By David Vertsberger and Andrew Eichenholz
Point #1: Offense was the Achilles’ heel for SBU men’s basketball this season.
Stony Brook has one of the nation’s most dominant basketball players on its team in Jameel Warney. Alongside him is a versatile junior in Rayshaun McGrew, an electric, though inconsistent scorer in Carson Puriefoy and commonly two knockdown shooters. Why is it, then, that the Seawolves managed to finish with just the 224th-most efficient offense in the country and their worst in four years this year? It is easy to attribute SBU missing out on the NCAA Tournament to one play in particular, but outside of inexperience, it was scoring the basketball that most often hurt Stony Brook this year. While games with a ton of turnovers will dissipate as this young roster matures, there were a few underlying issues that plagued the offense throughout and will not go away on their own. One of these is Puriefoy’s unpredictable play. One night he scores 20 points on multiple threes and is the perfect counterpart to Warney. Then, he shoots 6-of-42 from the field in a four-game stretch. To his credit, Puriefoy came on strong in the postseason, especially in getting to the free throw line and hitting threes. But for the Seawolves offense to be formidable on a nightly basis, Puriefoy has to be formidable on a nightly basis. Oftentimes, the Seawolves will forget the simplest rule to their offensive success: give the ball to Warney. Only good can come out of getting the two-time America East Player of the Year the ball, yet he will go consecutive possessions without getting a touch. He constantly demands a double team and can pass out of it with the best of them, but can go ignored for costly minutes at a time. This is inexcusable for a team with this talent. These, among other problems, held back a Stony Brook offense with enough options and talent to be much better than it was this season. The Seawolves need to improve on these deficiencies heading into next year.
Point #2: Earning the America East’s third seed with a new head coach is not a step back for SBU women’s basketball.
People may say that Head Coach Caroline McCombs had a lot of expectations hanging over her head when she took over the Seawolves bench over the summer. Stony Brook went from winning four games when Beth O’Boyle took the reins, to 14 then to 24. It went from a cellar dweller to title contended in one of the biggest turnarounds throughout the country. So, what would the former Auburn and Pittsburgh assistant McCombs be able to do to take a team with their best player, Sabre Proctor, still around and ready to make another run? The team managed 17 wins. In hindsight, that is a disappointment in comparison to what could have been for this year’s Seawolves. However, at the end of the season, McCombs and company put themselves in a position to do some damage in the America East Tournament. With Albany’s year-in year-out domination of the league along with Maine’s fantastic year, finishing even ahead of the Great Danes, it was unlikely that the Seawolves really could have done much better than they did. The only point to make is that Stony Brook was shocked in the America East quarterfinals by a team that they had brushed aside easily twice in conference play. The answer to that is simple: every team has a bad day, Stony Brook just had it in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Point #3: Next year could be the best season in program history for men’s team.
This season, Head Coach Steve Pikiell would almost routinely bring up the fact that the Seawolves had no seniors and relied heavily on five freshmen this season. Despite this, Stony Brook not only fell two points shy of an NCAA Tournament berth, but also finished with 23 wins on the season. With that in mind, there is plenty of reason to believe next year will be the program’s best. The entire team will be returning with the addition of point guard Lucas Woodhouse, a gifted shooter and distributor. Additionally, many of the uber-talented neophytes that proved huge for Stony Brook this past season will now have had a year under their belts in the college game and are likely to return much improved. Names like Roland Nyama, Bryan Sekunda and Deshaun Thrower will get to reach closer to their max potentials. While the Seawolves get to enjoy not having to spend the early part of their schedule building team chemistry, their conference foes are getting weaker. Albany’s all-conference first team member Sam Rowley is graduating along with Vermont’s Hector Harold. Even with the massive disappointment this season ended with, Stony Brook ended up impressing as a whole despite its lack of seasoned players. This has set the stage for what should be the best year in program history in 2016. Let’s see if they can make it happen.
Point #4: Sabre Proctor will be missed next season.
It is rare to find a student-athlete who can excel in every aspect of their sport. Stony Brook was lucky enough to find one of those talents in Proctor, a two-time All-America East First Team selection. There was not much she could not do. Proctor was a daunting presence for opposing defenses in the paint, with a combination of strength and athleticism that made her a nightmare for everybody to deal with. Yet, she could still step out and hit a jumper, as she showed many times throughout the year. With time ticking down in the shot clock, Proctor had no problem crossing over her defender and rising up for a shot. There is simply nobody on this team that could replicate her production. Next year, finding a way to cope without her will be both a problem and a key.