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Siena men's basketball uses NBA stars as code words to help defense

Siena men's basketball uses NBA stars as code words to help defense

Each game, opponents are filled with Rondos, Currys, Wades and Durants
Siena men's basketball uses NBA stars as code words to help defense
Siena plays Tuesday vs. Charleston.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

LOUDONVILLE — Each time the Siena College men’s basketball team works through learning about its next opponent, it sounds like the Saints are preparing to defend a team full of NBA stars.

There are always some Wades and Currys.

Usually, there is a Rondo or two.

Every now and then, a Durant comes up.

Why?

“Because you want to label things with something the players can easily recognize,” Siena head coach Jamion Christian said.

So to help the Saints remember an opponent’s offensive tendencies, Siena uses a system of code words based on the names of NBA players — specifically, the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Rajon Rondo and the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade.

While the Siena coaching staff crunches numbers and spends hours scouting opponents to come up with a defensive game plan, much of how the findings from that work is conveyed to players is kept to a simple “He’s a Rondo” or “That guy is a Curry” once the Saints are preparing on the practice floor. Those designation help the Saints remember the skills of each opposing offensive player.

“So, a Rondo can’t shoot,” said Siena assistant coach Carmen Maciariello, who runs the Saints’ defense. “A Curry is automatically [shooting from 3-point territory]. Then, Wade, he’s a scorer that can do a little bit of both.”

And a Durant?

“That’s a team’s best player,” Maciariello said. “That’s the guy who we can’t let get 20.”

Each of the categorizations helps inform a Siena player how to close out on an opponent once he has the ball and how much an opponent can be helped off of when without the ball. Coaching staff members Ryan Devlin and A.J. Register are responsible for figuring out how to categorize opposing players, while Maciariello is in charge of figuring out a defensive strategy that takes into account how an opponent’s personnel breaks down.

“Most teams, though, if you look at a starting lineup, you’ll probably have a Rondo at center, their best player is a Durant, and then they’ll have two Currys and a Wade, or two Wades and a Curry.”

During a game, Siena redshirt freshman Jimmy Ratliff said such designations — and the corresponding defensive responsibilities associated with them — make things a bit easier on players, especially in transition situations.

“I can spot someone and say, ‘That’s a Curry,’ and know I need to get out on him,” Ratliff said.

Over the years, the code words have changed to keep up with a changing NBA; for example, Christian said a Curry used to be an Allen, as a reference to Ray Allen. Christian said he first picked up the system of code words working as an assistant at Virginia Commonwealth for Shaka Smart, who is now the head coach at Texas. To his knowledge, Christian said the system started with current Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan, who Smart coached under at Florida.

In earnest, Siena starts its on-court preparation for its next opponent — Charleston, on Tuesday, at Times Union Center — this Sunday. From there, for two days, the Saints will learn the latest Rondos and Wades they’re going up against.

“All of our scouting is about giving our guys an extra-step advantage,” Maciariello said. “That’s all you can give them.”

Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.

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