The transfer portal has created a deluge of talent moving across the country, and one of the biggest targets is in Syracuse’s backyard. Siena point guard Jalen Pickett is getting major interest from power conference teams. The 6’4″ speedster was the MAAC Player of the Year and according to News 10 in Albany is drawing offers from ACC rivals and others. Virginia and Miami are reportedly interested, as is Maryland, Illinois, Penn State, and UNLV.
According to the report, Pickett’s phone “has been ringing off the hook.” That makes sense. Despite playing at a mid-major, his talents are obvious. He nearly topped a triple-double ten times so far with the Saints. Busting Brackets says, “Pickett is a pure point guard that can shoot and score at an efficient level. He doesn’t have many weaknesses and his overall game translates well to the power conference level.” Jeff Borzello calls him a “big-time playmaker.”
“I don’t have to play at a power five necessarily. I just want to go to a school that can compete and play in the NCAA tournament right away and play with really good players, maybe have a couple NBA prospects on their roster already.” – Jalen Pickett
If Pickett wants to play on a squad with multiple NBA prospects, he probably doesn’t stand much chance finding that outside a high-major. Syracuse certainly has that type of talent. No matter the preseason and mock draft predictions, SU continues to pump out NBA players annually. By the time the ’22 class gets here, the Orange may have brought in one of the best classes in program history.
Siena found a diamond in the rough. Few schools offered Pickett, who was a standout for Aquinas in Rochester. He helped lead Aquinas to the state title as a junior, averaging 20 and 10. He was also AA’s Player of the Year. He donned an Albany City Rocks uniform at the AAU level, and was deemed a 3-star recruit. Siena snatched him up, and now he’s one of the most coveted transfers available. He did a post-graduate year at Ohio’s SPIRE Institute, but Pickett had few offers when he verbally committed as the first Siena recruit for then-head coach Jamion Christian in 2018.
Certainly, Syracuse must have done its due diligence on Pickett in high school. Hard to miss a kid who wins the state title and is the player of the year less than 90 minutes away. There was clearly something SU wasn’t impressed by three years ago. But Pickett has become a standout with those two years of playing time at Siena, and now should be reevaluated.
“One of the nice things, especially about programs at our level, is kids come here and the stay four years and you build up that affinity for them. I remember always having this conversation about Siena, we’ve done well and there have been some semipro teams in the area that always didn’t sustain, and I always thought it’s because you don’t build up an identity with the players. Here you can do that, but now unfortunately we might be losing some of that.” – John D’Argenio, Siena AD
Obviously Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard are two starting guards returning next season. The way Boeheim shot in March means he will be in the starting lineup every night. Will Girard? He went through some mighty slumps. Could Pickett play the point with Buddy manning the shooting guard spot? Does it matter who is the traditional point guard if everyone touches the ball?
The Daily Gazette writes, “When Pickett arrived at Siena, he projected to start his college career playing as somewhat of a secondary ball-handler. A preseason injury to Khalil Richard thrust Pickett into the role as Christian’s lead guard, and Pickett excelled in the Saints’ attack that was pick-and-roll heavy.”
Maybe Pickett doesn’t make a perfect basketball fit at SU, but in building today’s college hoops roster is anything ever perfect? The simple math is, to win programs need plenty of talent. That’s what Pickett is. He is from upstate New York, has played college in Albany, and has high-major teams wanting his services. Could that be enough to move the Orange?