LOUDONVILLE — An offseason ago, the Siena College men’s basketball program’s roster was in need of an overhaul after an 8-24 season and several personnel departures that followed Jimmy Patsos’ resignation.
This time around, it’s more about maintaining what the Saints already have and figuring out ways to augment what they possess after a promising 17-16 campaign that ended a game shy of an appearance in the MAAC championship.
The first part of that, largely, was secured in the days immediately after Carmen Maciariello ascended from his position as an assistant coach to head coach, and the 2001 Siena graduate quickly earned recommitments from the program’s incumbent players. Last week, that part of the project was finished when Jalen Pickett announced his withdrawal from NBA draft consideration and plans to play a sophomore season at Siena.
The second part?
Well, the Saints appear to have taken a major step forward in enhancing their roster for years to come with Tuesday night’s commitment from Gary Harris, an athletic 6-foot-6 wing from Los Angeles who chose Siena over offers from schools such as Kansas State, Nebraska and Washington State.
“Most of all,” Harris said Wednesday afternoon of his decision, “it was just that Siena felt more genuine.”
Siena assistant coach Bob Simon played a major role in Harris’ recruitment, which picked up significantly after the 19-year-old starred during an AAU tournament in Dallas earlier this spring.
“Dallas is where I blew up, and that’s when everyone started calling my coaches and me,” said Harris, who did a prep year at Middlebrooks Academy this past school year after graduating from Price High School and decommitting from San Jose State. “From there, that’s when Kansas State, Washington State, Nebraska, Appalachian State, Cal State Fullerton — all those schools — were calling me.”
Harris visited Siena during Memorial Day weekend, and had the chance to meet several Saints, including Elijah Burns, Don Carey, Pickett and Sloan Seymour. Harris chatted on the phone with Manny Camper. Throughout the process, he felt comfortable and wanted.
“They want me to come in and be an impact player,” Harris said. “They told me I could start, but that they just want me to come in and make an impact.”
Harris visited Washington State last weekend. Once home from there, he said it didn’t take him long to finalize his decision to head to Siena.
“I had loved it there,” Harris said.
Harris joins a roster that has the makings of a MAAC contender with three returning starters in Camper, Pickett and Seymour, a pair of now-eligible impact transfers in Burns and Carey, plus quality role players such as Sammy Friday and Jimmy Ratliff. Siena has one open scholarship remaining for next season after adding Harris to its group of incoming freshmen that already included Lucas Sutherland and Kyle Young.
“I feel like I have an overall game,” Harris said, “but it still needs work.”
Harris said he’s excited to start getting to work with the Saints when he gets to campus June 23 for summer workouts.
“It’s going to be fun,” Harris said.