COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Siena picks up a gem

Tchougang discovered on campus

BY MICHAEL KELLY Gazette Sports Editor
 
 LOUDONVILLE — It was a question more than a few Siena College men’s basketball players asked each other during the first several weeks of the fall semester.
 
 “Did you see that guy?”
 
 That was how members of the Siena team reacted when they first saw Denzel Tchougang. They didn’t know his name, but seeing a 6-foot-10 guy walking around campus certainly got them talking.
 
 “We see’d him, and he’d just be playing pick-up basketball with some of the students on campus,” Siena junior Thomas Huerter said, “and he obviously just didn’t belong there — in a good way.”
 
 Instead, Tchougang belonged on Siena’s roster. Eventually, after a walk-on tryout, that is where Tchougang ended up. A native of Switzerland who spent last year at Cypress College, Tchougang recruited himself to Siena with emails to the coaching staff.
 
 “Really, he just kind of showed up,” Siena head coach Jamion Christian said. “We get a lot of these kinds of emails, and we follow up on all of them because you never know. Plus, he’d already been accepted into school here, too.”
 
 A family friend had helped initially pique Tchougang’s interest in Siena, and the 20-year-old had planned to transfer to Siena after spending his freshman year at Cypress, where he averaged 2.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. When the coaching switch happened from Jimmy Patsos to Christian, Tchougang started contacting Christian and Siena assistant coach Graham Bousley.
 
 “I really wanted to join the team and I kept emailing coach Bousley,” Tchougang said. “I sent a lot of emails. Just hoping to get noticed.”
 
 Obviously, Tchougang’s height stuck out. More than anything, that earned Tchougang — now the tallest player on Siena’s roster — the chance to try out. As he waited for that opportunity, though, Tchougang had to keep in shape by playing pick-up hoops on campus with whichever students were in the gym that day.
 
 “And that was more those people playing for fun, and I was there trying to improve,” Tchougang said with a laugh. “Some of those people were there more for joking around.”
 
 Tchougang ended up joining Siena’s roster just as Ahsante Shivers departed from the program a few days into the preseason.
 
 If it hadn’t worked out?
 
 Well, Tchougang said, he would have happily continued dominating Siena’s pickup basketball scene.
 
 “Definitely. That was the plan. If it didn’t work out for me to be on the team, this school is great academically and I’d just be happy to be here,” Tchougang said. “But, now I’m even more happy.”
 
Reach Michael Kelly at mkelly@dailygazette.net or @ByMichaelKelly on
 
Twitter.
ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Siena’s Denzel Tchougang dunks the basketball during practice at media day last Friday.