4GuysinBlazers

Top 10 Siena Mens Basketball Stories of 2014

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Now that the New Year has arrived, it’s time to look back at 2014 and some of the top stories that have had, or will have, an impact on Siena Basketball. From good news to not so good news these are the stories which highlight accomplishments, show great promise, bring disappointment and sadness as well as celebrate the Siena Saints.

Here are the headlines and excerpts from the top stories of 2014, Feel free to weigh in via comments below or by voting in the poll to the right, choosing up to five stories that are your favorites or that YOU feel are most important to Siena Basketball.

 

Poole Hymes Reach 1000 Points (February 22, 2014 & March 2, 2014)

All season Siena fans have been left to wonder when the Saints would break through against one of the top tier teams in the MAAC, they received their answer tonight against Manhattan. A raucus crowd of 7,928 was treated to another close game at the Times Union Center, only this time it was Siena that emerged on top, downing Manhattan 67-63. Siena has now won the last ten straight over the Jaspers at the Times Union Center.

The win was aided in large part to the first half scoring performance of Evan Hymes. Hymes hit three shots from beyond the three point arc in the first half, with the third pushing the Junior guard over the 1,000 point mark for his career. Hymes is just the 39th player in Siena history to reach the mark.

“My team mates definitely helped me to get to that 1,000 points today,” Hymes said following the game. “Without Quis getting me the ball, without Robbie making plays for me I don’t think I would have gotten it tonight.”

On Cruz Senior Night, Junior Rob Poole had a quiet night from the floor, often drawing double to triple coverage, but secured a career milestone in the second half. Poole passed the 1,000 point mark for his career on a second half layup, becoming just the 40th Saint to reach the milestone. Poole joins teammate Evan Hymes who reached the mark earlier this month. Poole finished the game with four points and four assists.

“Congratulations to Poole on his 1,000 and one point,” said Patsos. “We already had the ball made up. Thank God he made it by 1. Him and Evan getting 1,000 points is great. That’s something that no one can take away from them. I know that the 15 wins and coming in fifth means more than their 1,000 points because they told me that. They act like that. That’s why it’s been fun coaching this team.

 

Large Crowd Turns Of For Steven Cruz Senior Day (March 2, 2014)

A crowd of 8,148 came out to the Times Union Center to say goodbye to senior Steven Cruz and show their support for a resurgent Siena program. The team did not disappoint, controlling the game from start to finish in route to a commanding 70-54 victory over the Monmouth Hawks.

“I didn’t know if we’d ever get 8,000 people in this building this year,” said Jimmy Patsos following the game. “A lot of our wins this year have come because of the fans. I saw some ESPNU games with like nine people behind the bench. We have great fans. A meaningless game in the standings, to have 8,100 people, that’s just tremendous.”

Steven Cruz, a walk-on senior, earned the first start of his Siena career and received a standing ovation when introduced. Cruz wasted no time adding to his career stats as he dished an assist to Brett Bisping for the games first basket.

With the crowd loudly chanting “Cruuuuzzzz”, Cruz re-entered the game with three minutes remaining and scored his first point of the season, the 10th of his career, on a free throw with 2:31 remaining. Cruz finished with 1 point, 1 assist, and a career high 2 rebounds to the delight of the crowd and his teammates.

“It was a great experience,” said Cruz after the game. “Jimmy told me just be ready. He kept pumping me in practice and going after me and I was ready. With his energy and him criticizing me in practice trying to correct all my mistakes he was really getting on top of me. It was just a regular game for me starting for Marquis. It was awesome.”

The win gave the Saints their first four game winning streak since the 2009-10 season. The Saints finished the regular season at 15-16 and an 11-9 record in the MAAC, also both highs since the 09-10 season.

Siena enters the MAAC Tournament as the five seed after being selected to finish 10th in preseason polls. Siena will take on the Canisius Golden Griffins at 2:30pm on Saturday in a Quarterfinal matchup. In their last meeting Canisius topped the Saints in triple OT on the back of likely MAAC Player of the Year Billy Baron’s 40 point performance.

“We’re going into the postseason obviously thinking that we want to win,” said Brett Bisping. “That’s what everyone does. We’re playing well, Imoh’s playing well, and everyone’s playing well so we’re excited about it.”

 

Long and Wright Named To MAAC All-Rookie Team (March 3, 2014)

Freshmen Lavon Long and Marquis Wright  landed spots on the MAAC All-Rookie Team.

Long averaged 9.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game and started 29 of the Siena’s 31 games. He was perhaps the most consistent Siena player this season, reaching double figures 17 times without surpassing 16 points. He posted double-doubles in Siena’s losses at Iona and Marist.

Wright will likely become the first freshman to lead the MAAC in assists in at least 20 years. He averaged 8.9 points, a conference-best 5.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game this season and 9.5 points and 6.0 assists and 4.1 rebounds per MAAC game. Wright was perhaps the most important player for a Siena team that exceeded expectations. He reached double figures in eight of the last 14 games and had 10 or more assists four times this year. Wright also shot 44% from the field and was sixth in the MAAC with 34.7 minutes per game. Wright’s 1.7 steals ranked second in the MAAC and his 1.8 assist/turnover ratio tied for second.

 

CBI Championship Run (April 5, 2014)

It was a rebuilding year. The team was too young. They won only eight games a year ago. The players needed to learn a new coaching staff and system. It all equated to being picked to finish 10th in the 11 team MAAC. 10th. There was one problem with that script however, the Saints refused to play their assigned role.

On the floor of the ARC, in front of a rowdy crowd of fans and students looking for a reason to explode, the Saints accomplished something no one thought they could. They beat Fresno State 81-68 to win the CBI and give both Siena and the MAAC their first national postseason tournament championships.

The Saints controlled the game from start to finish in stark contrast to game two. Maybe it was fitting . Head Coach Jimmy Patsos frequently referenced the 1985 NBA Championship series between the Boston Celtics and LA Lakers in the lead up to the unique opportunity to coach in a championship series. In game one of the series the Celtics soundly defeated the Lakers 148-114 in what would become known as the Memorial Day Massacre only to lose the series 4-2. In similar fashion Fresno had steam rolled the Saints in route to cruising to a game two win before dropping the series 2-1.

The second half would see the Saints push the lead to as many as 22. Fresno would make one last desperation in the final minutes of the game, but the effort was too late as the Saints would hold on for the 81-68 win, their 20th win of the season.

When it was over the hundreds of Siena students in attendance, enticed to come out to the early start by free bacon, stormed the court. Three years of frustration melting away in a sea of yellow on the floor.

Brett Bisping earned tournament MVP honors. Fittingly the sophomore forward had an outstanding performance again in game three, scoring 20 and pulling down nine rebounds. Rob Poole (23) and Marquis Wright (12) joined him in double figures.

In the postgame press conference Coach Patsos brought a sign that has hung in the Saints locker room all season. It is a simple plaque with a quote from Gandhi.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight with you, then you win.”

No one is laughing at the Saints anymore. The Saints are 2014 CBI and the future of Siena basketball looks very bright.

 

Jimmy Paige and Willem Brandwijk Commit In Late Signing Period  (April 17, 2014)

With the late signing period underway, Siena received National Letters of Intent from Willem Brandwijk and Jimmy Paige officially marking their commitment to attend Siena and play for the Saints beginning this fall.

Brandwijk a 6-8, 220-pound forward from Holland will add both size and versatility while Paige, a 6-5, 212- pound guard/forward from Virginia Beach brings size and toughness. Both players are likely to have an early impact adding depth to the Siena roster. As reported earlier, both players had verbally committed to play for Siena along with Cameron Gottfried who will also join the Saints in the fall as a walk-on, which does not require an NLI.

 

Siena Mourns The Loss of Billy Harrell (May 6, 2014)

Billy Harrell `52, perhaps the most transformative student athlete in Siena College history, died peacefully Tuesday morning. He was 86.

Harrell was the first person to have his Siena jersey retired when his No. 10 was unfurled from the rafters at Times Union Center on Friday, January 13 2006. On March 8 of this year, Harrell was one of 20 inductees into the MAAC Basketball Hall of Fame Honor Roll.

Harrell played for Siena from 1949 to 1952, and during that time, the Saints (known as the “Indians” back then) compiled a gaudy 70-19 record. Harrell was the leading scorer, averaging 9.7 points per game, and top rebounder with 12.1 boards per game, for Siena’s 1949-50 team that compiled a 27-5 record and won the National Catholic Invitational Tournament title.

Harrell averaged 14.6 points per game for the 1951-52 team which went 24-6. He is still in the record books, tied for No. 2 for Siena’s top single season rebounders with his 12.1 average in 1949-50 – a record that stood for 60 years. Known as the “Flash,” he earned UPI Honorable Mention All-America honors in 1952. Harrell then went on to play four seasons of major league baseball, three with the Cleveland Indians (1955, 1957-58) and one with the Boston Red Sox (1961). Harrell was the third person inducted into Siena’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 1966.

Harrell remained close to the Siena men’s basketball program in the later stages of his life. He attended the Saints’ CBI Championship games in the Alumni Recreation Center in April and was recognized with a standing ovation by the crowd upon his arrival.

 

Saints Picked To Finish Second In Preseason Poll   (November 5, 2014)

The Siena Saints were selected to finish 2nd  in the MAAC Coaches’ Preseason Poll.

Expectations are high once again for the proud program following 20-wun season.

Siena  is coming off of a 20-18 season (11-9 MAAC) and College Basketball Invitational (CBI) championship after not appearing in a postseason tournament since 2010 when the Saints won a third consecutive MAAC title. The Saints return veteran leader and 2013-14 All-MAAC Third Team member senior Rob Poole. Poole averaged 14.6 points and is one of the conference’s top returning free-throw shooters after shooting 76 percent from the line and making 131 total free-throws. Also returning for Siena is CBI MVP junior forward Brett Bisping who averaged 11.6 points and 6.5 rebounds, and All-MAAC Rookie Team selections Marquis Wright, the leagues returning assists leader, and Lavon Long.

 

Injuries Imoh Silas Brett Bisping  (November 11, 2014 & December 9, 2014)

An MRI has confirmed that Siena senior center Imoh Silas has a torn ACL in his right knee and he will be out for the season. Surgery is scheduled for this Friday, opening day for the Saints who travel to UMass to kick off the 2014-2015 season.
Silas injured his knee in the closing minutes of  the Saints’ November 6 practice. The MRI results were released Tuesday.
“Imoh’s our family member and he has another year left to play,” head coach Jimmy Patsos said. “Hopefully he comes back, but that’s up to him. He graduates (in May). I’d certainly welcome him back. Everybody has injuries. It’s the way of the sports world now.”
Patsos has indicated that sophomore Javion Ogunyemi was expected to start at the center position but Silas was seen as a key reserve defensively as the team’s leading shot blocker and a solid rebounder who added a physical presence.
Silas started 53 of the 68 games he played the last two seasons after serving a year in residence in 2012-13 following an NCAA ruling. He’s averaged 3.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game in his career.
“He’s a great character guy,” Patsos said. “He gives us toughness and rebounding. He won some games for us last year. He single-handedly won that Cornell game and that was a big turnaround for us. He just got to go home to Nigeria. He hadn’t been home in three and a half years. You put in perspective what he’s done, and everyone on campus loves him. We still have our starting five, but we didn’t have anyone else like him. Now somebody else has to step up.”

Junior forward Brett Bisping will have surgery on Friday and will not be cleared to resume basketball related activities for at least eight weeks. This is according to Siena’s sports medicine department. Bisping was diagnosed with a dislocation at the metatarsal phalangeal, and an avulsion fracture of the flexor tendon in his right foot.

The surgery will be performed under the supervision of Dr. Richard Alfred, M.D. of the Capital Region Orthopedic Group. Doctors will insert a pin into the toe to stabilize the joint. After the pin is removed, four weeks after surgery, Bisping will have to wait another four weeks before resuming basketball activities.

With a return unlikely before early February, Bisping is a possible medical red-shirt candidate if he were no to return to action this season . Per NCAA rule, a player who appears in no more than 30% of the regular season games, can apply for medical red-shirt due to injury.

Bisping, a Preseason MAAC Third Team selection, averaged 8.7 points and 4.7 points over the first 6 games this season. He was the teams’s second leading scorer last season, averaging 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds on the way to being named the MVP in last year’s College Basketball Invitational.

 

Wormley and Fisher Sign Letters of Intent In Early Signing Period (November 18, 2014)

Siena coach Jimmy Patsos continues that Maryland recruiting pipeline by signing two more Maryland natives, Evan Fisher (Owing Mills) and Kenny Wormley (Upper Marlboro). Both players recently signed National Letters of Intent during the Early Signing Period giving their written commitment to play for the Saints next season.

Fisher, a 6-foot-8, 230-pound power forward out of the McDonogh School, gave his verbal commitment at the end of September. He is described as a versatile big man with good mobility and a fine touch from the outside.

Fisher had reportedly received offers and interest from Loyola, Delaware, Drexel, UMBC, George Mason. St. Joseph’s, Towson and Elon. He had also been reported to have received contact from Princeton, Boston College, Georgetown, Virginia and Maryland where he had gone on an unofficial visit. He will add key depth to the Siena frontcourt.

“Evan has got a lot of swagger, he’s cool,” Patsos said. “He has long hair, but he’s tough. He can shoot threes. My kinda guy. He’s a little more athletic than Brett (Bisping), and he shoots it better than Brett. I don’t know if he’s as crafty as Brett. (He comes from a) great school – the McDonogh School is one of the finest schools in America. People will like him. He has some swagger to his game, and right now I wish our team had a little more swagger.”

Wormley a 6-2 guard from Riverdale Baptist High School and Team Takeover, the same AAU team that Siena sophomore Marquis Wright played for, is positioned to be the Saint’s point guard of the future. He has been described as a “true floor general who runs the point with poise and makes sure everybody get their touches. He has a smooth handle and very good court vision.”

Wormley who given his verbal commitment the end of July, had also received scholarship offers from Florida Gulf Coast and Norfolk State. In addition he had also received interest from multiple other schools including American, Bucknell, George Mason, Kennesaw State, Monmouth, Radford, Rider, Sacred Heart, Texas Tech and UNC-Wilmington.

“(Kenny) is very interesting – he’s a 6-2 lefty point guard,” Patsos said. “He can really play. He’s a 6-2 lefty who can do a lot. He’s from Team Takeover (the same AAU program as Wright). (An) outstanding kid and a really good player. (He) can shoot it better than you think. He’s a little quicker than you think, but he’s long. He’s not a prototypical guy. He’s kinda smooth, but he can score on you.” Patsos spoke highly of the two additions. “Both kids coming in are high-character kids,” said Patsos.

 

Patrick Cole Suspended Indefinitely (December 19, 2014)

Siena announced on Friday morning that sophomore Patrick Cole has been suspended from the team immediately. Cole, a transfer from Coppin State was averaging 8.4 points and 17.4 minutes per game in this his first season at Siena after sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules.

“This was done with Patrick and our team’s best interests at heart,” Siena coach Jimmy Patsos said. “It wasn’t one incident; he just needs to take some time away from basketball and refocus his priorities. It’s not an easy decision to make, but we’re trying to rebuild a proud program the right way. There are standards and expectations everyone is expected to meet.”

With the injuries to Lavon Long, Brett Bisping and Imoh Silas and the announced intention to transfer of Michael Wolfe, this leaves the Saints with just 8 available scholarship players for Friday’s game at Radford.

Cole, who has returned to his Newark, N.J. home, is said to be welcome to come back to Siena when classes resume January 12. Patsos did not set a timetable for his return to the basketball program.

Update:

During the pregame show on Talk 1300 Patsos commented further on the Cole suspension:

“Patrick Cole, I wish him well. There’s no hard feelings. This is about Siena Basketball. This about the pride of a program for 30 years. Siena comes first as a university. Siena comes 1st as a community. Siena Basketball as a program comes first. Patrick’s not a bad guy but it was 1 step forward, 2 steps back. I gave him alot of chances. We just decided that we’re gonna move on without him. He’s not kicked out of school. There’s a lot of other things going on in the world that are a lot worse but this is about the team. ”

 

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