1. The Energy is Back
Having watched Jimmy Patsos for the last nine years at Loyola, I must admit it was a bit strange seeing him patrol the sideline this week for Siena. If you thought his fiery coaching techniques might mellow a bit in his new gig, think again. These games were intense and that started with Patsos. While the settings, varied as they were, didn't have a Division I feel, the action on the court often did. Patsos yelled and screamed throughout the games, but it was with a definite purpose. He challenged almost everyone on the team at one point, and he had to be pleased with the results. Siena pressed and was extremely active on defense. They pushed the ball off misses, and ran the sets they've implemented successfully in the half court. The scorer's table looked like a carousel with the players subbing in and out, but everyone who played contributed. Ryan Oliver and Rich Audu gave especially productive efforts, and seemed to settle into their meaningful roles as the trip advanced. Despite playing five games in five days, the team had plenty of legs deep into the final game. Siena was tested on this trip and that will pay huge dividends. It was fun to see the team come together and get better. It was fun to see Jimmy wearing a Siena polo too.
2. Siena Has a Point Guard
His name is Marquis Wright. It probably took some by surprise when Patsos handed the keys to the freshman this summer and moved Evan Hymes to off guard. There's no questioning that decision now. Wright wasn't perfect on the tour (he turned the ball over too much early and took some ill-advised shots - many due to the 24 second shot clock being used in three of the games), but he showed more than enough to have Siena fans excited about his promising four-year career. The culmination of his week came in the final game when he just missed a triple double and had total command. Let's hold off with the Marc Brown and Ronald Moore comparisons (in truth, his game doesn't really resemble either), and let him build his own legacy. This trip may have had a bigger impact on Wright than any other Saint, and Wright may have more to say about Siena's success this season than anyone else. Oh, and he's a nice kid too.
3. Rob Poole is Poised For a Breakout Season
In 2008, Siena toured Italy and a star was born. After Kenny Hasbrouck, Ronald Moore, Alex Franklin and Edwin Ubiles helped the Saints knock off Vanderbilt, nobody was expecting the scrawny freshman from Staten Island to dominate professional men on the team's foreign tour the following summer. Ryan Rossiter did just that and the rest, as they say, is history. Rob Poole might have had a trip like that. Poole was the best player on the floor in pretty much every game, and he did it without shooting the 3-pointer well until the final night. Poole was playing against athletic guards each night, and even served as backup point guard after Evan Hymes broke his hand. He was more than up to the challenge, but most important he displayed leadership on the court - something the Saints will desperately need with such an inexperienced roster.
4. The Freshmen Can Play, And They Will
We mentioned Wright, but Lavon Long, Javion Ogunyemi and Michael Wolfe all contributed too. Long had the biggest impact, ultimately advancing into the starting lineup for the final game of the trip. He's a matchup nightmare. Long found his most success muscling his way to the basket, and his smooth left hand finish is reminiscent of the way All-MAAC performer Michael Haddix used the glass and scored from tough angles. But his game has a different dimension too. Long can really handle the ball, and he'd often drive into the lane from 3-point line and make good decisions with the basketball. Ogunyemi had 16 points and seven rebounds in his first game as a Saint, and he showed promise inside. As with Long, I was impressed with his ability to finish. Michael Wolfe is extremely athletic. His dunks in warm-ups drew oohs and ahhs from the Canadian fans. He improved throughout the trip and had an impact in the last game, knocking down a three and scoring on a putback after just missing an alley-oop dunk in traffic. Again, we're not going to compare this group to the Class of 2010 just yet, but even without Maurice White (more to follow tomorrow at SienaSaints.com) this group turned heads.
5. Montreal Has a Lot to Offer
The team learned plenty about itself on the court, but as we said from the start, the real value in these trips is the opportunity to bond and experience a new culture together. Who knew the perfect place to do just that was less than four hours north of Siena's campus? Whether it's the proximity of New York and Boston, the language barrier (there really isn't one) or the increased border security (not an issue w/ passport or enhanced license), Montreal is overlooked as a destination that's easily within reach of the Capital Region. It's unlike any city in the United States, with countless ornate churches to tour, a vibrant and unique cultural scene in Old Montreal, the latest designer fashions on Saint Catherine Street, world class restaurants, the cleanest subway system I've ever seen, and a spectacular (albeit overt) nightlife scene. In truth, it feels like you're in Europe and you can be here by noon after a scenic and easy drive through the Adirondacks. Be prepared to walk a lot, but think of it as an opportunity to burn off that gelato. The Saints got to see all the famous sites, and seemed to genuinely enjoy their surroundings. The trip was also good on the wallet too. Siena was originally scheduled to visit France and Italy, a trip that would have cost nearly $100,000 more than this one. It's money that can now be spent to help the program in other ways.