nov. 6 season-opening game at Providence. That is a good thing, too, for the Saints, who don’t have a lineup or rotation set as they work to integrate so many new players.
Ideally, Christian said his team will play “nine or 10” players this season on a regular basis. Since his hire in May, Christian has offered kind words for each of his players, but spent time Tuesday highlighting three in particular: fifth-year senior Braedon Bayer, freshman Georges Darwiche and junior Sammy Friday.
“The biggest strength we have is our depth,” Christian said.
And, perhaps, a sense of renewed bond and chemistry.
“Coach Christian is not only a very good basketball coach and good at developing our offense and our defense . . . but he’s also great about developing a whole new culture and forming strong relationships that go on and off the court,” Huerter said.
Shooting the 3
Christian offered some specifics Tuesday on how often, and with what desired consistency, his team will shoot the 3-point shot that his offense is focused around creating.
Christian’s goal is for the Saints to make approximately 35.0 percent of its 3-point attempts, and for the Saints to attempt “24 to 27” 3s per game. A year ago, Siena shot 36.7 percent on 3-point attempts and averaged 18.8 shots from downtown per game.
“We’re going to shoot a ton of 3s here,” Christian said.
Siena freshman Sloan Seymour is someone Christian said could immediately find time in the Saints’ rotation because of his ability to shoot the basketball and 6-foot-9 frame. Christian likened Seymour, a Shaker High School product, to an ideal stretch 4 in the coach’s system.
“So we’re really fortunate that the guy lived about three miles from campus,” Christian said.
Friday, the Saints’ 6-foot-9 junior big man, looks like he could become a major contributor for the Saints after two seasons of inconsistent play.
“He’s a special guy,” Christian said. “He just needs someone to continue to be confident with him and build him up.”
I was waiting for a dunk.— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) October 2, 2018
Thank you, Manny. pic.twitter.com/WsxWP6VBm0
Friday was listed as weighing 243 pounds, but is now noticeably slimmer than he was a year ago. The junior said he struggled during one of Christian’s first summer conditioning sets — “I died that day,” Friday said with a laugh — but has embraced the changes he needed to make physically.
“I don’t think we even touched a basketball the first month we got here,” Friday said.
Christian said he sees “elite talent” in Friday, a player who scored 15 points and grabbed 15 rebounds last year in a game against Louisville.
“He’s just starting to scratch the surface,” Christian said.