Friday, July 22, 2016

Patsos optimistic in Siena underclassmen making great strides

Already in possession of one of MAAC's most experienced starting lineups, Jimmy Patsos has high hopes for the remainder of his rotation pieces, raving about underclassmen and their improvement. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

With four seniors and a sophomore capable of receiving Player of the Year consideration if he improves even 50 percent from his freshman campaign, Jimmy Patsos has plenty of reasons to be bullish on his Siena team's chances going into next season.

Add to that a deep bench with burgeoning young talent that continues to enhance their skill sets as they progress in their careers, and you get the bona fide contender that the Saints position themselves as on paper entering their first game in November.

"They're good," Patsos simply assessed of his underclassmen. "Sammy Friday, our freshman, he's going to be heard from. I coached Joe Smith, who was the national freshman of the year, and Sammy is legit. He could run and jump and shot block and finishes around the rim."

"In three weeks, Sammy has changed a lot," Patsos said of the 6-foot-8, 235-pound newcomer. "Brett, Lavon and Javion are obviously a force, and he's joined right in there with him. Now Willem (Brandwijk) makes the (Dutch) national team and he's playing the four and the three, he could slide a bit."

Despite his abundance of riches in the frontcourt, though, Patsos erred on the side of caution when sizing up whether or not it would be the deciding factor in putting Siena over the top.

"We're a versatile team," he conceded, "but being big isn't always a winner. Historically, it hasn't proven to be a winning formula. It helps you, don't get me wrong. But you've got to have good guard play. Kenny Wormley deserves a lot of credit for stepping into a tough situation last year. We went 10-5 with Kenny starting, and he played defensive basketball. That's what I want him to do again."

In the backcourt, joining Wormley; who served as the Saints' point guard while Marquis Wright recovered from a foot injury that sidelined him through the majority of MAAC play, will be Kadeem Smithen, who is eligible again after sitting out following his transfer from Richmond.

"I want him to fit in," said Patsos of Smithen. "He's two years out of competition. We need Kadeem, Kenny, Khalil (Richard), and Evan Fisher to be great next year."

Although not a guard, Fisher has drawn rave reviews for his offseason development as he begins his sophomore campaign, and the forward has added a new dimension to the table this year.

"He's shooting the ball really well," Patsos said. "I'll tell you one thing about Evan Fisher: We lost Ryan Oliver, and that scares the hell out of me, but Evan is our best shooter this summer. Highest percentage in shooting drills, executing, reporting back to us, Evan Fisher's our best three-point shooter right now. If that's the case, I might have to use him like Kelly Olynyk. I don't mind it. If he's our best three-point shooter, he's going to play."

"My worry is our shooting, because we lost Ryan Oliver," he admitted. "He's gone, and I don't see a pure shooter out there like him and Rob Poole, but Evan Fisher might be our best shooter, and if we have to play teams with a five man that shoots threes, so be it."

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