Kyle Downey and the Saints open the season tonight against Navy
Nov. 16, 2011
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Watch Coach Buonaguro's Media Lunch
When junior OD Anosike leaves his feet tonight shortly after 7 p.m. tonight at Times union Center and tips off Siena's 2011-12 men's basketball season, not even head coach Mitch Buonaguro knows what to expect.
"I think it's a team that a lot of people are going to be curious to see how they play, including me," Buoanguro said at his weekly media luncheon Tuesday. "I'm looking forward to it, I think it's going to be a lot of fun."
Following an off-season marred by season-ending injuries to starting point guard Rakeem Brookins and junior forward Davis Martens, and NCAA rulings upholding the ineligibility of freshmen Imoh Silas and Lionel Gomis, expectations have plummeted. The graduation of all-time leading rebounder and 2011 MAAC Player of the Year Ryan Rossiter had already left the program in a state of flux.
With uncertainty comes excitement, and hope.
"It's certainly a new team with four freshmen in the top eight players," Buonaguro said. "It's going to be exciting seeing them develop."
The four freshmen include starting point guard Evan Hymes, reserve guards Davonte Breard and Rob Poole, and forward Marcus Hopper. With only eight scholarship players dressing tonight, all four figure to see meaningful minutes.
Hope also rests in senior tri-captains Kyle Downey, Owen Wignot and Brandon Walters. All three will be in the opening night starting lineup. Downey, Wignot, walk-on Conner Fenlon and Anosike are the lone carryovers from Siena's most recent MAAC Championship active roster.
"Downey looks like a different player," Buonaguro said of his senior leader. "He's easily in the best shape of his career."
Anosike is the program's only Preseason All-MAAC selection, collecting Third Team honors after a junior year in which he averaged 8.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Wignot started all 28 games last year, while Walters played in 19, but saw limited minutes.
In some ways, the season has the same outlook as Buonaguro's first with the program. As lead assistant to Fran McCaffery in 2005-06, the Saints were coming off a six-win season and the loss of its best player, forward Michael Haddix to an off-season injury. They were picked last in the MAAC Preseason Poll, and had just eight players in their everyday rotation.
The Saints went on to post a 15-13 record that year, playing an energetic brand of basketball that proved skeptics wrong, and in many ways provided a window into the historic success on the horizon. Whether or not Siena is on the precipice for greatness or not remains to be seen, but one thing is sure in a sea of uncertainty: it's time for a fresh start.
Let the games begin.