WASHINGTON, D.C. — The energy was different around the Siena men’s basketball team Friday night.
The reason was easy to pinpoint.
Andrew Platek, whose status with the Saints has been a question for months, finally was officially added Friday afternoon to the program’s roster — and the former Guilderland High School standout showed in an 83-65 win for Georgetown at Capital One Arena that he’s capable of providing a major boost to a Siena team that needed one.
“It was awesome getting back out there,” Platek said after making his debut for Carmen Maciariello’s Siena program. “I love this game so much. I love playing with these guys and I think we can put in the work to turn this thing around. I’m sure of it.”
Siena announced several hours before Friday’s loss that Platek had gained the necessary NCAA waivers and could play against Georgetown. All along, there had been little clarity regarding the situation of Platek, who spent the last four seasons playing for North Carolina and had enrolled at Siena for the fall semester, but much of that was cleared up Friday.
In the end, a combination of factors led to Platek needing two separate waivers to play this season for Siena. In short, he took too few credits during his final spring semester at North Carolina and had played in an unsanctioned summer league, and both those situations — plus the issue of him needing to enter formally into the NCAA transfer portal — led to the delayed start to his fifth season of college basketball.
Officially — and, semi-retroactively — Platek needed to sit out Siena’s first three games as the final piece to earn his final year of playing eligibility. Siena actually learned Tuesday afternoon that Platek would be able to play as soon as Friday, but he needed to sit out the Saints’ game against Yale that Tuesday night to complete his regaining-eligibility process.
“Thankfully,” Platek said, “we’ve got that all resolved.”
Platek had been practicing with the team since Oct. 27.
Platek said he dealt with “some personal troubles” during his final semester at North Carolina, and had briefly stopped playing basketball on his own following his final season with the Tar Heels. He said he thought his college basketball career was over, but the opportunity with Siena changed that for a player who said he’d “lost my love for the game” last season.
“But I found it again thanks to coach Carm and thanks to the staff,” Platek said.
In his first game for the Saints, Platek came off the bench and registered 12 points, five assists and three rebounds in 24 minutes. He didn’t cure everything that ails Siena. But after three games that saw the Saints run off the floor following halftime each night, Siena played with heart for 40 minutes Friday on the home court of a Big East team three days after Yale trounced the Saints on their home court in Albany by 28 points.
“These guys were connected. They were having fun — and it was a fun game to coach, even though we lost,” Maciariello said.
In the next breath, Maciariello acknowledged that he knows Siena “fans don’t want to hear that.” But Friday’s game, unmistakably, represented a positive step forward for the Saints. Jackson Stormo produced a career-best night with 25 points and 11 rebounds, Siena out-rebounded Georgetown 35-29 and the Saints played like a team that shouldn’t be given up on despite their string of double-digit defeats.
“We did a lot of things much better tonight,” Stormo said.
Siena (0-4) trailed Georgetown (2-1) 44-34 after the first half, which closed with Platek making a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer. The Saints had several strong moments in the first half — and Platek was involved in most of them — but Georgetown’s overall athleticism and length often overwhelmed its visitors from the MAAC. The Big East program scored 11 points off Siena’s eight first-half turnovers, and the Hoyas scored 16 points in the paint in the first 20 minutes. While Siena shot a respectable 13 of 29 from the field, Georgetown made 16 of 28 shots — including 7 of 11 from 3-point territory — as it built up its 10-point lead.
In the second half, Siena went cold from 3-point territory and Georgetown stayed hot. Siena missed its first 13 attempts from downtown after halftime, while Georgetown made another 5 of 7 from 3.
Kaiden Rice had the best game for Georgetown with 23 points on 8 of 11 shooting, while former Siena player Don Carey added 20 points on 7 of 9 shooting.
“He’s put in a lot of hours in the gym, so all of his hard work is paying off,” Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing said of Carey.
“He looks awesome,” Maciariello said of his former player.
Ewing — whose coaching staff includes former Siena head coach Louis Orr — also had strong praise for Stormo.
“He played great. I mean, double-double,” said Ewing, the former star center for the New York Knicks. “We knew he was skilled. I didn’t think he would’ve gotten 25 points and 11 rebounds. The five offensive rebounds definitely hurt. [Georgetown’s centers are] much bigger than he is, but he played a great game for them.”
Besides Stormo and Platek — who often worked a solid two-man game — Siena received double-digit scoring from Colby Rogers, who had 11 points on 4 of 13 shooting.
With another tough non-conference game looming Monday against Harvard, things don’t get much easier for the Saints. The team’s roster, though, needed a spark — and Platek looked plenty capable of providing one moving forward. Moving him into the starting lineup sooner than later seems inevitable, and Platek said he’s thrilled to get the chance to contribute in a major way for the Saints.
“I still got it,” Platek said, “and I still have more to give.”