LOUDONVILLE — A friend alerted him to it, and Ben Diamond figured he had to be kidding.
But, no, it was real: Diamond, a senior walk-on for the Siena men’s basketball team, was named Thursday to the MAAC all-tournament team.
Of course, this year’s MAAC tournament was canceled before all of its quarterfinal round was completed earlier this month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league, though, two days after declaring top-seeded Siena as its champion, announced it had selected all 79 of the league’s graduate students and seniors to its all-tournament squads. That group included five Siena athletes, with Elijah Burns, Sammy Friday and Matt Hein joining Diamond on the men’s squad, and Sabrina Piper representing the Siena women’s team.
“It’s just a really good idea across the board,” Diamond said of the MAAC recognizing all its seniors. “It was disappointing how our season ended, but this honored all the contributions everyone had made over the last four years.”
A Shaker High School graduate who lives in Loudonville, Diamond accepted his honor with pride — and humor.
“I think,” Diamond said during a phone interview, “that it’s fair to say that — most likely — I wouldn’t be on that team if we’d played the tournament out.”
Diamond, a 22-year-old business major, started his tenure with the Siena men’s basketball program as a manager. He worked in that role for one season, then became a walk-on player for the program as a sophomore. In his three seasons on the Saints’ roster, the 5-foot-11 Diamond’s on-court production saw him play 13 minutes across 12 games and score three points.
With no easy way to pick all-tournament teams, though, selecting every senior was the move the MAAC opted to make.
“The MAAC would like to congratulate all of the student-athletes on the all-championship team not only for outstanding seasons, but for outstanding careers,” MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor said in a press release the conference issued. “The conference felt this was an appropriate recognition for the contributions these players put forward for the success of their teams and the MAAC during the entirety of their time on campus.”
The Siena men’s basketball team was one of multiple MAAC squads urged to self-isolate after competing in a game that later had at least one official test positive for the novel coronavirus. That period for the Saints ended Wednesday.
“It was definitely weird, at first,” Diamond said. “But you take it in stride and see how you’re feeling. I knew I felt good.”
Siena’s spring break was extended a week because of precautions taken to deal with the ongoing health crisis before classes — all shifted to being taught online, for now — started back up this week. Staying at his parents’ home in Loudonville, Diamond said he kept in touch with his teammates throughout their self-isolating week and took the time to finally join the rest of them in watching one of Netflix’s original series.
“Apparently, I was the only one from my team who had not seen ‘Last Chance U,’ ” Diamond said. “So I’ve been watching that.”
Three of Diamond’s five classes this semester were already online courses, so the move this week to a full workload of online classes didn’t require much adjustment. He’s on track to graduate in May, but said he’s unsure what will come next for him, but that heading to graduate school is an option.
With nearly all of the sports world on hold at the moment, Diamond — with a deadpan delivery — said that likely “puts a wrench in my NBA draft plans.” The next time he plays basketball in a semi-organized setting, Diamond said, will likely be with a recreational team he’s trying to form with friend Nick Fruscio, who was a walk-on for the UAlbany men’s basketball program the last four seasons.
Diamond’s career at Siena, though, offered a lot for the senior. He grew up rooting for the program, and ended up getting to wear its jersey for three seasons.
“I started my Siena career as a manager and I ended it on the MAAC’s all-tournament team,” Diamond said. “So that’s pretty cool with me.”
PICKETT HONORED, AGAIN
Siena sophomore Jalen Pickett was named Thursday as a first-team All-ECAC selection.
That honor is the third one awarded to Pickett this week. Pickett was named Wednesday to the Lou Henson All-America Team and Monday to the NABC District 1 first team.
Pickett, the reigning MAAC Player of the Year who led the Saints this year to their first MAAC championship since 2010, averaged 15.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and six assists per game in his second season at Siena.
Like his NABC selection, Pickett’s inclusion on an All-ECAC team was for the second consecutive year. Pickett is the first Siena player to ever earn multiple All-ECAC honors.