There are a lot of new faces in the huddle for the Seawolves this season. In his first year as head coach, Geno Ford took over a roster without a single senior and constructed a rotation filled with newcomers who are being expected to contribute. Among them are the two players he personally recruited out of high school, freshman guards Tavin Pierre Philippe and Tyler Stephenson-Moore.
“It’s his first year, so I figure fresh start for both of us,” Philippe said regarding his decision to commit to Stony Brook. “It’s close to home, I live like an hour and a half away, and I really like the campus and the facilities, everything’s like brand new. We could compete with anybody in the country, brother.”
The transition into the college game has been an enlightening one for Philippe, who jumped right into the system and was impressed by the lessons it taught him.
“It’s definitely harder than high school,” Philippe said with a laugh. “For sure, everybody here can play. Everybody’s talented. Y’know, in high school I didn’t really have to use everything I had to score or rebound, cause I was bigger and stronger than everybody. But now it’s like guys, we got seven footers and point guards that’s like 50 pounds heavier than me when I came in. You gotta buy into the program, you gotta lift, you gotta eat right, you gotta work out, work on your game. But y’know, I transitioned good, gained weight, followed the program, lifted, kept working hard, and I think I’m doing good.”
It’s a tough task for any freshman looking to adapt and find his fit into a program, but Ford believes that he’s on the right track.
“Both freshman have been impressive,” Ford said. “Tavin’s really had a nice preseason for us and he’s a versatile guy. He’s got a lot of ability and just needs to improve his understanding of the speed of the game at this level and the intensity required that every freshman has to adjust to.”
That understanding can come on a game-by-game basis. Philippe played just 13 minutes in his season debut, picking up two rebounds and failing to convert on three shot attempts. In his third career game, however, Philippe earned 27 minutes on the court, picking up 11 points and four assists. The opportunities may not be consistent for him yet, but Philippe has shown the potential to develop quickly already.
Unfortunately, his counterpart Stephenson-Moore wasn’t able to compete at the start of the season. A foot injury suffered a week before the season opener derailed his progress, keeping him on the sidelines with a cast temporarily. Ford described Stephenson-Moore as “playing his best basketball the last few weeks” before getting injured and hoped that Stephenson-Moore would be ready to play before Thanksgiving. Stephenson-Moore made a swift recovery and debuted by playing 12 minutes in Stony Brook’s 68-63 victory over Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Friday, Nov. 15. So far, Stephenson-Moore has played just 28 minutes in total, and the Seawolves will be cautious easing him back into the rotation, but the expectation is that he will be another offensive option on the floor for the team.
As the team develops over the season, it will need more than the coaching staff to bring the freshmen along. The veterans on the team are taking up the responsibility of backing up their teammates.
“I think the leadership of the older guys has been positive,” Ford said. “You know, the returners that played a lot have found a voice. But, you know, they’re going to have to continue to lead and get guys organized and make sure that they are in the right spots because we’re going to have a lot of new faces out there at certain times. Some lineups may have as many as three first year guys and that can be a little tricky, so we need the voice of those older guys.”
Philippe believes that he already feels the benefit of working with the group of veterans on the team.
“It’s nothing but positive energy,” Philippe said. “You know, energy is a big thing. Coach always wants to see positive, good energy, he wants to be upbeat, flying around. They’re always telling me keep my head up if I make a mistake, or just keep doing what I’m doing, they always encourage me, and I respect that.”