Over the past four years, men’s basketball players like Isaiah Armwood, Maurice Creek, Alex Mitola and Tyler Cavanaugh have all arrived in Foggy Bottom after transferring from other programs.
All four of them became some of the program’s biggest names during their first seasons as Colonials.
Redshirt junior guard Jaren Sina and graduate student guard Patrick Steeves join that group as highly touted transfers eligible to play this season. Both of them come into the 2016 preseason expected to be top contributors on a Colonials team with only five returning members.
Sina, who comes off two seasons in Seton Hall’s backcourt, has been considered the next in line for the point guard position since he first stepped on campus.
Steeves, who competed in only one season during his four years at Harvard, was targeted by numerous competitive Division I schools as a key transfer with two years of eligibility remaining.
In mid-September, when GW announced former head coach Mike Lonergan’s dismissal and the transition to interim head coach Maurice Joseph at the helm, it was unclear whether everyone would stay with the team.
All of that anxiety was squashed once practices started and every player, including Sina and Steeves, were moving forward as one, less than two months away from the season.
“The only thing that worried me was thinking about guys who might leave, but nobody has done that – everybody has stayed together,” Steeves said. “Coach Joseph has done a great job keeping us together and making sure the culture around the program is great, upbeat, optimistic and that we are just focused on us.”
The atmosphere that the players have created and the attitudes they bring to the floor is what both Sina and Steeves say brought them to GW in the first place, even though it is not a power conference program.
“The biggest thing about GW was the guys,” Sina said. “Going on my visit I just fell in love with the guys on the team. I think they are just good dudes and guys that I wanted to play with.”
For Sina, this season comes after a yearlong wait, due to NCAA rules that force transfers to sit out a season. Although he can’t wait to get back out on the floor, Sina said he is glad that he had a year to improve his game and get to know the system.
“It really helped me out a lot,” Sina said. “Mentally, just getting to work on some different things on the court in my game and also just being a leader. I really got to find my role on the team. Me voicing opinions on the floor is really helping the team right now.”
Sina will likely play his first game in a GW uniform as the starting point guard and the primary distributor on the floor. Joseph said he is counting on him to control the pace of the game and play at a very high level right away because of how much he has been impressed by his abilities so far.
“Jaren Sina has solidified himself as our guy who will be handling the ball,” Joseph said. “He has been great in practice, from a leadership standpoint, from an execution standpoint and from getting guys involved standpoint.”
As the one guard, Sina takes over a position that had been occupied during the last four years by Joe McDonald, a 2016 graduate and newly hired director of player development.
McDonald was a strong player that prided himself on rebounding and asserting himself physically with his opposition. Although Sina is more of a sharpshooter and distributor, he said he has tried to learn as much as possible from him.
“It was great that I got to watch [McDonald] play last year, but it is even better now since he has joined the staff,” Sina said. “He is someone I consider a mentor.”
Sina brings a unique perspective to the GW roster after being named to the first-ever Kosovo national basketball team and playing with them in the EuroBasket 2017 qualifiers. It allowed him to get minutes on the court against real competition, including facing off against NBA starter Goran Dragić before the Colonials’ season tips off.
Similar to Mitola last year, Steeves was able to take advantage of the graduate transfer rules and forgo skipping a season by graduating with a degree from Harvard.
His 6-foot-8-inch, 232-pound frame will likely occupy a role on the floor that is unique to someone with his balanced skill set. He has the shooting ability and the lateral quickness to play on the wing and to guard shorter players, while having enough size to find himself in the post, which should help the Colonials to play big and take advantage of smaller defenders.
Although only finding the floor in one year of his college career so far, the 21-year-old is now going into his fifth season in a Division I basketball program and said he has learned a lot.
Steeves said the basketball knowledge that he has collected over the years is one of the most important things he can bring to the team this year.
“I was hurt for a while, but having spent four years on a college basketball program, I’ve seen a lot of things,” Steeves said. “Last year as a senior I was in a lot of game action, played a lot of good teams, so I think I can bring some experience to the table.”
GW’s schedule will allow Steeves to return to Cambridge, Mass. less than a month from now. He said he is ready to show off his ability to play with his new teammates, while facing off against his former ones.
“I am so excited to go back down there,” Steeves said. “Obviously I am talking a little bit of trash with some guys down there already, and I think it is just going to be a great environment and a great game.”