The Siena Heights men's basketball team is set to open its 2016-17 season on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at Great Lakes Christian with a 7 p.m. tipoff. The Saints are coming off a 11-20 season in 2015-16. Head coach Joe Pechota, entering his fifth season, has high expectations for the team this year.
The Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference has ranked the Saints ninth in the preseason poll. On top is Davenport, who ranked third in the NAIA DII Preseason Poll. In second is Cornerstone, ranking eighth in the NAIA.
"This is the most experienced group I've had since I've been here," Pechota says. "Starting in spring workouts, these guys have done a tremendous job in continuing to work, buy-in and believe in each other. Our senior leadership and captains have been great. When you get that, along with guys who have been there and done that, you have guys becoming more invested in the program and themselves."
Pechota has mentioned that his captains and leaders Tony Jackson II, Trevor Holston, and Jerrell Martin have done an incredible job and says that the team is believing in each other and mentioned how it is all about the team chemistry and the cohesion.
A key returner to look out for is Holston, who Pechota believes has greatly improved his game. He can emerge as a sixth man or impact role man in the starting lineup at times. Holston appeared in 32 games last season and averaged 3.2 rebounds a game while averaging 3.9 points per game. He also had eight blocks and steals for the Saints.
Martin will be a big factor as he appeared and started in 31 games last season. He also led the team with 40 blocks and 198 total rebounds while finishing second in points per game. The senior finished last season on the All-WHAC Defensive Team.
Christopher Pearl is another returner to watch out for as Pechota believes will be a "next level player" for the Saints this year. Pearl appeared in 26 games and started in 22 of them for SHU. He was 51-76 at the free-throw line, led the team with 39 steals and averaged 8 points a game.
Nick Randle is coming off of a broken finger which caused him to redshirt last season but Pechota does not think that will slow him down any and states that he believes that Randle has really gained a different perspective and grown mentally.
Key players that are coming in to look out for are Jon Hovermale and Kevin Smith II. When asked about these players, Pechota said, "They are two guys that can shoot that that's a big key that the team lacked trendmously last season."
"I'm excited and I'm kind of anxious to see what we can do," admits Pechota. He stated, "It's like Christmas, you have your gifts under the tree and you cannot wait to see what you get." As for now Pechota is not looking too far down the road on the schedule. His short-term goal right now is to win what is important now and to focus on the small targets ahead and to build off of those targets throughout the season.