Siena men’s basketball hoping depth will be strength

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LOUDONVILLE – The Siena men’s basketball team began and ended last season shorthanded.

They were missing Javian McCollum, Jared Billups and Jordan Kellier with injuries for the opener at St. Bonaventure. They dressed just eight scholarship players – only seven played – in the season-ending loss to Quinnipiac.

The Saints are hoping their depth will be a strength as they prepare to open this season on Monday at Holy Cross.

“I think we will have good depth, if everybody stays healthy,” Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said recently.

Graduate guard Andrew Platek of Guilderland, who missed most of last season with a torn Achilles tendon, said the Saints are trying not to trust their health to good fortune after being bit hard by the injury bug a year ago.

“A lot of luck, a lot of taking care of our bodies,” Platek said. “As it is in basketball, you play a contact sport, you’re bound to get injured at some point. But we can do preventative stuff to take care of our bodies and we’re very in tune with that this year. Everybody’s getting extra treatment, extra stuff to make sure we’re staying healthy all the time. Eating the right stuff and getting eight hours of sleep.

“That is much more of a focus – all of the other stuff that’s not basketball this year,” Platek continued. “The off-the-court stuff, taking care of our bodies. Me personally and Coach Carm have made that an emphasis this year – taking care of ourselves so we don’t have these nagging injuries that last a whole season, that can derail toward the end.”

Maciariello said he wasn’t sure if he could play 10 or 11 players, but envisioned at least an eight- or nine-man rotation.

He also wants to preserve the health of a recovering Platek and fifth-year guard Jayce Johnson, who dealt with leg surgery and an elbow injury a year ago.

“We have guys that have had injuries,” he said. “Andrew Platek and Jayce Johnson, we’ve got to monitor their bodies. We can’t beat them up in the non-conference and the practice gym. For what? We need to save them for game days. So there is going to be some strategy in that.”

Siena is expecting contributions from among a group of seven newcomers. Fifth-year senior center Eduardo Lane, a 6-10 transfer from San Jose State, and 6-10 freshman forward Killian Gribben from Ireland arrive to back up graduate forward Jackson Stormo and give him a breather.

The Saints continue to be high on freshman guard Michael Eley of Fort Wayne, Ind., who played well on the Italy trip in August. He gives Siena another young, athletic backcourt piece to go with McCollum and Billups, both sophomores.

“With us having so many young guys coming in, and a bunch of those guys being really ready for college basketball, it shows having a guy like Michael Eley coming off the bench,” Johnson said. “Like all the young guys we have, it’s almost too many to name. So many things we have going for us and I’m excited just to see those guys, obviously, the peaks and valleys they’ll go throughout the year, being young guys. Hopefully, we can show them what it is that we need and they just pick up from that.”

Platek, entering his sixth year of college basketball, including four at North Carolina, said the young depth can give the Saints a boost that’s as much emotional as physical.

“I think we have so many young guys that are so excited and enthused,” he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time and it can get monotonous sometimes and these guys just bring the energy every day. It’s awesome to see their love for the game really show and that helps me through the tough practices and the lifts and everything. It brings new energy to the team.”

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