LOUDONVILLE — The Siena men’s basketball team was picked in the preseason to finish in eighth place in the MAAC, then finished in third before suffering an early exit from the league tournament last week.
As a whole, that means the Saints didn’t get to where they needed to be during the 2021-22 season, head coach Carmen Maciariello said Friday.
“For me, that’s not good enough,” Maciariello said a week and a day after the Saints’ season-ending loss in the quarterfinals to Quinnipiac “We want to win the league and be in the NCAA tournament.”
Like with any season, there were circumstances that popped up that got in the way of the Saints’ goal to play in their first NCAA tournament since 2010. Siena had multiple players suffer season-ending injuries, and the one Anthony Gaines (knee) suffered on literally the final possession of Siena’s regular season happened at a particularly tough moment for the Saints to be able to bounce back from with their season on the line less than a week later.
Siena finished 15-14 overall for its program’s fourth-consecutive winning season, and was 12-8 in MAAC play. As that offseason gets going for Siena, Maciariello discussed with The Daily Gazette a variety of topics related to what’s ahead for the Saints.
PLATEK & GAINES
It’s possible that both Gaines (knee) and Andrew Platek (Achilles’ tendon), additions this past season from high-major programs for Siena, could be back for the 2022-23 season, but one seems much more likely than the other.
Maciariello said the expectation is that Platek will be back for the Saints, and should be ready to participate during the team’s summer exhibition games in Italy. Maciariello said that Platek is not yet running, but has been doing upper-body workouts.
The 2021-22 season was Platek’s fifth in college, but Maciariello said he expects the former Guilderland High School star who started his college career at North Carolina to be eligible to play during the 2022-23 campaign.
“Being able to have him gives our guys confidence,” Maciariello said. “He’s a good teammate, person and really wants to win.”
Gaines possesses those same qualities, Maciariello said, but a return for him seems less likely. Gaines has one more season of playing eligibility, but the plan all along had been for Gaines to depart from the program after the 2021-22 campaign.
Gaines’ late-season ACL tear was an unexpected development, but Maciariello said he wasn’t sure if the injury would weigh heavily in the player’s decision.
“For Anthony, we’re seeing what’s best,” Maciariello said. “We’re going to evaluate it all after his surgery.”
Maciariello said that surgery is likely to take place next week for the player that earned a spot on the All-MAAC third team.
Two Saints that impressed during the 2021-22 season were freshmen Jared Billups and Javian McCollum.
“They’re both key to what we’re trying to do moving forward,” Maciariello said of the rookies who each started the Saints’ postseason game.
Billups started the majority of Siena’s games, and averaged 5.7 points, five rebounds and a steal per game. He was selected to the MAAC’s all-rookie team.
“With Jared, it’s all about him being able to shoot the ball at a better clip, working on his handle and being a guy that can score double-digits and average seven, nine rebounds,” Maciariello said of what the Saints want from Billups next season.
McCollum averaged 6.7 points in 18.2 minutes per game, but showed in bursts that he has the talent to be an All-MAAC player down the road. For a guard listed at 6-foot-2 and 153 pounds, Maciariello said the offseason plan is a relatively simple one.
“Javian’s got to get stronger — and work on his angles defending and being able to body up some,” Maciariello said. “But, also, [improving his defense] comes with gaining strength.”
McCollum acknowledged during the season that his defense was a work in progress. Maciariello said he expects McCollum to put himself in position to earn major minutes next season.
“He’s a great kid,” Maciariello said.
Colby Rogers and Jackson Stormo — both double-digit per-game scorers — are also expected back for next season. Those two veteran players, plus Billups and McCollum, provide the Saints a solid core.
SCHEDULE NEARLY SET
Siena’s non-conference schedule doesn’t have a lot of questions left to answer.
The Saints will play away games against America, Delaware and Harvard next season, and they’ll play UAlbany, Army and St. Bonaventure at MVP Arena. They’ll also play in three to-be-determined games in the ESPN Events Invitational in Orlando, Florida, which has a loaded field.
Maciariello said the team is in agreement with another mid-major program for a game at MVP Arena, but that deal is not official.
Beyond that, Maciariello said the program wants to add to its non-conference schedule a “guarantee” game to complete it.
Since the season ended, three roster moves have already occurred for the Saints that don’t involve players exhausting their eligibility.
Early Friday morning, Zekeriya Yigit Tekin — a point guard for the Turkish U18 National Team — committed to join the Saints for next season. A 6-foot-2, 170-pound guard, Tekin is averaging 16.9 points, 3.9 assists and two steals per game this season playing for the Anadolu Efes S.K. in Istanbul.
The previous day, Taelon Martin — who played this season for College of Southern Idaho, a junior college in Twins Falls, Idaho — announced he was reopening his recruitment after previously offering a verbal commitment to Siena. That followed the news Monday that Aidan Carpenter — a sophomore guard — had entered into the NCAA transfer portal.
From its 2021-22 roster, Siena — not counting Gaines — will lose two scholarship players to graduation in Nick Hopkins and Michael Tertsea.
Siena has multiple scholarships available to offer this offseason. Including Gaines, it’s possible 10 scholarship players could return next season for the Saints.