LOUDONVILLE — It was a social-media post that appeared to contain two pieces of positive news for Siena men’s basketball fans Friday evening.
“Very blessed and thankful for the next step in this journey,” read the tweet from Jayce Johnson. “Excited to announce that I’ll be going to Siena next year to play for @CoachCarm.”
That’s Carmen Maciariello, who has been linked in recent days to the open coaching position at Fordham. In a brief phone interview Friday night, Maciariello didn’t directly comment on those rumors.
“I’m the coach at Siena,” said Maciariello, who has two years left on his current contract with the Saints.
And that coach has apparently been actively recruiting for Siena after declaring that the Saints “need to get better” after falling short in this year’s MAAC tournament.
A Buffalo native who played his first three seasons of college basketball at Middle Tennessee of Conference USA, Johnson said Maciariello addressed with him the rumors about the open Fordham job.
“And he said he’s ready to bring me on board at Siena,” Johnson said during a phone interview.
The Fordham coaching search has heated up in recent days, at the very least in terms of its intensity in media reports. Maciariello has ranged from reportedly being in the mix to being a finalist at the Atlantic 10 Conference competitor. More recent reports, though, suggested that Villanova assistant coach Kyle Neptune had emerged as the favorite for the Fordham job.
Johnson averaged 5.7 points in 20.4 minutes per game as a junior at Middle Tennessee, which finished 5-18 this past season. In three seasons at the school, the 20-year-old Johnson averaged seven points and 4.7 rebounds in 24.8 minutes per game.
He has two seasons of playing eligibility remaining. At the moment, Johnson would require a waiver to play right away for the Saints, but it still appears possible — bordering on likely — that the NCAA will adopt in the next few months a proposal that allows all NCAA athletes to transfer one time without needing to sit out a season.
“I just want to come in and contribute, and help the team win right away,” Johnson said.
A graduate of Canisius High School, Johnson was originally set to play college football at Wagner. When he opted to pursue a college basketball career, he said Maciariello — then a Siena assistant — heavily recruited him. Once Johnson entered into the NCAA transfer portal earlier this week, it didn’t take long for Johnson to decide to head to Siena.
“With the season just ending, it was, of course, a little hectic,” Johnson said. “But once my name got out there, I got a couple calls, but coach Carm was first on the scene and he’s been talking to me every day since. I’ve just been excited that I’m going to be able to join the team.”
At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, Johnson — if he’s able to play right away at Siena — should offer immediate minutes on the wing for the Saints, who lost earlier this week the reigning MAAC Player of the Year when Manny Camper opted to pursue a professional career rather than use his last year of college eligibility.
Siena won a share of the MAAC regular-season championship before bowing out in the quarterfinals of the MAAC tournament. Johnson said his goal is to help push the Saints back into the NCAA tournament they’ve had to watch since last appearing in 2010.
“Coach Carm, he’s coming off a regular-season championship and I want to help those guys get to that next level so we can be playing at this time of the year, in the tournament,” Johnson said.