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FTO: Siena Saints Head Coach Mitch Buonaguro

The Siena Saints recently held an open tryout, and we took some time to sit down and talk about that as well as the upcoming season with the team's fearless coach and leader. Makes for a nice tie-in to their first Midnight Madness in 14 years

Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Mid-Major Madness: Has Siena always had open tryouts? What's it all about?

Coach Buonaguro: It's certainly always been the case while I've been coach here. I want to reach out to the student body - I think it creates good will. Even if you (only) get eight or nine guys to try out, that's a big deal for them to try out, and maybe then they start to follow the team, become fans.

MMM: What are you looking for during the course of the tryout? FIlling any particular position? Looking for depth?

CB: Let's say we were down on numbers, yeah we'd be looking for depth, but the kid has to be able to bring something to the practice. A walk-on, their expectation has to be different, it has to be not to play. If I was going to put one of them on the team, I would tell them "you're going to be more of a practice player, and sometimes you may not even play in practice."

It's important that they have an understanding of the role - being a good guy who plays hard and brings it in practice, helping to make everyone else better. If there's an opening, or maybe there is a kid I've known or had some info about, I might give some consideration to him, but you still have to ask - does he fit? Do we have a spot?

MMM: Did you find what you were looking for?

CB: Well, we're in a different situation this year. We went into the tryout not thinking we needed to add anyone. Last year we were down in numbers, and this year someone would really have to turn my head because of numbers.

We had 16 kids try out, and it's not that there weren't nice kids, and they played hard, but I didn't think (any of the players) would add something. I dont know if we'll keep anybody, hopefully we have what we need in spite of that.

MMM: You have several players (Davis Martens, Rakeem Brookins, Trenity Burdine) returning this season after a year off, what's the lay of the roster?

We had 16 kids try out...but I didn't think (any of the players) would add something.
- Coach Mitch Buonaguro
On open tryout results

CB: There were season-ending injuries for those three, plus two young guys who were impacted by NCAA eligibility, and that now gives us eight guys that weren't on the team last year. That said, this year's coaching should be much easier, since three players (O.D. Anosike, Evan Hymes, and Rob Poole) have been in the system rather than starting completely from scratch.

The addition of Brookins is a major piece, and the other starting spot is up for grabs and is in competition; I also have got four guys (and Rakeem) that have played a lot of minutes, which makes a difference. Last year's dynamic was very different - we had no subs, and this year we have that and will need to figure out how it fits together.

MMM: O.D. Anosike has very clearly grown as a player in his time at Siena; what are you expecting him to develop this season that he hasn't done previously?

CB: Well, number one he's going to be better away from the basket and shooting free throws (career best 56% last season). He's done yeoman's work inside for us the last couple years, but now he'll be expected to keep stepping it up. I'm hoping to rely on him for more points, and he understands that (how teams may try to lean on his free throw weakness to keep his numbers down).

MMM: Evan Hymes played significant minutes (36.9 mpg) as a freshman, where do you see his game growing this season?

CB: Well, you usually improve dramatically from your freshman to your sophomore year anyways, but with him we've talked a lot about his decision making. His talent, quickness, and scoring are all there, so in his case it would be taking care of the ball.

Everyone could find something specific to work on - for instance, Rob Poole played lots of minutes last season but his shooting was very inconsistent - so he has been working to become a better three point shooter.

MMM: What will those who are familiar with your team be surprised at when they get a look at the squad in game action?

CB: I think they'll be surprised at the young players we have; the two transfers, (Imoh) Silas and (Lionel) Gomis, and the three freshman. The "X-factor" would be the younger players - Silas can be an impact guy right away and Gomis and the other freshmen give us some depth.