In a little more than a year, Luke Sutherland saw the coach he committed to play for at Siena leave, reaffirmed his intention to play for the Saints, then acknowledged it was time to move on after a freshman season that saw him sparingly play.
No part of that was easy. The 19-year-old Sutherland, though, voiced no regrets in a recent phone interview about how things played out for him at Siena.
“At the end of it all,” Sutherland said, “I don’t think I would have done anything different.”
Sutherland entered the NCAA transfer portal last Wednesday and committed Friday to continue his career at Bryant of the Northeast Conference. During his lone season at Siena playing for head coach Carmen Maciariello, Sutherland appeared in seven games, scoring five points and grabbing seven rebounds in 34 total minutes.
Obviously, that didn’t amount to the type of on-court career he intended to put together at Siena after a high school career at West Genesee that saw him lead his squad to a Class AA state championship as a senior. Days before the final game of Sutherland’s high school career was when Jamion Christian departed Siena to coach at George Washington, and that final game was played at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls. Following his team’s loss in the semifinals of the Federation Basketball Tournament of Champions, Sutherland received a big hug from Maciariello. Later that night, Sutherland said he appreciated that Maciariello — not yet named Siena’s next head coach — had come to watch him play and was there for him as the Saints’ program went through its coaching transition.
“He’s going through this as much as I am,” Sutherland said that night.
The stylistic shift the Saints made in moving from Christian to Maciariello leading them, though, was perhaps best seen through how things went for Sutherland. In Christian’s system that relied so heavily on 3-point shooting and favored getting as much height on the court as possible, Sutherland had a natural role as a 3 or 4 capable of stretching the floor. With Maciariello at the helm, Sutherland struggled to fit into Siena’s guard-heavy approach that requires players to be able to attack off the dribble and defend multiple positions.
Sutherland “completely understood” that his game didn’t quite fit.
“I think if I wanted to eventually play an impact role [at Siena], the only way that would have been possible for me was probably to play the 5,” Sutherland said.
He stayed positive throughout the season, and was visibly enthusiastic and engaged on the team’s bench as the Saints produced a 20-10 season in which they finished atop the MAAC.
“I’ve always been told you can control your attitude and your effort,” Sutherland said.
He described himself as “grateful” for the season he spent with the Saints. Sutherland said he remains in touch with most of his now-former teammates, and communicates “every day” with sophomores Georges Darwiche — who also left Siena as a transfer — and Jalen Pickett, and fellow freshman Gary Harris who served as Sutherland’s roommate before the campus was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was lucky enough to have some of the best teammates in the world,” Sutherland said. “That’s the hardest part of leaving.”
He’s excited, though, to join Bryant, whose coaches he was already familiar with from his high school recruitment before he heard from them after he entered into the transfer portal. Bryant freshman Charles Pride — another Syracuse kid — is a friend of Sutherland’s, and the playing system at the school will allow Sutherland chances to earn minutes at multiple positions.
With the NCAA considering a rule change that could allow transfers to gain instant eligibility, Sutherland might end up with a clear path to playing right away. If he has to sit out, though, he said he plans to make the most of the year without games.
“If I do have to sit, I’m going to look at making it the biggest developmental year I can have,” Sutherland said. “I’m going to make that my mission.”
Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.