LOUDONVILLE — Roman Penn hasn’t visited campus at Siena College yet. He’s never even been in New York.
That didn’t stop him from committing to head coach Jimmy Patsos’ men’s basketball program — and it didn’t sway him from uprooting his life in an immediate way.
“This was a no-brainer for me,” Penn said Friday as word of his college decision started to spread. “I knew I wanted to be there.”
Penn — a Calumet City, Ill. native who has played for Don Bosco Prep Academy in Indiana this winter — plans to enroll at Siena for the spring semester and start practicing with the Saints as soon as possible. He won’t play until the 2017-18 season, but the 6-foot guard arrives Monday and starts school Tuesday at Siena when the spring semester begins.
“It was an opportunity,” Penn said. “I didn’t plan to leave early, but this was just a great opportunity for me and I couldn’t pass that up. ... [This] way, I can get ahead academically and prepare myself physically.”
Siena officials did not return requests for comment.
Penn’s Don Bosco team held a brief party for him after Friday’s practice to celebrate the point guard’s decision. Don Bosco athletic director David Maravilla said it was bittersweet to lose Penn midway through the season, but the post-graduate program was happy to see Penn make his decision.
“This certainly wasn’t planned by us or anyone else. It kind of just worked out this way,” said Maravilla, who said Siena was the first to offer Penn. “But I can tell you he had at least six or seven other schools zeroing in on him.”
Maravilla and Penn said Siena assistant coach Jordan Watson led the recruitment of Penn. The athletic director said Penn’s best strength on the court is his team-first mentality.
“True point guards are like unicorns. They almost don’t exist anymore,” Maravilla said. “All the intangibles you look for, he’s got them.”
Penn played on a Don Bosco team which has seven players currently being recruited by Division I programs, Maravilla said. While players joining a college sports program midway through the school year is more common in football than in basketball, a similar situation played out last season for Don Bosco. Chris Palombizio, an Oakland University freshman this season, left Don Bosco midway through last season.
“It’s not very typical, but when you’re dealing with post-graduate [student-athletes], they’ve already graduated from high school and, assuming they’ve [academically] qualified, they’re capable of enrolling for a second semester,” said Maravilla, who added Penn was a full academic qualifier out of high school.
Before Penn, Siena had signed two players for next season. In November, the Saints announced the signings of Minnesota combo guard Jordan Horn and Toronto forward Price Oduro, the latter of whom is playing at First Love Christian Academy in Pennsylvania this season.
A steady presence at the point guard position and a capable shooter from 3-point territory on the court, Maravilla said Penn has the right demeanor to lead a team on the court — and off.
“Roman’s a quiet kid, but he’s tough,” Maravilla said. “People are going to really appreciate who he is off the court.”