Saints Preparing For Trip To Montreal

team huddle

Following an off season full of change and with summer winding down, the Saints have converged on campus to begin a new chapter in the Siena program. With a new coaching staff and a roster which looks to be made up equally of 8 returning players and 8 new additions, the team has begun the process of returning to the program’s winning ways.

“You have to be a good basketball team,” said head coach Jimmy Patsos as the team prepared to take to the floor in preparations for the upcoming trip to Montreal. “And that starts by getting the players to play together. We have to become a tighter team and a better team as the year goes. That’s how this is going to work.”

With so many new parts, Patsos stressed the value of having the opportunity to see his team play in game situations.

“With a young team and a new coach in a new program, invaluable,” said Patsos. “A lot of people are critical of the NCAA but this is one of the great things they do, letting us go.”

The focus will indeed be on what the Saints do and not so much on the competition itself.

“There are five games,” described Patsos. “The games are going to vary. I’m not scouting the teams. I’m just going off of, Joe Mihalich, John Calipari, Boeheim is going and Pat Skerry was just there. They’ll be a couple of really tough games, a game or two that you should win and a mixed bag. Joe Mihalich is the reason we did this trip. I’m hoping to have the same result because they won the regular season and that’s where this came from.”

As is always the case, Patsos will look to make the trip educational in more than just a basketball sense with plans to learn more about life.

“I’ve never been to Montréal,” Patsos said. “I know that Montréal has a European flavor. We’re going to start and watch the movie Miracle, stay in Lake Placid one day and from there we’re going up to Montréal. I just think it’s an important part of history. I thought with Miracle part of it was about the Cold War. They almost canceled the Olympics. I’m trying to teach them other stuff. Of course it’s the sports part. Plus after they see Herb Brooks they’ll really like me.”

“I have a few surprises,” he added. “Does everyone know that’s where Jackie Robinson played his first game, in Montreal? So were going to go there. We’ll do a little something every day. Old Montréal, new Montréal. I’m not doing prep work every day because I want them to have a good time. ”

The trip will go a long way in helping to define roles and the practices allowable in preparation for it are jump-starting that process.

“We had a good practice yesterday and I’m learning some good and some bad about guys,” Patsos said. “This is another learning opportunity. I’m trying to get eight or nine guys. I know we’ve got three or four from the returning. I know a couple of young guys can play just by virtue of what I’ve seen because of summer school. I’m trying to figure out who the eight or nine guys are. We’re going to press and run so I can’t play with six guys. We’re looking for eight or nine.”

When asked to project a starting line-up, Patsos has some sense of where the team is currently, although, admittedly it is by no means written in stone in late August.

“I’ll tell you on November 9th,” quipped Patsos. “For now Marquis at the 1, Hymes at the 2, Poole at the 3, Brett at the 4 and Silas at the 5. Long looks really good so far. He’s a versatile guy that can do a lot of stuff. I’m looking for Ryan, Hopper and Richard Audu and some guys that are hungry that really didn’t get the chance for us to see what they can do. Wolfe’s interesting and of course Javion coming from Troy is a guy that we all know about that can jump in. I want to see what they’ve got.”

Of the returning players, some will see a change in the role they play, such as junior Evan Hymes. Patsos sees the Saints’ point guard for the last two years as one who may flourish more in a new position.

“You’ve got to have Evan out there but I need Marquis to play the point,” said Patsos. “I asked Evan to slide to the two and he’s been great.”

Practice on Tuesday focused on fundamentals while also allowing the team to get out and run, an element that Patsos has repeatedly said would be a signature element of this team. Wright at the point looks quite comfortable with the ball in his hand and Wolfe shows the ability to finish with his head at the rim. Long has versatility as advertised, both handling the ball and with strong control in the post. Ogunyemi hit the boards well and also displayed a nice touch around the basket. Transfer Pat Cole will join the team following the Montreal trip along with Maurice White. Despite the potential of the new players, Patsos recognizes the value of experience gained by the veterans of the college game.

“These guys have logged minutes in the MAAC,” stressed Patsos. “The MAAC is a tough conference. They (returning players) have logged minutes in the MAAC which is a valuable commodity.”

Encouraging was the return of guard Ryan Oliver, a player who showed great promise prior to ending his freshman season with a knee injury. Back at full strength, following knee surgery, he went hard for the full practice.

“He’s competed,” said Patsos of Oliver. “He’s been fine. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do, and he can shoot the ball. He wouldn’t be out there if he wasn’t healthy. I don’t do the half-way. Either you can play or you can’t. See, you’re opponent never goes ‘oh you’re hurt I won’t go very hard’.”

Patsos recognizes that bringing it all together is the only way, and makes no distinction between those players that remain from the past and those which he has added to the program.

“It’s all about us,” Patsos emphasized. “We. Ours. It’s our team. It’s the community’s team, the school’s team, the athletic department’s team. I get it. I’m a ‘we’ guy. I’ve always been a ‘we’ guy. Remember we’re all new to the situation.”

Despite the great importance and opportunity connected with the Montreal trip, Patsos will continue to educate and team-build off the court, as evidenced by plans for Tuesday night. He along with the team were to take in a movie about the story of Cecil Gaines who served under eight presidents during his tenure as a butler at the White House, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events.

“We’re going to the movie The Butler tonight at the Spectrum Theater. I have a high-energy mind so we are going to keep it filled. “

For the core of retuning players, there is great optimism and they welcome the intensity and passion Patsos brings to the program. Their new coach explains they have come out well despite the season of change.

“I think they’re fine,” said Patsos. “They’re still on scholarship. Hopefully they’re still grateful since I speak to them daily about that. Kids are resilient. They’re fine. Not that they know me but they do know me. The kids all know each other. They talk to other guys who know I’m a pretty good guy to play for. Yeah I know I yell a little bit on the sidelines but I treat them with respect.”

Patsos sums it all up in explaining his relationship with his new team.

“We have a good time,” Patsos said. “I don’t over practice. I want to go really hard and then go live your life. I want them to all graduate and I want them to be great citizens. They know I’m up pretty good guy to play for because, what kind of kid raised his hand and said I want to walk the ball up and play slow? They all say they want to play fast, run and press so here we are. Let’s do it.”

Siena Men’s Basketball 2013 Montreal Tour Game Schedule

Saturday, August 24 at 5 PM – Siena at University of Quebec

Sunday, August 25 at 3 PM – Siena at McGill University

Monday, August 26 at 7 PM – Siena at Queens University

Tuesday, August 27 at 7 PM – Siena vs. Brookwood Club Team (at Jean de Breubeuf College)

Wednesday, August 28 at 7 PM – Siena at Concordia


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