October 29, 2020

Lions experience disappointing season and look to improve

Senior forward Steve Siracusa. (Tom O’Dell / Photo Editor)

The College’s men’s basketball team had a rough season, finishing 4-21 on the year.

The issue for most of the season was size and rebounding, and that’s something that the team will look to improve in the off-season.

“We have to improve,” head coach Kelly Williams said. “I mean, I’m expecting to improve, and we’re going to see how we can upgrade in different areas. Right now, obviously we’re losing Steve Siracusa, and we have to find some kind of rebounding presence, and we have to be a little more consistent across the board.”

Siracusa, the senior forward who leaves the College as one of only seven players to ever eclipse the 500 rebound mark, will leave a huge void in the Lions’ front line. More impressive is the fact that he accomplished all of his achievements with the team in only three years of playing.

“We lost a warrior, in regards to not being able to have him and his rebounding prowess, and his presence,” Williams said. “He’s a great teammate, easy to coach, wants to get better, and always kept the team first. Nowadays that’s hard to find in players, but he really embodies what’s good about a student athlete.”

Sophomore guard Donovan Smalls, who led the team in scoring this year with an average of 12.8 points per game, has been playing with Siracusa since grade school.

“He meant a lot (to the team),” Smalls said of Siracusa. “I mean, I’ve been playing with Steve ever since I was young, like 10 maybe. He’s been the same person, always trying to outwork the opponent, and he definitely meant a lot to our team because he can probably play all positions. He just bought into our system and played whatever coach told him to and did his best.”

Siracusa finished the season as the best all-around player on the team, averaging a team-leading nine rebounds per game, 10.2 points per game (second on the team) and 2.1 assists per game (second on the team). He also led the team with 50 steals for the year.

“I just had a great time with my teammates,” Siracusa said. “This whole program, the College, the coaches, you know, I just couldn’t thank everyone around here enough for the experience.

“I think that’s what I’m most proud of and most happy about is just our team, just everyone here, just great, great people.”

Williams will now be looking to improve the team’s center and power forward spots in the off-season through some recruiting, in order to try to replace Siracusa’s rebounding and inside scoring prowess.

“We’re involved with at least five or six guys,” Williams said. “We’re also looking the (junior college) route as well to give us a little more power, obviously. We’re looking to find some guys that are bigger bodies, stronger, more NJAC-ready.”

For the existing players, Williams says that it’s all about keeping up the hard work through the off-season.

“The tough part is the commitment level that we’re going to have to have in the off-season,” Williams said. “We’re going to have to upgrade, and we have to take things to another level for us to be successful.”

Smalls believes that for the team to be successful next season, the players all need to play solid defense.

“Well definitely for me and for the rest of us, we need to all buy into the defensive concept of the game,” Smalls said. “You know, our offense will always come, but our defense has to be there every game. We might have an off night offensively, but our defense has to be there every night, and I think everyone has to be committed over the summer to get better, stronger.”

As important as planning for next season is, right now it’s all about one of the best players to ever play for the College graduating. Even though this season did not produce a great record, it meant more than that to Siracusa.

“Obviously you want to win every game you play, but the memories and friendships that you take out of it will last a lifetime,” Siracusa said. “I just can’t thank everyone enough.”

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