LOUDONVILLE — He made it happen.
The knowledge he had a college basketball career, and the resulting happiness from that, will help senior Paulo Morastoni push through any moments of sadness during Senior Day for the Siena College men’s team.
“It’s been quite the journey for me to make it here,” said Morastoni, whose Saints play Sunday against Marist at Times Union Center. “This was always the dream for me.”
Along with Braedon Bayer, Kevin Degnan, Evan Fisher and Kadeem Smithen, Morastoni will take part in Sunday’s senior celebration. Each of those five players have experienced a significant journey, but Morastoni’s path was the toughest. A walk-on player from Brazil, Morastoni first headed to Siena as a freshman hoping to make the team at the school he’d heard of because he attended a Franciscan high school in his home country.
That first year, he didn’t make the team.
Didn’t care. Kept working.
“I just kept practicing on my own,” the 21-year-old Morastoni said at Thursday’s practice. “Just trying to get better.”
Eventually, Morastoni made a team — the Siena women’s basketball team.
He served as a practice player for head coach Ali Jaques’ program, then caught on as a manager for the men’s basketball team. Midway through last season, then-head coach Jimmy Patsos elevated Morastoni from manager to player.
In his college career, the 6-foot-3 Morastoni hasn’t taken a shot in any of his eight appearances. Siena head coach Jamion Christian said he is unsure if he’ll start all of his seniors against Marist, but that Morastoni will get onto the court at some point.
“I haven’t fully decided what we’re going to do,” said Christian, who praised Morastoni for the energy he brings to the Saints each day. “All the seniors will definitely play in the game. That will definitely happen.”
On his Senior Day at Mount St. Mary’s, Christian said he didn’t play.
That always stuck with him.
“I didn’t start. I didn’t play,” Christian said. “So that’s why Senior Day is particularly important to me because I remember that moment.”
Morastoni would like to play Sunday. He said he’d trade minutes, though, for a win.
“I just want the outcome to be the best it can be,” said Morastoni, whose parents — Jose and Angela — have made the trip and will be at Sunday’s game.
As a kid, Morastoni said he dreamed of playing college basketball in the United States.
“It came true,” Morastoni said.
TURNING IT OVER
In Siena’s last two games, the Saints have only committed eight turnovers — and that span includes the team’s triple-overtime game against Quinnipiac.
That low number is impressive, but the Saints have generally taken care of the ball all season.
What they didn’t do for a large portion of the season, though, was force turnovers.
Lately, that’s changed, even as Siena continues to mostly abandon the pressing-and-trapping defensive style Christian wants future teams of his to utilize.
“When you have an inexperienced team, it’s going to take time for them to be in the right spots, to know where they can take chances, where they can’t take chances,” Christian said of his team’s defensive improvement.
Siena’s opponents have committed at least 15 turnovers in five of its last six games. In the Saints’ first 22 games, opponents only had that many miscues on three occasions.
Christian said a decision still has not been made regarding junior Sammy Friday (knee) returning this season.
Friday, though, hasn’t practice since injuring himself in early December. If Friday doesn’t play again this season, he should qualify for a medical redshirt and gain an additional year of eligibility.
“There’s definitely a case for [doing] that,” Christian said. “I mean, you look at it, with [redshirt junior] Elijah [Burns] here with us next year, Sammy . . . then having two years, and with a really good big man in [signed commit] Kyle Young coming in as a freshman, there’s definitely a case for it. It would mean we could have three or four straight years with really experienced big men.”