Departing seniors are always a huge blow to teams, especially so when three starters are among those to graduate.
Such is the case for your 2014-15 Seawolves, who will be without shutdown defender Dave Coley, cold-blooded scorer Anthony Jackson and jack-of-all-trades big Eric McAlister.
But wait, there is more.
Freshman Ahmad Walker has transferred from the men’s basketball program, making it so that four of the team’s six best players last season need replacement.
What kind of hole does this leave the team in, exactly?
McAlister is likely the easiest void to fill, but do not let that downplay his importance. McAlister was a strong rim protector, leading the team in block rate via nearly two blocks per 40 minutes of action.
McAlister could play out of the high post on offense with his shooting range, finishing second on the squad in true-shooting percentage, which factors in three-pointers and free throws.
His passing ability was strong for a big man and he was no slouch on the boards either.
But luckily, head coach Steve Pikiell has a proxy for McAlister in Rayshaun McGrew, the 6-foot-7 inch forward who came into his own late last season.
After accumulating five DNP-CD’s, McGrew averaged 18 minutes a night in the America East tournament.
His ability to defend multiple positions, and score in a variety of ways makes him the obvious candidate to slide into McAlister’s role as a complement to Jameel Warney’s forays down low.
In losing Coley and Jackson, Stony Brook is without their premier perimeter defender and sparkplug scorer.
Jackson’s 14 shots per 40 minutes, which led the team, will mean an increase in output by some of the team’s mainstays in Warney and Carson Puriefoy, who ranked just below Jackson.
Incoming freshman Deshaun Thrower, who averaged 18.7 points per game in high school, will also be called upon, as well as sophomore Kameron Mitchell, who was Stony Brook’s third best three-point shooter last season.
As for Coley, it is hard to imagine any guard mimicking his defensive intensity.
Puriefoy is not someone you want defending the opposition’s best player for 30 minutes. Neither is Mitchell.
Thrower is vaunted for his playmaking, but little has been offered about his defense and he still needs to familiarize himself with Pikiell’s schemes. There is little to no help to be found here.
And finally, there is Walker, who showed much promise as a defender and rebounder with upside on the offensive end.
Yes the Seawolves have a similar player in athletic superiority ready to step in by the name of Roland L’Amour Nyama, but it would have been far more convenient if he did not have to.
The loss of Walker means Nyama may have to guard the opposition’s best perimeter scorer night in and night out, no easy task for a rookie.
Pikiell could have gotten really creative and played Walker and Nyama together, forming a defensive chaos machine of length and speed.
Instead, the Seawolves have some alarming lapses in defensive talent, unless the relative unknowns of the roster can make for pleasant surprises. Walker’s departure does leave an extra roster spot open, but it is hard to see Stony Brook taking that advantage.
The only solution that could help in the short-term would be a walk-on, which is far from a favorable answer. Those remaining on the roster include veteran Scott King, incoming recruits Tyrell Sturdivant and Bryan Sekunda, as well as sophomores Chris Braley and Ryan Burnett.
King will likely see spot rotation minutes for his shooting ability and tenure as a Seawolf, but the rest of the names leave much to question. Can Pikeill afford to redshirt Sturdivant and Sekunda? Will Braley and Burnett show enough improvement to warrant key roles?
There are a lot of uncertainties, and so few assurances. There is no way to avoid players moving on to the next level, now there is only coping with what is next.