From the start of Jimmy Patsos’ tenure at Siena, he knew that Marquis Wright and Lavon Long were going to have a say in how successful his turnaround in Albany would be.
The two Baltimore area players were targets from the moment the ink on Patsos’ contract dried in Loudonville, NY. And their commitments to Loyola (MD) wavered when they saw the coach who recruited them make the move north.
“I talked to my father and we sat down and talked,” Wright said of when Patsos changed jobs. Once the 6′ point guard visited Siena and liked it, any doubts he had about playing for the fiery head coach dissipated. Long said that when he originally committed to play for Patsos at Loyola (MD), he liked the idea of staying close to home, but after seeing him leave for Siena, he had to table the fear of being further from home. “I really wanted to play for him, so I just sucked it up,” Long said.
You would be hard pressed to find a game where neither is on the floor, and most likely both are on the floor and making an impact. Wright has played in every single game of his career, while Long has missed just four games in his two seasons at Siena.
When Siena dropped their backbreaking decision to Canisius (83-49 on Jan. 16), probably its lowest point of the season, Long returned two days later. The only reason the 6’7″ sophomore didn’t play against the Golden Griffins was head trainer Greg “Hammer” Dashnaw ruled him out after he did not practice all week. But Long, who had been nursing a turf toe injury, practiced the day after their Canisius loss, started the next game and helped deliver a 74-70 win over Niagara thanks to his 10 points and six rebounds.
“I’m not just impressed that he played, I’m impressed at how we played,” Patsos said of Long’s performance. “He played really well, he had some fouls, but he made some big baskets and big plays.”
“Lavon’s got that look anyways, everybody knows Lavon’s going to show up when the game is on. He didn’t want to play Sunday, he wanted to win Sunday, which was more important for us.”
Already having nursed a high left ankle sprain in December, the sophomore rushed back after three games to come off the bench and deliver 12 points in Siena’s one-point win over Fairfield to start January. Long said he sprained his toe a few weeks ago, which has restricted him slightly, but it hasn’t stopped him from doing what he wants on the court.
“I try not to play to win, I mean I play to win, but I’m more so I play not to let my teammates down,” Long said. “It makes me play harder than if I’m just playing for myself. I’m trying to win and then you get the mentality that you’re trying to do everything yourself and it just doesn’t work that way, whereas if you play for somebody else and you don’t want to let them down, there’s something in you that kicks in and you just play that much harder.”
For Wright, the Canisius blowout is probably the first game of his collegiate career that he would like to erase from his memory. Other than seeing a backboard break for the first time in person, the 6′ sophomore point guard handed over a career-high eight turnovers.
However, like the rest of the Saints, Wright has put that game in the back of his mind in a season where he has broke out as a point guard who can score and distribute. There are times when the sophomore drives amongst the tallest players in the conference and somehow, gets his drives to go in. He says he knows exactly where he’s going, but when he hears from his father after games, he is mesmerized by some of his son’s moves.
“I’ll call him after every game and sometimes, he’ll be like, ‘I don’t know how you made that one,’ and I was like ‘Yeah I don’t know,'” Wright said.
Wright has carried the Saints at times, scoring a career-high 31 points in their loss to Fordham, and has seen his scoring output increase as he takes the next step in his development.
“I felt like its been like some games where I did a lot, and then some games where I didn’t do much, but then again it all comes down to the team,” Wright said. “I just want to do every little thing I can to help the team get wins and it was a lot that I did improve from last year, like hitting my jump shot and things like that, but the most thing I really ever worry about is turning the ball over. I want to keep that as low as possible.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.