LOUDONVILLE — Just days before his team’s first game, Siena College men’s basketball head coach Jamion Christian said Thursday that he isn’t ready to name a starting lineup.
“Not yet,” Christian said. “I like to try to keep that stuff as close to the vest as possible.”
But Christian, perhaps, offered some clues as to who will be on floor when the Saints tip off their 2018-19 campaign — and Christian’s first season at Siena — Tuesday at Providence. Before Thursday’s practice started, Christian referenced senior Evan Fisher and sophomore Manny Camper as two players that have impressed the coaching staff with consistent strong play. Christian also said the loss last week of junior Khalil Richard — a likely starter before his season-ending knee injury — means the Saints are more likely to play lineups with more size.
“Now we’re much bigger, and that’s going to help us defensively a lot more,” Christian said.
Not long after saying that, Siena’s practice got fully underway. During a portion of practice open to media members, Siena primarily used two lineups — and one was a five-man group with considerable size, and included Camper and Fisher.
That group included Camper, fifth-year senior Kevin Degnan, Fisher, freshman Jalen Pickett and freshman Sloan Seymour. Pickett is 6-foot-4, Camper is 6-foot-6, and the rest are 6-foot-9.
Siena's other main lineup used during that portion of practice was a smaller one that consisted of fifth-year senior Kadeem Smithen, junior Thomas Huerter, junior Sammy Friday, redshirt freshman Jimmy Ratliff and fifth-year senior Braedon Bayer. Freshman Georges Darwiche often mixed in with that lineup in Bayer's place.
Previously, Christian has said his starting lineup is unlikely to be his team's finishing lineup. The coach also said Thursday he expects to play “eight to 11” players on a regular basis this season.
Tough to figure
While Siena is still playing around with different potential lineups, that uncertainty perhaps acts as an advantage for the Saints.
In both preseason scrimmages Siena played, Bayer said it seemed difficult for opposing defenses to gameplan for the Saints, a team with only one player — Fisher — who averaged more than 19.0 minutes per game last season.
“So I think people are unsure of what we can actually do and they don’t really know how to guard us yet,” Bayer said.
With the makeup of this season’s team, that could continue well into the season.
“We might not have a guy that averages 18, 20 points per game,” Huerter said. “But we should have a bunch of guys averaging around 10, and that would be perfect for us and how we want to play.”
Siena is coming off an 8-24 season, was picked last in the preseason MAAC poll, and lost one of its top returning players to injury late in the preseason.
Christian, though, said he isn’t feeling any nerves ahead of Tuesday’s debut.
“No, you know, it’s kind of strange — I don’t really get nervous,” Christian said.
That attitude has been passed along to the Saints, too. Friday said the team’s coaching staff has instructed the players not to fixate too much on opening night.
“We’ve got a whole season to go,” Friday said. “So if we worry about the first game too much, that will take away from us getting better right now.”