Jimmy Patsos knew that freshman Nico Clareth was going to make an impact and once junior Marquis Wright exited with a foot injury, Clareth’s time came.
In the last 11 games, all of Wright’s absence, the 6’5” rookie has averaged 14 ppg and has seen more steady minutes as the first Saint off the bench.
“He really has a great energy and he plays the game with a lot of joy and I respect that about him,” Patsos said. “He’s been infectious on the court. He plays good defense, it was great, I’m happy for him.”
Clareth said that he had a few growing pains to start the season, but since then the Saint has showed his ability to score in different ways.
“I don’t hit walls, I run through them,” Clareth said.
In his second game in college he scored a team-high 21 points off the bench in their loss at Wisconsin. He has an assist in every conference game, is tied for second on the team in blocks with Lavon Long and leads the team in steals.
“I think it’s really good to have older guys around, guys that when I come off the court they’re always on the court telling me what to do,” Clareth said. “They’re just like bigger brothers to me.”
One thing the 6’5” guard does best is bring energy to the Saints running style, whose style matches the energetic coach he plays for.
“He’s a genius in basketball I mean he’s really enthusiastic too,” Clareth said of Patsos. “He has a lot of energy and he supports playing with emotion and stuff just like I do.”
Emotional would be only one way to describe the guard, the other would be confident.
“He’s very confident, but its in a good way,” Patsos said. “He has a lot of confidence, let’s just put it that way, but it’s a good confidence.”
“I’ve been around different players with that thing that’s hard to teach; some of them its driven by negative energy, some’s angry, he’s got a lot of good positive energy and he’s a great teammate. I’ve watched him closely for six months and I look for a lot of little things. he’s a great teammate, not a good teammate, a great teammate and that’s what’s impressed me the most.”
It is thanks to his contributions that the Saints are 15-8, their best record through 23 games since 2010, and sit in third place in the MAAC. Clareth’s start has put him in the running to become the first Saint since 2007 to win the Rookie of the Year award; that season Edwin Ubiles split it with Canisius’ Frank Turner.
“I hope he can keep it going,” Patsos said. “The question is he’s starting to show up on people’s scouting reports a lot more, so that’s the adjustment I’m waiting to see.”
As the MAAC stretch run hits, there might be adjustments, but there won’t be anything that contains Clareth’s energy. The freshman called Patsos the “the lighter fluid that gets us ignited”, and he hopes to keep the Saints on their run for when Wright returns late in February.
“We’re doing pretty good right now, but when Marquis comes back I think we can really put things together and be and reach our potential as a great team,” Clareth said.
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.