Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Siena's Overlooked Hymes Is Noticed Now

The MAAC's second-leading scorer among men's players might not only be the smallest starting player in the conference, but was all but unrecruited by Division I programs and might not have joined his current team were it not for a late transfer that opened up a scholarship spot.

Meet Siena's Evan Hymes, generously listed at 5-foot-8, 147 pounds, who was brought in to back up returning starter Rakeem Brookins and, suddenly, got thrust into the starting lineup when Brookins was lost for the season with a preseason back injury.

All Hymes has done through three games has been to score 10 points in his college debut, 30 in the Saints' second game and, then, 18 against Saint Bonaventure on Monday night. That adds up to a 19.3 points-per-game average, second so far in the conference only to the 21.0 ppg. average of Harold Washington, a junior guard at Canisius.

Hymes' 30-point performance that came in a Siena win at Mount Saint Mary's last week, was the first time a Saints' freshman hit the 30-mark in a game since Jack McClinton did it late in the 2004-05 season. The freshman record for a Siena player since the program moved to the Division I level was turned in by Jim Secretarski, who had a 36-point effort against Iona during the 1994-95 season.

Both Secretarski and McClinton, though, were prized recruits, highly-touted incoming players.

Siena didn't even have a scholarship to offer Hymes until this past spring when former reserve point guard Jonathan Breeden opted to leave the program, and Siena didn't offer the scholarship until late June at which time Hymes accepted it. By then the perceived "quality" recruits have all signed to play at college program and what's left is, basically, left-overs or players Division I programs don't perceive as being able to have an impact at that level.

Until Siena became interested the slender guard's only offer was from UC-Davis, and it was one he turned down with the intention of attending prep school in hopes of showcasing his ability to attract more interest in the coming season.

"Then, Siena made the offer," Hymes said. "They had the open scholarship (when Breeden departed), and my high school coach reached out to coach (Craig) Carter (a Siena assistant), and I guess that's how it happened."

Still Hymes got no playing-time promises other than he would compete for the back-up point-guard role behind Brookins.

"I hope Rakeem's rehab is going well and that he returns to us 100 percent for next year," Hymes said, after his 18-point effort against the Bonnies. "But when he went down, I realized that I had gone from almost being unrecruited to being a starting point guard for a good Division I program.

"What I've done so far feels pretty good. I just have to stay focused and keep improving."

His three-game start might be the best ever by a Siena freshman. The school's all-time leading scorer Marc Brown, who averaged 13.6 points in his first season, had 45 points (15.0 ppg. average) in his first three games. Secretarski averaged 8.7 point in his first three college games.

Hymes' 30-point effort was even better than any personal best. He said his best scoring effort in a high school game was a 28-pointer.

No one is saying that the precocious, undersized player's career will eventually resemble Brown's, but what he has done so far is a revelation, a combination of good three-point shooting and lightning-quick drives to the basket.

"His scoring is his biggest surprise to me so far," said Saints' coach Mitch Buonaguro, who had originally pencilled Hymes in for 10-to-12 minutes per game as the team's back-up point guard. "We knew he was extremely fast, and that he could run the team, but we didn't expect this kind of scoring."

No one really knew what to expect from Hymes, who might have been more highly recruited had he not missed most of his high school junior year after breaking both his tibula and fibula bones in his left leg.

"I came back for that summer's AAU season and played well enough to attract some interest, but the only offer came from UC-Davis," he said.

And, then, Breeden left Siena.

"When that happened, we started looking for someone we could bring in to back up the point guard position," added Buonaguro. "We were able to find Evan. I give all the credit to Craig Carter ... he's the one who found him."

And, through three games thus far, Hymes has been a real "find" for Siena.

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