After averaging 9.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in 31 games a season ago, Siena forward Javion Ogunyemi made the decision to transfer from the MAAC program. The Troy, New York native would eventually choose Boston University, but the tragic death of his cousin led to Ogunyemi’s decision to return to Siena after six weeks of summer school.
The question basketball-wise was whether or not Ogunyemi would have to miss any time, and Friday the school announced that the 6-foot-8 junior is immediately eligible for competition.
That’s big news for Siena, which now has another proven player in its front court to play alongside the likes of Brett Bisping and Imoh Silas. And with both of those players coming off of injuries that either cut their season short (Bisping) or ended it before it even began (Silas), having Ogunyemi available from the start is an important development for a team that aims to contend in the MAAC.
Siena, which now returns five of its top six scorers from a season ago, was picked to finish fifth in the MAAC preseason coaches poll earlier this month.
Siena junior forward Brett Bisping will sit out the remainder of the 2014-15 season, according to a release from the school. The 6-foot-8 Bisping had a dislocation at the metatarsal phalangeal, and an avulsion fracture of the flexor tendon in his right foot. The injuries occured early in the season for Siena on Dec. 5 and Bisping hasn’t properly recovered since having surgery on Dec. 12.
Bisping has not regained full mobility to his foot and will sit out the season before requesting a Medical Hardship Waiver. If the waiver is granted, Bisping would have two years left.
One of the stronger mid-major players down the stretch last season, Bisping was MVP of the College Basketball Invitational and averaged 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in his sophomore season. At the start of his junior year, Bisping was averaging 8.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game before getting hurt.
Without Bisping in the lineup, Siena has struggled to a 9-14 record on the season and a 6-8 start in the MAAC.
After dropping their first two games of the season the Siena Saints have won three of their last four, most recently beating Quinnipiac 88-67 in the MAAC opener for both Friday night. Unfortunately for head coach Jimmy Patsos the victory was a costly one, as senior forward Brett Bisping went down with a dislocated toe on his right foot.
According to a report from Mark Singelais of the Albany Times-Union, the injury is expected to sideline the starter for at least a month.
“We’re going to need them because Brett Bisping’s hurt and he’s going to be out at least a month,” Patsos said. “I don’t know what it is. I’m not a doctor. But I said, `Hammer (Siena athletic trainer Greg Dashnaw’s nickname), week or a month?’ A month, and there wasn’t hesitation. So we’ll see if our depth plays in.”
Bisping’s averaging 8.7 points and 4.7 rebounds in 23.5 minutes of action per game, and he contributed seven points and three rebounds in 16 minutes before leaving the Quinnipiac game with the aforementioned foot injury. Without him in the fold the Saints will look to 6-foot-8 freshman Willem Brandwijk for increased production.
Brandwijk’s started three of Siena’s six games to date, accounting for 3.3 points and 1.5 rebounds in just under nine minutes of action per game. With Bisping sidelined, Brandwijk’s production as a rebounder will be key with Lavon Long (6.3 rpg) and Rob Poole (5.2) being the team’s leading rebounders.
Some may snark that the College Basketball Invitational isn’t a true postseason tournament, but the CBI affords teams to continue their season for up to six games, furthering development especially for teams chock full of underclassmen. For the two finalists in this season’s CBI — Fresno State and Siena — those six games were crucial: both teams are among the least experienced in DI (only ten teams had fewer returning minutes than Siena), and the extra games allowed both Rodney Terry and Jimmy Patsos more minutes to work with their teams before the offseason starts. After a deadlocked start to the tournament, the deciding game tilted in the Saints’ favor, and the MAAC squad took the 2014 CBI title, 81-68.
It has been some time since Siena was a factor in the MAAC race. When Fran McCaffery left Loudonville for Iowa, the program was turned over to longtime assistant Mitch Buonaguro, and while Buonaguro struggled to keep the squad relevant in conference play (Siena never finished above .500 during his three seasons), he did bring some talent to the school. As Patsos noted during the finale’s post-game presser, “Mitch Buonaguo left us some good players.”
More importantly, those good players are, for the moment, all returning next season. The team is bereft of seniors, and the team’s most efficient and high usage players — Lavon Long, Brett Bisping, and Rob Poole — are all scheduled to be back. Siena was picked to finish ninth (out of eleven squads) in the MAAC’s preseason poll, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Saints are ranked in the top half of the league in 2014-15. Siena isn’t a dark-horse — as evidenced by their CBI performances, this team isn’t sneaking up on anyone — and an extra offseason and year under Patsos’ tutelage should further transform this team into one that could easily challenge Manhattan, Quinnipiac, and Iona for the league title.