LOUDONVILLE — They’ll start to develop chemistry and see how their new players fit in with their returning ones. After summer workouts, too, the expectation is that the members of the Siena College men’s basketball program will have a solid grasp on the concepts and principles that will guide the Saints’ offense during head coach Carmen Maciariello’s first season at the helm.
More than anything else, though, Maciariello wants his players to compete during these next several weeks in a way that sets the tone for the program’s 2019-20 season.
“They’re going to show me this summer what we’re going to be,” Maciariello said Tuesday, not long before the Saints’ first on-court workout of the summer.
Maciariello already has ideas of what these Saints could become given the assembled talent. Together, they project to form a group with the athleticism, firepower and experience to build on last season’s surprising 17-16 campaign.
That’s why this summer’s team workouts, both on the court and in the weight room, are so much about attitude for the Saints.
“Everybody here wanted to prove something last year,” said Jalen Pickett, a rising sophomore guard who came to Siena as a lightly recruited prospect and just spent part of his spring working out for NBA teams before withdrawing from draft consideration. “So everyone came in really hungry.”
“And it’s going to be a different year than it was last year. There were no expectations last year. We were picked dead last in the MAAC and finished tied for second,” said Maciariello, an assistant coach last season for the Saints on Jamion Christian’s coaching staff. “Then, to now, [we’re] a team that will probably be picked in the top half of our league, with a ton of expectations and outside noise, so the better job we do handling our business every day, the better shape we’ll be in.”
Roster-wise, even with one scholarship still open for next season, the improvements that have been made from a season ago are clear. While the Saints need to replace key players in Kevin Degnan, Evan Fisher and Kadeem Smithen, Siena returns more than it lost and added significant pieces.
Three starters in Manny Camper, Pickett and Sloan Seymour are back, as are key reserves in Sammy Friday and Jimmy Ratliff. Elijah Burns and Donald Carey, players that sat out last season after transferring, project to play major minutes. Graduate transfer Matt Hein adds depth to the Saints’ backcourt. Incoming freshmen Gary Harris, Lucas Sutherland and Kyle Young each add something a bit different for the Saints.
“We have a lot of people that can play,” Pickett said. “We’re definitely more athletic.”
In particular, athleticism is something Maciariello sees Harris — a 6-foot-6 wing who picked Siena over high-major offers — as providing the Saints with right away.
“I think that’s one thing we needed,” Maciariello said. “We needed to add some more athleticism to the mix.”
At present, only Georges Darwiche is unable to participate in basketball activities for the Saints after the guard had surgery to fix his Achilles tendon in March. Darwiche, Maciariello said, is expected to be cleared to return in the fall.
Friday missed nearly all of last season after tearing his left knee’s meniscus, but is a full participant this summer for the Saints. Friday said there is still work for him to do to be fully ready for the 2019-20 season, but that he has been working out without issue for a couple months.
“I want to try to be more explosive,” Friday said of his personal goal to achieve during Siena’s summer workouts.
In Friday’s time away from campus after the spring semester, he spent several days working out with his younger brother Tyler, a defensive lineman for the Ohio State football team, on his campus.
“The facilities there were crazy,” Friday said. “They’ve got everything.”
READY TO GO
Like Harris and Sutherland, Young — a 6-foot-9 big — is eager to start his college basketball career.
“Honestly, I don’t really know what to expect, but I’m anxious,” Young said. “I can’t wait to get ready and can’t wait to get started.”
For at least this summer, Young said he has modest goals.
“I’m just hoping that I can help all the older guys out, especially in practice every day,” Young said. “I want to compete hard against them, help them get better and help myself get better, too.”
In May, Maciariello expected Siena’s Nov. 8 game at Xavier to serve as its season-opening game.
Now, Maciariello said the Saints are likely to open at home a few days prior to that matchup with Xavier. An opponent for that season-opening game has not been finalized.
“We’re waiting on that final contract to come,” Maciariello said, “but the good thing is it looks like we will have a home game to start, which is awesome.”
Teams may play as early as Nov. 5.