ALBANY – It may have been a meaningless shot.
But it punctuated what was a meaningful performance.
The Siena men’s basketball team was down five to Army, and the game was essentially over, except for the final buzzer in overtime.
Saints freshman guard Michael Eley hoisted a 3-pointer and it went in, merely putting the final stamp on a 96-94 loss for Siena at MVP Arena on Wednesday night
For Eley, though, it represented a little bit of a breakout after two rocky games to start his college career.
The 6-foot-4, 188-pound Cincinnati native who lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana gave a glimpse of his potential when the Saints traveled to Italy this summer and played three exhibition games.
Eley averaged 12.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting 54% from the field, but those numbers from across the Atlantic seemed like a distant memory when Eley managed just two points in a season-opening victory at Holy Cross and just two in the Saints’ Albany Cup victory over UAlbany on Saturday.
Siena, which will next play at Harvard on Sunday, believes Wednesday’s game from Eley was a better look at what the program expects from him this season.
“Mike was good,” head coach Carm Maciariello said. “I thought he let the game come to him. He got to the rim a little bit and had some rhythm shots and made a couple threes.”
“I just think every game everyone’s going to be different, so I think today, my teammates found me and saw that I was open, making that extra pass,” Eley said. “It’ll vary every game, who scores high or low points. But I have to give credit to my teammates making that extra pass.”
They wouldn’t have done that without confidence that Eley could hit the shots, and for the most part he did, finishing 6 of 8 from the field, after having gone a combined 2 of 7 in the Holy Cross and UAlbany games.
He got in a groove early, scoring on a drive to get Siena within 8-6 in the opening minutes of the game, then using a behind-the-back dribble on the next possession to open up another drive to cut it to 10-8.
Eley scored eight points in the first half and finished with 16 in 18 minutes, opting for outside looks in the second half, including a pull-up from the left elbow to tie it at 53-53 and a 3-pointer to give Siena a 59-57 lead midway through the second half.
He also had five rebounds and an assist.
“My biggest thing is winning and doing whatever I can to help the team,” Eley said. “I just want to win as much as we can, if that means rebounding, scoring, playing defense.”
After three seasons of varsity ball in Fort Wayne, during which Eley scored over 1,000 career points, he averaged 25 points, six rebounds and four assists during a postgraduate year at Veritas Prep Academy in Florida last season.
Besides scoring, though, Eley is expected to contribute on the defensive end, too.
“I’m learning a lot, making the right read, when I should help and when I should not help,” he said. “Understanding what guys can shoot and can’t shoot. That really determines how much I help.
“It’s a little bit more complicated, but those are the main things, help-side defense, making sure I’m in the right position. It’s really positioning. Coach ‘D’ [Darius Theus] has been preaching to me a lot this year, just making sure I have my [positioning] triangle and doing the right things on defense so I can see ball and man.”