ALBANY — After a 25-point home loss to College of Charleston on Tuesday night, it was clear during the postgame press conference that Jalen Pickett was disappointed. He did not have a bad night, scoring nine points on 3-9 shooting and had four assists, but he knew that that was not enough.
However, he won’t have many more nights like this. Pickett has what it takes to be a star for Siena and potentially be one of the best players in the conference.
The defense of Charleston locked him down early on Tuesday night, not allowing him to have the ball as much as he would like, and in turn did not allow him to have one of his big nights that have lifted his teams to wins as they reach the latter games of non-conference play. Early on, it was clear that he would be great, scoring 19 points, five rebounds and six assists in his second collegiate game, a road win against George Washington on November 8. He has scored 20+ points four times already this season, including 25 in his home debut against Lehigh, and a season-high 27 against Hofstra on the road, where he posted his first double-double as a college player.
Last night against Charleston, it was different. We saw a different Jalen Pickett, one that was a more past-first guard and set up open looks for his teammates. One play, late in the first half, was a great example of him doing so. He nearly was pick-pocketed, stayed with the play and got the ball away with a nice pass to Kevin Degnan. Degnan missed a three, but Manny Camper put the ball back for a score. In that play, it was apparent that Pickett is not a player to give up on a play. Another play, early in the second half, was a great pass from the three-point line to down low, where it led to an Evan Fisher layup, an easy two points for the Saints.
“I’m just trying to make the right play every time down, just see who’s open, try and deliver the ball, If I have a shot I want to take it, but with the reads we have on offense, I’m trying to make the right read every time,” Pickett said following Tuesday’s game.
When he does get an open look, especially from behind the three-point arc, there’s a good chance that it will go in. He’s shooting 45.8% this year in total, and 35.9% from three. This is coming from a freshman, and it very much becoming a star on the team. He has already earned recognition from the MAAC, being named both the player and the rookie of the week on December 3.
Pickett was the first player that committed to first-year coach Jamion Christian, committing on May 10, just eight days after Christian was hired. Pickett attended Aquinas in Rochester before spending last season at SPIRE Institute in Ohio.
“The one thing that’s great with Jalen is he takes that challenge on, getting better every single day and really locks into doing that. His ability to pass the ball and score it and be aggressive as he continues to find this nuance with his game, he’s going to be a really special player for us,” Christian said Tuesday night.
Pickett added, “I think I’ve been progressing well, teams are now (figuring) out what we’re doing, forcing us to do some different things, so I just have to keep going back and watching film, see what we can do to be better on that side of the floor, and also keep trying to improve my defense every day.”
Pickett is already a great player for the Saints, but it seems like he is just getting started.