Confidence has been running through Stony Brook Men’s Basketball heading into the upcoming 2018-19 season.
This time however, things are just a bit different.
The Seawolves ended last season with a 71-50 loss to No.1-ranked Vermont in the semifinals of the America East playoffs. The defeat does not seem to be a lingering thought, as the Seawolves kick-started the season with a 2-0 record for the first time since 2013. The wins come against two power conference teams: the South Carolina Gamecocks, who were previously in the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four in 2017, and the George Washington Colonials, the winners of the National Invitational Tournament championship the same year.
Records have already been set early in the season. The 22-0 comeback against the Colonials was the biggest in the program’s history. The victory against the Gamecocks is the first Seawolves Basketball program win over a Southeastern Conference opponent. The two victories have gotten the team national attention, from highlights on ESPN’s SportsCenter to tweets from college basketball analysts across the nation.
“I think the resiliency of our group, having so many new guys, 10 freshmen and sophomores [combined], six being new guys, you don’t know what to expect in the heat of the moment,” head coach Jeff Boals said. “But our guys fought hard. I was really proud of the way our guys responded to being down 22-0.”
The six newest additions to the Seawolves include freshman guards Miles Latimer and Jules Moor.
On his first night in a college basketball contest, Latimer shocked the crowd with a 15-point, four-rebound performance in his 34 minutes on the court. Ten of the points came in the second half of action, where the Seawolves led a comeback by outscoring the Colonials 39-29. Through the first two games, the freshman is second on the team in 3-pointers made and third in scoring and minutes with 26 and 67, respectively.
“Our guys trust him,” Boals said. “They have a lot of faith in him and for him to come in here and do what he has done so far is impressive.”
Moor scored five points and grabbed four rebounds in the matchup against George Washington. He added a point and three more rebounds in the victory over South Carolina as well. Being the tallest guard on the roster at 6-feet-5-inches, Moor ranks fourth in rebounding on the team and is tied for second among his position with Latimer at 17.
Seven players return for the Seawolves this year, including senior guard Jaron Cornish, sophomore forward Elijah Olaniyi and redshirt-junior forward Akwasi Yeboah. The three were major components of the team’s offense last season. Yeboah led the team in scoring with 489 points, nearly doubling former guard UC Iroegbu’s second-best total of 260 points. He finished the year with 912 minutes of total playing time while being selected to the America East All-Second Team. Yeboah is currently the team’s leading scorer through the first two matchups with 36. In his 24-point performance against South Carolina, he was able to tip in a game-saving shot with 5.9 seconds left in regulation to extend the game to overtime.
Cornish led last year’s team in assists with 77 and finished fourth in scoring with 232 points. He shared minutes with sophomore guard Jordan McKenzie, who dished out 64 assists last season. This year, Cornish has picked up right where he left off with 11 assists in two games. He has settled in as the team’s top floor general once again.
Now considered one of the leaders of this team, Olaniyi sees signs of a good season for his team.
“Everybody really believes in what coach [Boals] is saying,” Olaniyi said. “We have shown humility and everyone has been buying in.”
The reigning America East Rookie of the Year averaged 14 points per game last season with 249 total points in 713 minutes played. Olaniyi led the Seawolves in field-goal percentage with 55 percent. He was selected to the America East All-Rookie Team at the end of the season.
Olaniyi has 34 total points through the first two games and is tied for first on the team alongside Yeboah in rebounds with 19. He has also seen the most time on the court with 74 minutes played.
Redshirt-sophomore forward Andrew Garcia makes his long awaited return to the court this season. Having dealt with knee injuries the past two seasons, Garcia’s initial impact was felt, as he shot 56 percent from the field in his 14-point, four-rebound performance against George Washington. His last time on a court was in February of last season, where he played three minutes against Hartford.
Boals has given props to his veteran players for unifying the team and helping the newcomers to adjust in an expedited fashion.
“I told our guys whatever you do, whatever you say and how you act sets the tone for the guys coming in,” Boals said. “I give a lot of credit to Jaron [Cornish], Elijah [Olaniyi], Akwasi [Yeboah], Andrew Garcia and a lot of those guys for implementing the work ethic and culture here.”
Overall, the Seawolves are in a position to reach greater heights than some may have expected. The team was selected fourth — along with rival Albany — in the America East Preseason Poll. Yet, following the two power conference victories, many can make an argument that this team has the makings of a top contender in the conference.