LOUDONVILLE — The fronts of their warmup shirts carried a “BLACK LIVES MATTER” message, and the backs of them asked “AM I NEXT?”
During an offseason that saw Siena men’s basketball head coach Carmen Maciariello develop a group called “Coaches 4 Change” with a stated mission to “provide a platform that engages, educates, empowers, and evolves the collegiate student-athlete on issues of social injustices, systemic racism, and the power of voting in the endless pursuit of equality,” the Saints made clear they’d use their court time this season to raise awareness of social issues.
And they followed through with it during their season-opening game Sunday, a 78-77 MAAC win against Monmouth. Besides the messages on their warmups, a message of “MAAC UNITED FOR JUSTICE” was listed in two places on the court at Alumni Recreation Center.
Meanwhile, two Siena players — freshman Colin Golson and junior Jackson Stormo — each took a knee during the national anthem, as did multiple Monmouth players.
Maciariello had said he’d left it up to Siena’s players to decide what messages should go on their warmup tops. Nick Hopkins, a graduate student who transferred to Siena from Belmont, said the Saints had a team discussion and vote to determine the messages that appeared.
“‘Am I next,’ is like, ‘Am I going to be the next victim?’” Hopkins said after Siena’s season-opening win.
Siena has a black uniform it plans to wear this season to bring awareness to social injustices. On Sunday, it wore its traditional home white uniforms.
Perhaps the biggest question facing the Saints heading into this season — besides if they’d ever get to play, which they finally did Sunday — was a simple one: How do they replace Elijah Burns?
For at least one game, Siena’s Stormo and sophomore Kyle Young provided an emphatic answer.
Young had 15 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes, while Stormo — a transfer from Pepperdine — added 11 points in 16 minutes. Graduate student Harrison Curry — a transfer from Detroit Mercy who played some minutes at the 5 — added three points in six minutes.
For nearly all of the game, though, either Stormo or Young was on the court for the Saints.
“I think they really cherish the opportunity to push each other to be the best big-guy tandem in the league,” Maciariello said.
Burns averaged 14.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season. Young played sparingly as a freshman, and worked during the offseason to make sure he was ready to seize the extra playing time available to him this year.
Young’s final basket of Sunday’s game was the bucket that put Siena ahead for good.
“It just proves that it all paid off,” Young said.
THEY FINALLY PLAYED
The Saints’ opener took place on the 40th day of Division I season, and was their first game in 298 days.
According to Siena’s athletic department, the 298-day gap between games was the program’s longest stretch without playing since when Siena “paused activities from 1943-46 due to World War II.”
Since mid-November, Siena had three separate pandemic-related pauses of in-person team activities. Before Sunday’s action, 16 Division I men’s teams across the country had not played a game — and 10 of those teams are not playing at all this season.
Also from information the Siena athletic department provided prior to Sunday’s game, the Saints’ Jan. 3 opener represented the latest in a season the team had debuted — and Monday’s game against Monmouth will serve as the first time Siena has ever played the same opponent on consecutive days.