LOUDONVILLE – At the Siena College men’s and women’s basketball season ticket-renewal event recently, men’s head coach Carmen Maciariello wanted the players to introduce themselves. He then told the crowd he would start by handing the microphone to “Big Maple,” and the genuine fondness for Steven Lazar came through in his voice.
Lazar is a walk-on in his junior year and third year with the team. He saw no action his freshman year, and last year played six minutes in three games, finishing with one offensive rebound and one 3-point shot attempt.
But Lazar’s role on the Saints isn’t measured on a statistics sheet.
“Steven is an energy giver,” Maciariello said. “He enjoys being part of Siena basketball. He is a tireless worker who gives his all no matter the task.”
Lazar, a very lanky 6-foot-6 and 173 pounds from Toronto, Ontario, admitted that he needed a little time to adjust to American Division I basketball.
“When I first came,” Lazar said, “I didn’t know what to expect because I came from a program where a lot of guys have gone D-I, so I’ve only heard the stories, I never really got to experience what that lifestyle was like other than going down to visit a college.”
Lazar called the experience eye-opening, noting all the demands.
“Just because it’s a very high level of play and there’s so much that is asked of you – being at practice to what you’re doing and all that stuff,” Lazar said. “It’s just hard to really describe. It’s so different from high school basketball that’s very, very secondary. Here, academics come first, and basketball is that close second. “
It’s no surprise that Lazar said he will do whatever the team needs him to do in order to try to win.
“I just want to be the guy who’s backing up the guys whenever I can, do whatever I can to get these guys better, because at the end of the day we want to win championships, we want to win games and I want to be there right beside the guys whenever we win,” Lazar said.
At the program’s media day, Maciariello mentioned that Lazar has played a good role of preparing his other two big men for the height the team will see throughout the season.
“I can go in with the bigs, I help the bigs get better. I’ll go with forwards. Rarely will I ever see guard action just because I am 6-foot-7, so mostly forward, center position,” Lazar said.
His teammates typically smile when Lazar’s name is mentioned.
“He’s always had good energy, and he’s always making guys laugh,” Jared Billups said. “I mean, that’s what you need a lot. You don’t want guys to be too serious all the time. Because you know, sometimes it can feel like business. [He] just keeps the locker room full of life.”
Lazar is also a good student. He’s a biology major hoping to enter medical school. One of his nicknames is Maple Messiah, because he has a full beard and at one time had much longer hair, but it’s the kind of nickname people wouldn’t mind their doctor having. Still, “Big Maple” stuck.
“The other ones I have had through childhood, friends I know from home. ‘Big Maple’ is one that I got when I came down here to the U.S. – you know: Canada, Maple – but I like it, yeah.”
So even if he doesn’t play in many games this season, when Siena wins, know that Lazar played his role.
“Steven Lazar epitomizes what it means to be a Siena College student-athlete,” Maciariello said. “We are thankful he’s ours.”