One of this humble blogger's all-time favorite MAAC players was former Canisius standout Kevin Downey.
The multi-talented 6-foot-3 guard, who graduated after the 2005-06 season not only was easy to like on the court ... he could do just about everything, from providing scoring to often serving as a point guard ... but just as likeable off it.
And, now, his younger brother, 6-2 freshman Kyle Downey is on the scene, beginning to make his mark on MAAC basketball at Siena College.
There often is a breakout game early in the career of players, a sign of better things to come. And, that game, for Kyle Downey, came in Siena's stunning 91-85 overtime victory at Marist College on Thursday night.
Downey finished with 15 points, his career-high effort to date. But 12 of those came in the game's final six minutes, including a pair of icewater-in-the-veins three-pointers in the final 47 seconds of regulation play that enabled the Saints to force the overtime after facing what had appeared to be an insurmountable 67-53 deficit with just 3:16 left to play in regulation.
The victory pushed Siena's league record to 7-0, the program's fastest start in conference play (it opened the 1999-00 season with six straight victories before its first league loss) since it joined the MAAC in 1989. It also enabled the Saints to push their lead in the conference standings to two full games over Niagara and Rider, both of which lost for the second time in league play, on Thursday.
And, Downey played a huge rule in making that happen, along with far too many foul-line misfires from the Red Foxes.
Facing that 14-point defiicity late in the game, Siena made Marist try to get its points from the foul line on its last 10 possessions of regulation. The Red Foxes made only 9-of-18 free throws in that stretch, including two misses on the front ends of one-and-ones.
Siena made the hosts pay for the misses, scoring on each of its final 10 possessions.
It helped Siena get within 60-54 with under a minute left when Downey made a trey with 47 seconds lft and, then, another with 20 seconds remaining to pull the Saints within 75-74. Both bonus shots were a step or two beyond the stripe, and both were of the catch-and-shoot (fast) variety with defenders rushing at him.
Marist made one-of-two from the line on its next possession to push its lead to 76-74 before Siena's Edwin Ubiles got loose inside for a layup with seven seconds remaining to force the extra session.
Once there, Siena took a 77-76 lead on a free throw by Alex Franklin and, then, Downey went to work again scoring on a driving reverse layup and, then, a coup-de-gras, vintange 1950's running hook shot from about 10 feet out that dropped in to give the Saints an 81-76 edge.
Oddly enough, the younger Downey was lightly recruited coming out of Fairport (near Rochester) High School, despite averaging 26 points and 11 rebounds per game as a senior last season.
Siena showed interest, but initially filled its quota of scholarships without giving one to Downey last spring. At that point, it appeared that Downey would head to prep school for a year and hope some Division I offers would come after that.
But, when a reserve Siena guard opted to transfer elsewhere, it opened up the opportunity for Downey to come to the Loudonville, N.Y., school.
Kyle Downey doesn't yet have the all-around court skills of his standout older brother, but he has already exhibted a better long-range shooting ability. The younger Downey also has a proclivity for scoring around the basket and successfully scrapping for rebounds amidst the tall timber.
At Canisius, Kevin Downey remains that program's sixth-best all-time scorer (1,583 career points), and is one of just three players in that program's history to finish with 1,000 career points, 400 rebounds and 300 assists.
Like his older brother, Kyle plays with a lack of visible emotion, a style that says "this is what I'm supposed to do," and doesn't require arm-waving or loud vocal proclamations after every successful play. He just goes about his business.
Kyle, through 18 games in a Siena uniform, is averaging 5.1 points per game on 31-of-56 shooting (.554 percent) thus far.
Not surprisingly, both play like the sons of a highly regarded coach.
Their late father, Tom Downey, was a longtime coach at Livonia High School (south of Rochester), who passed away after a battle with cancer several years ago.
Kevin Downey is now following in dad's footsteps, serving as an assistant coach at Nazareth College in Rochester, and has been a regular attendee at Siena home games at Albany, N.Y.'s Times Union Center to watch his younger brother continue the family's college basketball tradition.