By Kevin Sweeney
The Nico Clareth era at Siena is over.
The Uber-talented but sometimes enigmatic junior guard will not return to the Siena men’s basketball program after taking a leave from the team last week, the School announced today. Clareth will attend Siena as a student in the spring before transferring. He’ll have 1 year of eligibility left after presumably sitting out the 2018-19 season.
Clareth began his tenure in Loudonville with a bang, wowing Siena fans with thunderous dunks and 3-point shooting frenzies en route to winning MAAC 6th Man of the Year as a freshman.
But a career in green and gold that once looked so promising hit roadblock after roadblock over the next 2 seasons. There was an offseason knee surgery that took longer than expected to heal. An indefinite leave of absence during his sophomore season. Rumblings of chemistry issues. But Clareth put those concerns on hold with a performance for the ages in the MAAC Tournament last season against Monmouth, where he exploded for 27 points in the second half on a bum ankle to lead the Saints to a thrilling victory.
After being named a captain in the offseason, it appeared that Clareth had turned a corner. But sources have told me that the Saints had chemistry issues once again, and Clareth left the team before the team’s game on 1/5. The Saints are 5-12 in a rebuilding campaign this season with a young team.
There is no doubt that Clareth has the talent to play at any level in college basketball. At 6-5, he can get to anywhere he wants on the floor, has plus athleticism, and a 3-point stroke that when hot is absolutely unstoppable. But there will be without a doubt concerns about what has transpired over the last 2 seasons as he looks for a new home for his final season of college basketball.
Meanwhile, you have to wonder if this departure is the nail in the coffin for Siena Head Coach Jimmy Patsos, as his team struggles the year after a disappointing 17-17 season. Patsos is 74-80 in his 5th year at Siena, and former Siena beat writer Tim Reynolds (now a writer for the AP in Florida) tweeted this last week: “There is a growing sentiment among people close to the Siena program that major changes are necessary. Some don’t want to wait until March, either.”