The phrase “roster turnover” has perhaps never applied more to the Seawolves than it does this season. After the departure of nearly all of its starters, the Stony Brook men’s basketball team is entering this winter full of uncertainty.
Last season’s top four scorers, who combined for 3,925 total minutes, are all gone, and the production they gave the team is going to have to come from somewhere else. But with the team’s opening game against Marist on Nov. 25 fast approaching, second-year head coach Geno Ford is still not ready to announce a starting five.
Fortunately for the team, there is no shortage of talent for these new-look Seawolves to replace their old starters with. The team signed seven transfer students during the offseason: junior guards Juwan White, Tykei Greene and Juan Felix Rodriguez, senior guard Omar Habwe, junior forwards Leighton Elliott-Sewell and Mohamed Diallo and senior forward Jaden Sayles. On top of that, the players that remain from last season appear ready to take the next step as cornerstones of the roster.
Senior forward Mouhamadou Gueye, who is one of just three current seniors who played for Stony Brook last season and the only consistent starter still with the team, is emerging as a locker room leader.
“I’ve always considered myself a leader by example. I’m not that big of a talker,” Gueye said. Last year, that example included some incredible defensive performances. Gueye finished the season with 1.94 blocks per game — fourth all-time among Stony Brook players.
But this year, his coaches have made it clear that as a veteran, Gueye needs to become more vocal in his leadership. Gueye said that the transition has not been difficult for him.
“My team has really helped make it easy for me,” he said.
Redshirt-sophomore forward Frankie Policelli, who had to sit out last season due to an NCAA ruling following his transfer to the team from Dayton, is also poised to help make up for lost production. During his time on the bench, Policelli learned a lot about leadership by watching how his former teammates carried themselves.
“The guys that left were extremely vocal,” Policelli said. “I learned that to be a leader, you just have to speak up and speak to your teammates … and use your voice because that’s what they listen to.”
Policelli is looking to bring his positive mentality to the whole team.
“I’m like a kid in a candy shop,” Policelli said. “My goal is to probably just get the win, have fun and just enjoy the moment.”
Sophomore guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore also expects to play a big role this season. Stephenson-Moore became a starting guard late last season, and that experience will serve him well.
“I did work on my handle a lot, so I’m more confident with that,” Stephenson-Moore said. “Being able to be more than just a shooter, being able to create my own shot.”
The success of last year’s roster looms large. The 2019-20 Seawolves reached the semifinals of the America East Tournament on the back of an offense that broke the team record for three-point shots. But these current Seawolves are not feeling pressure to live up to that mark. Gueye remarked that while last year, the Seawolves had some talented players, they were forced to play around them more. This year, he believes that they are more of a rounded offense, something that Ford noted as well.
“I don’t think this year’s team will shoot as many threes as last year’s team,” Ford said. “I’m more concerned with percentage than attempt numbers.”
Ford does not seem worried about the inexperience of his roster. Despite the lack of cohesion going into the season, he sees the potential for this group to reach the expectations that years of contention have set into the program.
“You can’t expect guys to come in and day one, light the world on fire,” Ford said. “There’s going to be some ups and downs, especially with guys that haven’t played a lot. But you know, the ability when they’re really playing well is awfully high, and [they’re] great kids and work really hard.”