LOUDONVILLE — As a graduate student, center Jackson Stormo’s status as something of an elder statesman within the Siena men’s basketball team is hardly surprising.
That Stormo didn’t arrive at Siena until his junior year and has still spent more time with the program than any other scholarship player on the Saints’ roster? That’s a little bit more surprising, and also a reflection on the current transient nature of college basketball in the day and age of the NCAA’s transfer portal.
Stormo came to Siena as a transfer from Pepperdine prior to the 2020-21 season and, along with junior walk-on Steven Lazar, is one of just two Saints who will be in their third season with the team in 2022-23.
“It’s just me and Steve,” Stormo said Monday before the Saints held their first preseason practice.
That’s not to say the Saints, who open up their season Nov. 7 at Holy Cross, will be particularly young this year.
In fact, head coach Carmen Maciariello’s starting lineup is likely to feature a pair of graduate students in Stormo and guard Andrew Platek — the former Guilderland High standout in his sixth year of college basketball, after being limited to just five games for Siena last season following a torn Achilles tendon, and a fifth-year senior in Jayce Johnson.
Off the bench, there’s another graduate student in Michael Baer, fifth-year senior Eduardo Lane and senior Jordan Kellier.
The common thread between all that age and experience? None of them started their college careers at Siena.
In addition to Stormo’s time at Pepperdine, Platek started his career at North Carolina, Johnson previously played at Middle Tennessee State, Baer was at Iowa, Lane was at San Jose State and Kellier played in junior college at Williston State in North Dakota, then went on to play at Utah.
But, even for the well-traveled, the start of a new season is never tiring.
“It’s my last year. Year six,” said Platek. “I guess five-and-a-half, technically. It’s crazy. I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’m ready to give it one more shot.”
Transfers have become especially prevalent in college basketball since the NCAA adopted new regulations in 2021 that allowed student-athletes to change schools once through the portal without sitting out a year following the transfer. Toss in the additional year of eligibility given to all players during the 2020-21 season because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and player movement has run rampant.
Since Maciariello became head coach in 2019, there’s been only one Siena player on scholarship — 2021 MAAC Player of the Year Manny Camper — who began and finished a four-year college basketball career at Siena without transferring elsewhere.
“Everyone wants to talk about players departing, what’s wrong with college basketball and the portal,” Maciariello said. “Well, Jackson graduated, he could’ve left, too, and he stayed. I think that’s a credit to him and his character.”
For his part, Stormo couldn’t be happier with where his college journey has taken him.
The 6-foot-9, 260-pound player from Santa Barbara, California saw limited action in his first two seasons at Pepperdine, playing less than 200 total minutes.
His cross-country transfer saw him establish himself as one of the MAAC’s best post players.
Last year, Stormo started 28 games for the Saints, averaging 11.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game — both good for second on the team — while leading all Siena regulars by shooting 53.6% from the field.
Stormo graduated from Siena last academic year, and even though he got to play at Siena earlier than expected — he’d originally intended to sit out the 2020-21 season, but got an NCAA waiver to be immediately eligible — he never wavered from what he said in March was, “always my plan,” to spend three years at Siena.
“I’m so happy to be here,” Stormo said. “Making the decision to move out here was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.”