Senior guard Carson Puriefoy III was at the wrong place at the wrong time when the Stony Brook Men’s Basketball team lost in the playoffs the last three seasons.
Former Albany guard Mike Black took it to Puriefoy and scored a game-winning lay-up in the 2013 America East semifinals. In 2014, Puriefoy slipped and fell as guard Peter Hooley knocked down a three-pointer to seal the deal and send the Great Danes to the NCAA Tournament. Last year, Puriefoy missed a crucial late-game free throw that allowed Albany to once again steal an America East Championship banner from Stony Brook.
Puriefoy has heard all of this before. Those moments may have bothered him then, but now they are simply motivation.
“When people say negative things about you, I could take it to heart, which might be a flaw, but that’s just how I am,” Puriefoy said. “We just gotta get it done. That’s the only mindset to have, there’s nothing else to be said.”
It is now Puriefoy’s senior year—his last chance to put his past mistakes behind him and help the Seawolves win an America East crown. There’s no need to remind the New Jersey native though, as he carries everything with him as motivation.
“He’s very sensitive. He takes everything to heart,” Bob Falconiero, who coached Puriefoy at Bishop Eustace Prep High School, said. “He was one of those guys that I really didn’t have to get on. If you get on him, he gets upset.”
Puriefoy developed his ambition at a young age, one of the many lessons instilled by his father, Carson Puriefoy II, who was a three-year-starter at Bucknell University. He put a basketball in his son’s hands at the age of four and coached him early on. Balancing the roles of dad and coach led to some clashes, but necessary ones.
“We had long car rides after games when he would sternly talk to me about my play,” Puriefoy said. “Even though I didn’t always love it, I knew he had my best interest at heart.”
Puriefoy turned to his brother Jamar and mother Vanessa when he needed to hear another voice, and Puriefoy’s father believes they balanced out his intense approach well. This made Puriefoy a better player though, and his father quickly accepted that his son would end up eclipsing his talents.
“[Puriefoy] was at a camp…and I ran into a gentleman that used to coach me in college,” Puriefoy’s father said. “He pointed out a couple things, and when I thought about it later, I realized that the two things he stressed that [Puriefoy] really did a good job of were two things that I struggled at.”
Puriefoy had natural talent and was never afraid to sacrifice his body, diving for loose balls and crashing into defenders if need be. However, his soft side became just as apparent to his coaches. After a New Jersey Gym Rats Amateur Athletic Union game in Las Vegas, his coach, Rick Barrett, found Puriefoy distressed over a text message from a teammate.
“I’m thinking like, Carson’s a freaking jerk off, he’s an asshole, something like that,” Barrett said. “He was upset about ‘Carson’s not a good guy’.”
Puriefoy cares about what people think of him, but sets out to prove doubters wrong with his work ethic. He never missed a high school game, practice or summer workout. He was always punctual and would play through injuries.
“I didn’t like that part,” Barrett said. “Usually when kids get hurt, I want to sit them. Carson wasn’t that kid. He wanted to play with anything.”
What Barrett did like was what he saw from Puriefoy on the court. His aggressiveness dates back to his youth. Despite being undersized and younger than his opponents, he was never hesitant.
“He takes a beating,” Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell said. “The way he plays, he goes to the rim a lot, and he’s not big so he gets knocked down a lot. A lot of times I like to tell him let’s pull up in the lane a little bit, you don’t need to go crashing into six people every game.”
He idolized star NBA players that were also towered over, none more than Allen Iverson. When his team lost, Puriefoy always put the blame on himself, not others.
“I hate losing more than I like winning,” Puriefoy said. “This year and years past, for this team we’ve wanted to get to the tournament, that’s always the motivation.”
Puriefoy came to Stony Brook to win and pursue a degree in political science, but moving away from home meant he needed to find a family away from his family. Puriefoy found this in Jameel Warney, a fellow senior who had already committed to the school. The Stony Brook star personally called Puriefoy to recruit him.
Puriefoy considers Warney a friend and a brother, and says their bond is one that goes beyond basketball. Warney thinks their personalities mesh well.
“I’m not sensitive,” Warney said. “So you gotta have someone to be sensitive.”
The two have formed a deadly duo on the court, but have failed to get over the America East title hump.
This is their final shot.