Photo: Hans Pennink, Times Union
When Siena guard Braedon Bayer transferred from Syracuse last summer, he became roommates with guard Kadeem Smithen.
Bayer knew something about special athletes, having been around them for the past two seasons with the Orange in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
He recognized the gifts of Smithen, whom Bayer called “super athletic, a freak, in my opinion.”
“I knew he was good from the get-go,” Bayer said. “He was my roommate and I was always like, yo, you should be able to score 10 or 15 a game at least, with the way you’re athletic and the way he can shoot the ball and add stuff for us.”
It took a while for Smithen to scratch his potential, but he’s starting to do exactly that for the Saints, coming off a weekend sweep at Manhattan and Rider. He averaged 12.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 steals as Siena (13-12 overall, 8-4 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) extended its winning streak to four games.
He also grabbed a pair of crucial defensive rebounds in the final minute of the 59-57 win over the Broncs.
“Whatever it takes for Siena to win,” Smithen said. “Taking the opportunities that are given to me on the court and me trusting in my teammates that they’ll find me and I’ll find them. We all have confidence in ourselves. Nothing new, to be honest.”
Smithen said recently it’s the most fun he’s had playing college basketball, though he stressed he never really lost the enjoyment, even when the Saints went 8-24 last season. He could have transferred after last season but opted to stay.
“I’m just having a little bit more fun on the court,” he said. “The fun has never really been lost or gone.”
He credited new head coach Jamion Christian with bringing the best out of him.
“He’s made me feel more relaxed on the court,” Smithen said. “He’s got confidence, and I think that’s built more confidence in myself on the court. It’s evident when I play now. You can see it. I can talk to him about anything. I think that really helps.”
Smithen moved into a townhouse this semester, but Bayer said he’s happy to see his former roommate thriving.
“I think (he’s got) confidence now that he’s gotten his chance a little bit more and his minutes have started going up,” Bayer said. “He sees he can score every time he touches the ball, and I think he’s seeing that the last couple of games. I hope it keeps going up for him.”
Fisher, Pickett sweep MAAC weekly honors
Siena senior forward Evan Fisher and freshman point guard Jalen Pickett were named MAAC Player and Rookie of the Week, respectively, on Monday.
Fisher averaged 19 points and six rebounds in the wins over Manhattan and Rider to win Player of the Week for the second time this season. Pickett averaged 10 points, four assists and 3.7 steals in the two victories to get Rookie of the Week for the eighth time this season.
With that, Pickett tied the program record set by then-freshman Kenny Hasbrouck during the 2005-06 season. Hasbrouck won Rookie of the Year that season and Pickett is a lock to do the same this year.
Siena players put in extra work on the road
When Siena is on the road, about a half-dozen players and assistant coach Graham Bousley take a bus over to the arena 2 1/2 hours before tip-off to get in extra work, an hour earlier than their teammates.
The group includes starters Kevin Degnan and Sloan Seymour, who want to get familiar with shooting in a different building, and others who don’t play much: graduate guard Braedon Bayer, freshman guard Georges Darwiche, freshman walk-on forward Robert Mahala and sophomore walk-on forward Denzel Tchougang.
Darwiche and Bayer go hard through full-court ball-handling drills while Tchougang fine-tunes his footwork in the low post.
Bousley said it’s done on a volunteer basis.
“It’s awesome they have the drive to get better and that’s kind of what we try to focus on, everybody developing and getting better,” Bousley said. “You never know when your number is going to be called. We’ve had guys get injured this year and different guys in the lineup so they’re always on the edge of their seats to make sure they do whatever they can do to be ready to go.”
Bousley said the method is modeled upon what NBA players do when they’re not playing much.
“Just get a sweat in, a warmup before the game to be ready,” Bayer said. “That’s what it was at Syracuse. I had to deal with the same stuff. I’d be working out a lot before the games, just to maintain and keep everything tight.”
Updates offered on injured Friday, Ratliff
Jamion Christian said he hasn’t ruled out a return for junior forward Sammy Friday, who’s been out since mid-December following knee surgery.
Christian indicated a decision should be made by next week whether to redshirt Friday.
“We’ll continue to evaluate that,” Christian said. “He’s worked really hard to get back for his teammates.”
Meanwhile, redshirt freshman forward Jimmy Ratliff had the cast removed from his fractured pinky finger last week. He hasn’t played since early January.
“We’ll know a little bit more this week,” Ratliff said. “We expect him to be back within a short time frame, hopefully.”
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