Like many observers, Andrew Platek pulled for the 15th-seeded Saint Peter’s men’s basketball program during its Cinderella run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament.
Unlike many observers, that’s also where the current Siena player wanted to see the fellow MAAC program’s memorable run stopped.
“Those [North] Carolina guys are very talented,” Platek said Monday, a day after the Tar Heels advanced to next weekend’s Final Four with a 69-49 win against Saint Peter’s. “It’s so cool to see them doing so well.”
A former Guilderland High School standout, Platek played four seasons with North Carolina before transferring last year to Siena. Platek only appeared in five games for the Saints before suffering a season-ending Achilles tendon/calf injury, but the 23-year-old said Monday he is continuing rehabilitation work with the plan to return next season to the court with Siena.
“I still have something to prove and we still have a championship to win,” Platek said.
Saint Peter’s won its MAAC championship this year, then surprised the basketball world with three March Madness wins before its season ended a win shy of the Final Four. While Siena’s 2008-09 team memorably came close to advancing through the tournament’s first weekend, no MAAC men’s basketball team had ever made it to the Sweet 16 before Saint Peter’s accomplished that — plus a bit more — this season. With its national tournament wins against Kentucky, Murray State and Purdue, Saint Peter’s became the first-ever 15 seed to make it to the Elite Eight — and the Peacocks’ trio of victories netted the MAAC several millions of unexpected dollars through the payment system the NCAA uses to reward conferences for how many games their teams play in March Madness.
Platek cheered on the Peacocks during their early wins.
“Saint Peter’s had a great run and it was cool to see the MAAC represented so well,” Platek said. “They weren’t favored in any of those games . . . but that’s how the tournament works. It was a great Cinderella run.”
But Platek is also still very loyal to the North Carolina program. When discussing Sunday’s Elite Eight game, Platek repeatedly used “we” when referencing the Tar Heels and said he spent part of Siena’s spring break last week in Chapel Hill to visit his girlfriend Emily Nalls — a standout women’s lacrosse player at North Carolina — and catch up with friends. As part of that trip, Platek said he met up with members of the Tar Heels prior to them heading to Philadelphia for their Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games, and his rooting interest for Sunday’s game between North Carolina and the MAAC’s Saint Peter’s wasn’t in question.
“I spent a lot of time with those guys,” said Platek, who said he remains in consistent contact with several members of the team.
Platek is three months removed from surgery to repair his injured Achilles, and said he’s on track to “be fully ready to go in a few months.” Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello has previously said he expects Platek to be ready to participate during the team’s summer exhibition games in Italy, and the 6-foot-4 wing player who averaged nine points per game in his limited action with the Saints said the events of the last couple of weeks have motivated him further.
“Seeing my old teammates be successful and seeing Saint Peter’s make such a deep run, that’s lit my fire even a little bit more,” Platek said.
As for this Saturday’s much-anticipated Final Four game between North Carolina and Duke?
Don’t count Platek among those excited for the first-ever matchup of archrivals in the NCAA tournament. He will, of course, be watching and rooting for the Tar Heels, but said the stakes of the rivalry matchup will make the contest “pretty much unbearable” for him to enjoy as it plays out.
“I’m going to hate every second of it,” Platek, laughing, said.