LOUDONVILLE — A new season approaching for Siena College men’s basketball means fresh, young talent for the Saints is here.
More importantly, this year’s freshman players represent the first recruiting class for new head coach Jamion Christian. At media day on Friday afternoon, Christian was pleased with what he had seen so far from his young guys.
“I love our freshman” Christian said. “You’re looking at guys who are accomplished high school basketball players who are coming in with a lot of confidence, and really come in with great focus and who really want to be at Siena.”
After losing six scholarship players from last season’s opening-night roster, Christian brought in four freshmen as part of a larger effort to restock the program’s roster. The first-year class includes Jalen Pickett, Sloan Seymour, Georges Darwiche and Robert Mahala.
Pickett is a product of Rochester and attended high school at the Aquinas Institute. He spent a postgraduate year at the SPIRE Institute in Ohio and burst onto the scene with a standout performance at the Nike Peach Jam in Atlanta. He is no stranger to the Capital Region, having played on the Albany City Rocks AAU team.
As a high school junior, Pickett helped lead Aquinas to a Class AA state championship. In that year’s semifinals, Aquinas topped a Kevin Huerter-led Shenendehowa team, then won the state championship game in which Pickett made all 12 shots he attempted.
“My teammates were great that game, I had great coaches who put me in the right position to make shots,” Pickett said. “Christian does the same thing. He wants us to excel at our strengths by putting us in position to score where we like to.”
Seymour, who was a teammate of Pickett’s on the City Rocks, is another freshman poised to make an impact. Seymour is a local kid who made a name for himself at CBA and Shaker. His father, Steve, served as an assistant coach at Siena from 2001-2004.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Seymour said. “My dad used to coach here and I used to sit courtside. It’s surreal just being out there and doing what I can to help the team win.”
Since he took over the helm, Christian has preached the power of positivity and cohesiveness with his team. Since training camp began, Christian has had his team read literature and watch videos on the power of team chemistry. That bond shows up strongest in the relationships the seniors on the team have with the young guys.
“One of the things that is really unique is we have really great upperclassmen who understand that we need everyone here,” Christian said. “They’ve been unbelievable at helping these younger guys get acclimated in what it takes to play college basketball. They’ve been really active in their development, their improvement and understanding. That’s the kind of environment you want any young person to come into. It’s almost like a bigger brother mentality.”
Christian, Pickett and Seymour all cited Kadeem Smithen, Evan Fisher and Kevin Degnan as seniors leading that charge.
“They’ve all kind of shown me the ropes of how college goes,” Seymour said. “They hold me accountable and they’ve taken me under their wing because they want me to be great and help the team win.”
As for expectations, the youngsters remain humble, but are dreaming big.
“I just want to do what the coaches need me to do to help us get a win,” Seymour said. “There’s no pressure, we’re just going out there, having fun and playing our game.”