The Siena Saints kick off their 2012-2013 campaign at home as they welcome the Vermont Catamounts to the Times Union Center.  The men’s team will tip-off after 7pm as the second half of a double header that starts with the Siena women facing Fairleigh Dickinson at 5pm.  The Saints invite all military members to come out and watch the home opener on Military Appreciation night as they will get in free with I.D.

This season begins with great anticipation as the Saints return the bulk of their offense and starters from a decimated team that went 14-17 last year.  Hopes are high as the team welcomes a deep and talented incoming freshman class, as well as having Imoh Silas and Lionel Gomis now eligible after sitting out a year due to eligibility issues from the NCAA and a host of other bodies returning from injuries.

Two of those players, however, will have to sit out 3 more games because of violating team rules.  Sophomore guard Rahkeem Brookins, who missed last season because of a herniated disc, and sophomore wing-man Trenity Burdine, who missed last year because of chronic foot injuries, will both have to wait to rejoin the team because of having to sit out a team mandated spell after unspecified rules violations.  Brookins is slated to start as the lead two-guard in the Saints offense, but the debut of the new, speedy and explosive back-court tandem of Brookins and sophomore point guard Evan Hymes will be put on hold for just a while longer.

Saints fans will be excited to welcome back the senior leadership and potent abilities of pre-season MAAC conference Player of the Year senior OD Anosike as he begins his last campaign in the green and gold.  OD led the nation with 13 rebounds a game last year and was second in the nation with 23 double-doubles, and as the only senior on the team he will be asked to continue to be the go-to player of the program.  Projected to join Anosike and Hymes in the starting lineup will be sophomore Rob Poole at the three, junior Davis Martens returning from injury at forward, and possibly freshman Ryan Oliver at shooting guard.  Oliver was recruited as a sharpshooter, and as the last recruit of the class he will be a dynamic and exciting scorer who will be one of many freshman asked to see a lot of action in a season of elevated expectations.  Rob Poole has added some bulk in the off-season, and will be asked to not only improve upon the shooting that he was recruited to provide, but also develop the all-around game that he displayed last year filling up the stat sheet.

The Catamounts come to Albany prepared to build on another successful season last year that saw them go 24-12 overall and win their opening First Four game in Dayton, Ohio against Lamar in the NCAA tournament.  Vermont has 9 20-win seasons in the last 11 years, and the defending America East conference champions look forward to winning yet another conference championship and go dancing again.  The projected starting lineup is full of juniors, and there is balanced size throughout the lineup.  They return about 47% of their scoring, but with size in their starting lineup and in the bodies they are bringing off the bench they are returning 72% of their rebounding and 77% of their assists and should continue to be difficult to contend with on the boards.

Vermont will provide a difficult test for the Saints who are trying to start a much anticipated season in front of their fans at home with a big ‘W.’  Look for 6’6″ junior forward Brian Voekel to step up and take a bigger position of leadership this year – Voekel only scored 5 ppg last year, but the former conference Rookie of the Year and All-Conference performer last year grabbed 9 boards and dished 5 assists per game.  His shooting percentages across the board were not great, but like Siena sophomore Rob Poole Voekel is going to be expected to do a lot of things and step up his game for the team to succeed.  6’7″ junior forward Luke Apfeld is the returning leading scorer, averaging 10 ppg last year.  Apfeld averaged 54% from the field last year, and 44% from three, and will be a tough test for the Saints to contain.  Voekel and Apfeld started all 36 games for the Catamounts last year, so they will be the one-two punch that Vermont is looking for to lead the team this year.

Head coach Mitch Bunoaguro is tasked with continuing to progress the success that the program has seen in years past, but to also helm the process of combining the skills and inexperience of the large freshman class with pieces that he did not have last year.  The out of conference slate is not the toughest the team has ever faced, and should provide the necessary time to allow the team to gel in regards to both chemistry and game plan.  The Saints will face Navy on Sunday in Annapolis before heading out to San Diego on the 16th for the NUCDF Basketball Challenge tournament.  There will be no let-up throughout the non-conference, though, as the team will try to put all the pieces in place getting ready to be competitive for a strong MAAC conference run this season.

Notes

  • The Saints have won 21 of 28 meetings against Vermont, but have lost the last two.
  • The Saints are 38-33 in season openers, but have lost 5 of their last 8.
  • 11 of 14 team members are freshman or sophomores – the Saints have a 4 player freshman class which includes CBA grad Chris Leppenan as a walk-on, who may see action with Brookins on the sidelines the first three games.
  • The Saints are looking to avoid their third consecutive losing season for the first time since 1994-1997.
  • Siena has won five MAAC conference championships since joining in 1989-1990, the most in the conference in that time.  The Saints have also made it to more postseason tournaments in that span, getting to the NCAA tourney 4 times and the NIT three times, highlighted by first round wins over Vanderbilt and Ohio St. in the NCAA tournament, and a third place finish in the NIT in 1994.