LOUDONVILLE — Last week, before the Siena College men’s basketball team played its road games at St. Bonaventure and Robert Morris, head coach Jamion Christian expressed excitement about the “fun options” the Saints could try out if senior Evan Fisher was unable to play because of injury.
Fisher ended up not playing in either game, and junior backup Sammy Friday exited the Saints’ lineup during their 42-point loss at St. Bonaventure — and with both 6-foot-9 post players unavailable against Robert Morris, Siena did have some fun creating mismatches with smaller lineups.
“Innovation,” Christian said at Monday’s practice, “comes from necessity.”
In Siena’s 74-71 win against Robert Morris, the Saints made use of more perimeter-based lineups. Making that easier for the Saints to do is their overall team height; when Siena went “small,” it managed to always keep four players on the court who stand at least 6-foot-4.
Previously, Christian said he wanted to use some of Siena’s time without Fisher available to experiment with some new lineups. In particular against St. Bonaventure and Robert Morris, Christian gave ample time to lineups that featured a four-man combination of sophomore Manny Camper, redshirt senior Kevin Degnan, freshman Jalen Pickett and redshirt freshman Jimmy Ratliff. Prior to last week, those four players had rarely been used together because of the positional overlap between Camper, Degnan and Ratliff.
Christian sounded optimistic Monday that Fisher and Friday, both dealing with lower-body injuries, could be available when the Saints next play on Dec. 18 against Charleston. If the two big men return to the court that night, though, don’t expect Siena to abandon some of its more perimeter-oriented lineups after it got the chance to see how they’d perform.
“I’m just a big believer in trying to get your best players on the floor, and really not believing in positions,” Christian said. “I think sometimes you limit yourself by trying to have a position.”
Breaking for exams
The break in game action for Siena is meant to accommodate the players’ schedules for final exams, and Christian wants to use the lengthiest without-a-game stretch of the Saints’ season to work on his team’s lackluster defense.
But the Siena coaching staff also wants to make sure it uses its practices this week to help the Saints perform well in the classroom. Christian said upcoming practices will include more scrimmaging than usual in an attempt to keep things light and fun around the Saints as they take their finals.
“We’re . . . going to get a chance to let these guys get up and down some, understanding the time of year it is,” Christian said. “Anxiety is at the highest for all college students right now with exams, understandably. So I want to make sure our guys get in here and have a great time.”
Besides increasing scrimmaging, Christian said his coaching staff will more closely monitor the Saints off the court this week.
“It’s important for us to . . . encourage these guys to get rest, to get sleep, to eat, to hydrate,” Christian said.
Sophomore walk-on Denzel Tchougang played last week for the first time since joining the Saints earlier this year.
The 6-foot-10 Tchougang, a native of Switzerland who spent last year at Cypress College, played 16 minutes against St. Bonaventure and five against Robert Morris. He missed a pair of shots in both games, but gathered four rebounds — including three on the offensive end — against St. Bonaventure.
“Big fan of Denzel,” Christian said. “He’s just got an unbelievable ability to learn and he’s going to continue to improve, and that’s what’s exciting about him.”