Saturday, August 15, 2009

Siena: Fills Needs for Depth, Guards


What does a team that went to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the second straight season and loses just one player of any significance (albeit, the conference's Player of the Year) need?

Considering that it already has a good replacement in place for departing MAAC PofY Kenny Hasbrouck, not much.

Clarence Jackson, the MAAC's Sixth Player Award winner a year ago, is a capable fill-in for Hasbrouck. Siena will be the likely unanimous choice in the coaches' preseason poll to win the regular-season title again and, if all goes well, could become the first MAAC team ever to advance to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16 round. Expectations are as high for the Saints, not only in the Albany area but in the national media, as this blogger can remember for any MAAC program since the glory days of the Lionel Simmons-led La Salle teams 20 years ago.

But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. These reports are about newcomers, and Siena has four new players. While none will start, all four could get into the playing group providing depth and gaining experience that should serve the program well as it develops players for beyond the coming season.

This blogger has seen all four incoming players either in AAU competition or on-campus pick-up games

Eligible transfer

-Kyle Griffin, a 6-3, 195-pound guard who transfers in from La Salle of the Atlantic 10 Conference. Griffin averaged 3.5 points per game through 15 games as a freshman in the 2007-08 season before suffering a knee injury. Subsequent surgery forced him to miss the entire 2008-09 season. He transferred at mid-season, so he's eligible to play after first-semester games and has two additional years after the 2009-10 season. Sources indicate he is capable of playing either guard spot, and he has a smooth long-range jumper out beyond the 20-foot range. Still recovering from his surgery early in the summer, but is expected to be ready to practice this fall.

Incoming freshmen

- O.D. Anosike a 6-8, 205-pound forward from St. Peter's High School for Boys in Staten Island. He averaged 17.8 points there as a senior. This blogger watched Anosike play several games in the 2008 GymRat Challenge AAU tournament. Here's the report on him from the all-star selection committee for that event: "Long, athletic slasher who is effective inside with a soft shooting touch. Nose for the ball. Oustanding rebounder who can handle the ball. Runs the floor exceptionally well and finishes everything." My personal observation was that Anosike plays extremely hard, goes after every rebound on both ends and has an effective mid-range jumper. He could play any of the three front-court positions, and could be the team's top front-court reserve.

- Denzel Yard, a 5-11, 165-pound guard from Franklin Learning Center in Philadelphia. He averaged 19.5 points, 7 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 4 steals per game there as a senior. Siena coach Fran McCaffery refers to Yard as a "stone-cold scorer." Yard is exceptionally quick, has a nice left-handed jumper and should be a nice fit for the program's uptempo style of play.

- Jonathan Breeden, a 6-1 guard from Central Dauphin High School in Harrisburg, Pa. Breeden is described as a pure point guard and plays like it. He gets into the lane with ease and can finish or dish out. He averaged 14.3 ppg. as a high school senior. Should get minutes from the start filling a role as a back-up point guard, something the Saints lacked last season.

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