LOUDONVILLE — As he does each year, Kenny Hasbrouck returned last summer to his old campus to start preparing for his next professional basketball season.
So when Hasbrouck showed up at Siena College, where he starred on the men’s basketball team from 2005 to 2009, he was not in top shape. He had just taken six weeks off from basketball, and planned to ease back into things through pick-up games.
One problem with that plan.
Then-incoming freshman Jalen Pickett had other ideas regarding the level of intensity required for those pick-up games and how hard everyone was going to play in them.
“I just remember he was super-aggressive, offensively and defensively,” Hasbrouck said in a recent phone interview. “He just had a mentality about him that he was going to outwork everybody on the court, which I didn’t want any part of in my first week back playing.
“He was doing good against me, man,” continued the 32-year-old Hasbrouck, who now plays professionally in Italy. “And, he was fouling like crazy.”
Hasbrouck delivered that last line with an accompanying laugh, and said he has followed along from afar this Siena season with a smile as Pickett has helped lead a resurgence for the Siena program. On Monday, as Siena senior Evan Fisher won the MAAC Player of the Week award, Pickett secured his eighth MAAC Rookie of the Week award to tie Hasbrouck for the most in program history.
Last summer, Hasbrouck said he enjoyed matching up with Pickett even as the younger player made things so tough on him. Hasbrouck liked the fearlessness Pickett showed playing against past Saints, and the way Pickett competed every play.
“It was great. It was refreshing to see a freshman act like that. I was happy because [he played like] he had no idea who I was. He didn’t care, and that was great for me because he made me compete,” said Hasbrouck, whose No. 41 belongs to Siena’s small selection of retired numbers. “I saw that he cared. He was that involved and that into it all.”
A few weeks ago, Pickett said he valued the time he had spent with Hasbrouck. The two hadn’t met before last summer, but Pickett said he knew of Hasbrouck’s Siena legacy.
“He’s a great player,” Pickett said. “He was taking me to school a lot out there, but I got him a couple times.”
In the last year, Hasbrouck and Pickett have often been compared to one another since Hasbrouck was the first signed recruit for former Siena head coach Fran McCaffery and Pickett was current Siena head coach Jamion Christian’s first signed recruit. Hasbrouck became the defining player of Siena’s fantastic stretch with McCaffery at the helm, and the hope is Pickett becomes the same for Christian’s time at Siena.
Hasbrouck, though, said more has been expected from Pickett this season than was expected from himself. While Siena was coming off a 6-24 season before his arrival, Hasbrouck said he joined a Saints roster with more established talent than the one Pickett has helped lead this season.
“My first year, I think I was the fourth option or so. I just kept winning rookie of the week awards,” Hasbrouck said. “We had Kojo [Mensah], Tay [Fisher], [Antoine Jordan], Dave [Ryan] — and I was just the new guy coming in and I just tried to play hard.”
Hasbrouck averaged 12.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game in his freshman season. So far, Pickett is averaging 14.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.0 steals per game.
After winning its last four games, Siena is 13-12 on the season ahead of starting a four-game homestand with Wednesday’s matchup against Iona. Since Hasbrouck’s coach left Siena for Iowa in 2010, the Saints have only posted two winning seasons.
Hasbrouck said the Saints should soon start to add to that total.
“I understand the process, and when Fran left, the recruiting left, a lot of players that were supposed to come to Siena didn’t come. A lot of things changed in that one year — dramatically,” Hasbrouck said. “So I understood it was going to take a while to get that back, and we now have found the right coach to start that.”