Siena men’s basketball ready to say ‘ciao’ to Italy & More Breaking News

COHOES — Siena men’s basketball coach Carmen Maciariello still remembers a few catchphrases in Italian from his professional playing days in Italy about two decades ago.

There was “cambio,” which a player yelled when he was about to substitute into a game. There was “andiamo,” which means, “let’s go.”

And, of course, there were the terms that were useful socially to a young man then in his 20s who played four seasons in different parts of Italy.

“I had all different dialects,” Maciariello said Wednesday, “So I just knew the real basics. I could order food, I could say hello to a pretty girl and I could order a drink.”

Now Maciariello, 44, is leading the Saints back to Italy from Aug. 18-28 for the foreign trip that’s allowed by the NCAA every four years. It’s a journey meant to improve Siena on the court, but also to bond them through a shared life experience. It’s funded partly by the guarantee game at Georgetown this season.

Siena is allowed 10 practices leading up to the trip. The Saints will play three Italian professional teams — Stella Azzurra on Aug. 20 in Rome, Pallacanestro Crema on Aug. 26 in Crema and UCC Assigeco Piancenza Aug. 27 in Piancenza.

“Just the level of camaraderie and unity has been awesome,” Maciariello said. “We have a bunch of international players, too, so these guys have really taken them under their wings. And then, obviously, we want to play, but we want to enjoy the bonding experience. We’re not practicing over there. We’re playing three games, so it should be a pretty good level of competition. We just want to be able to grow our collective unity, our love for one another and just enjoy the cultural experience that these guys are now allowed to do.”

Maciariello and his team and the Siena women’s team appeared on Wednesday at a event in Cohoes that dedicated a renovated outdoor basketball court in honor of Dan Hytko, who coached both the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams at Cohoes High. Hytko spoke at the event.

Siena’s trip to Italy will include stops at Lake Como in Lombardy, the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel, the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps.

Stormo, who wants to see Lake Como, is also looking forward to meshing on the court.

“I mean, time on the court with each other in a competitive atmosphere this early in the season is always huge,” Stormo said. “We have a lot of returners, but we also have a lot of new pieces, and so I think it will be really important for us to get out there in a real game, not just competing against each other, but be one unit facing someone else. It’ll be huge for us.”

Siena fifth-year guard Jayce Johnson, a transfer, was a sophomore at Middle Tennessee when the Blue Raiders played a pair of games in Costa Rica in August 2019.

“It’s a great experience,” Johnson said. “A lot of these guys have not really been able to go very far, just in terms of basketball takes up so much of our time. So when basketball can take you to a place like Costa Rica or Italy, you cherish it. It’s a great time with the guys to come together. You play some games. You don’t really put much heed into the result of the games, just more the experience of being out there and being with your teammate is really what it’s all about.”

The tour will be a return to action for Siena graduate guard Andrew Platek of Guilderland, who tore his Achilles tendon last December against Manhattan, and sophomore guard Jared Billups, coming off postseason wrist surgery. Both have been cleared to play.

“I just can’t wait to play,” Platek said. “I just want to play basketball against other people. I’m really excited.”

Sophomore point guard Javian McCollum recently had dental work and Siena is still hoping he’ll be cleared to travel to Italy, according to Maciariello. He’ll first see a doctor in Florida before flying back to Albany next Tuesday. Sophomore guard Tahiland Owens won’t make the trip. He’s home in Georgia rehabilitating his knee.

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