Jimmy Patsos understands how much can change as he enters his third season at Siena.
Their first season saw the Saints finish fifth and later win a CBI tournament championship, but an 11-20 second season was besieged by injuries. Turning the corner from the past season, Siena welcomed five new players to the roster.
Juniors Marquis Wright and Brett Bisping note how much more competitive practice has been through the first few weeks, as the Saints add four freshmen and Richmond transfer Kadeem Smithen to the roster.
“I think Marquis and Brett have realized we need guys that are good on the second team because they can come on the first team, but we need their energy,” Patsos said. “We also need their competitiveness, but we’re all in it together, if we’re not all working hard we won’t be as prepared as a team.”
Injuries and transfers hurt the Saints last season, when senior Imoh Silas tore his ACL before the season began and Bisping suffered a season ending toe injury in December. Their lack of depth took a further hit when Pat Cole transferred, forcing players like Rob Poole and Lavon Long to battle through injuries while getting extended playing time.
Patsos said he still plans to create a rotation centered around eight to nine players, as is typical in his style of play, but he has seen his group change in their energy. The Richmond transfer Smithen challenges Wright in practice, while Patsos said that Javion Ogunyemi – whose status is still awaiting a waiver from the NCAA – played the best in their first 40 minute scrimmage.
“I think our guys know that they have to compete in practice,” Patsos said. “The young guys have brought us some good energy, like it’s fun, you got some new guys on the team. What I’ve always loved about college basketball is you get new guys every year, I’m glad all those guys are gone I’m not saying it in a bad way, but in other words it’s not the pro’s.”
The third year head coach, who last season said he worked on giving his players more say on who should play, said he relies on his two Saints captains, Bisiping and Wright, as well as Ogunyemi to help shape this season’s roster.
“Marquis, Brett and Javion too have earned the right to come in here and say what do you think,” Patsos said. “I asked them what they think and they have input and we put things on the board. I think last year we had a couple of guys that thought they should have input that didn’t deserve it.”
“I told Brett and Marquis I am down with players having input, but you have to earn it. Marquis and Brett have earned it and now Javion’s come back and he’s earned it, so that’s really good.”
Junior Lavon Long, who averaged 10.4 ppg and 4.8 rpg last season, but struggled with foul trouble met with Patsos and expressed his interest in remaining a starter.
“I’m going to start Lavon for a few games and see how it goes,” Patsos said. “If he’s sitting next to me with two minutes into every game, we’re not letting Lavon start, in other words we’re in this together, but at some points I have to make decisions.”
“I like that Lavon came to me, I think that’s much more mature, our team’s showing maturity. We talked to Brett and Marquis and said what do you think, they said Lavon’s been practicing well he clearly is a really good player, but he seems to be working on not fouling.”
However, Patsos made it clear that the Saints will have to rely on their freshman class. Nico Clareth and Evan Fisher could figure into the rotation as soon as November, while Kenny Wormley can spell Wright at times and Kinnon LaRose shows signs of developing into a shooter. Even if Ogunyemi returns via waiver, Patsos said it won’t effect his plans for the freshman class.
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.