Already having established a legacy in basketball on Long Island, guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore is continuing a journey that has been far from easy.
In his relatively-short basketball career, Stephenson-Moore has experienced several highs and lows. He has won every battle he has fought thus far, overcoming injuries, on-court struggles and playing-time limits in the process. This year will certainly test Stephenson-Moore’s resilience as Stony Brook looks to be a surprise team in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).
Stephenson-Moore was born in Jamaica, N.Y. He comes from an athletic group of siblings, which includes younger twin sisters that play volleyball and a younger brother who plays football and basketball. Stephenson-Moore juggled many sports throughout his upbringing, including soccer, tennis and cycling. It took him longer to find an interest in basketball.
“I got into it by venturing out,” Stephenson-Moore said in an interview with The Statesman. “One time I went to a camp and tried basketball and ever since then, I’ve just been sticking with it.”
Stephenson-Moore lived with his mother for 14 years before moving with his father to Port Washington, N.Y. He completed his first three years of high school while living there, and this move marked the beginning of his competitive basketball journey. Stephenson-Moore did not play organized basketball until he made the junior varsity team in his freshman year of high school. That was when he fully committed himself to the sport.
“From the reactions of some high school coaches, they all saw a lot of potential,” Stephenson-Moore said. “When I started to realize that, I worked even harder and never dropped the ball.”
The first setback of Stephenson-Moore’s basketball career spelled an end to his junior season of high school. He had been playing through a pain in his left knee, thinking that he was just going through ordinary growing pains. However, he soon found out that he had developed osteochondritis dissecans, requiring him to undergo season-ending surgery. It was a yearlong recovery for the high schooler.
“Once I got my surgery and woke up from anesthesia, I was crying,” Stephenson-Moore said. “I thought this was it.”
Soon after though, Stephenson-Moore mentally prepared to return to the sport he had devoted himself to.
“I just thought ‘I’m going to be back,’” Stephenson-Moore said. “It was the main goal from right then and there to play basketball again.”
Not only did Stephenson-Moore play basketball again, he shined in his return to the court. In his senior season, Stephenson-Moore attended Long Island Lutheran Middle & High School (LuHi), which is well-known for its basketball program. The program boasts several notable alumni, including former NBA players Reggie Carter, Bill Chamberlain and Bill Wennington.
“Some of my AAU coaches were saying if you want to play Division I, you have to go to LuHi,” Stephenson-Moore said. “I had a great year.”
For Stephenson-Moore in particular, his performance ensured a place in Division I basketball the following year. He averaged 14 points per game that season while making 53 three-pointers. He was named to Newsday’s 2019 First Team All-Long Island team and the 2019 All-Long Island team.
“Coming off an injury, a lot of people were worried I wasn’t going to come back better than before,” Stephenson-Moore said. “I proved all the doubters wrong.”
In February 2019, Stephenson-Moore committed to playing basketball at Stony Brook. He chose to be a Seawolf due to the school’s proximity to home and his first impression of the team.
“It’s close to home,” Stephenson-Moore said. “I also connected with the guys so well, they would text me and there was just a great energy.”
Stephenson-Moore’s commitment brought forth great emotions.
“It was a shellshock,” Stephenson-Moore said. “This is something that I worked hard for and told myself I would do.”
His freshman year was filled with ups and downs, as before playing an official game, he suffered a sprained ankle which kept him out of the team’s first four contests.
Through his first 18 games, Stephenson-Moore scored just 35 points while playing just over eight minutes per game. He finally hit the first hot streak of his college career in his second start against UMass Lowell. There, he reached double figures for the first time, scoring 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
“I think it was just getting used to it and feeling confident,” Stephenson-Moore said. “Staying true to the work I put in after hours. I thought that was a glimpse of what I could do.”
Stony Brook finished the 2019-20 regular season with a record of 19-12 and snagged the No. 2 seed in the America East tournament. They defeated seventh-seeded Albany in the quarterfinals before falling in the semifinals to third-seeded Hartford by a score of 64-58.
That game marked the lowest moment of Stephenson-Moore’s career to that point. He played 21 minutes but did not record a point, shooting 0-for-6 from the field and 0-for-4 from deep.
“I was very upset,” Stephenson-Moore said. “That’s a game I will never forget. I felt like I let the team down.”
Soon after, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Although this had no impact on the Seawolves’ scheduling the following season, it did impact Stephenson-Moore.
“I didn’t prepare as much as I should have,” Stephenson-Moore said. “There wasn’t any access to a gym. It was a hard year.”
As a result, Stephenson-Moore’s sophomore year saw a decrease in his playing time and stats. Stony Brook struggled as a team that season, going 9-14 overall and losing in the opening round of the tournament.
Stephenson-Moore played in 21 games that year, only starting three times. He averaged 2.6 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.4 assists on 26.2% shooting from the field. Typically a good jump-shooter, he only shot 19.5% from the three-point line.
“Sophomore slump,” Stephenson-Moore said. “I didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself. That was probably the lowest of the low for me.”
Just as he had done before in his basketball career though, Stephenson-Moore bounced back. Preparation was key.
“I told myself I cannot have a year like I had last year,” Stephenson-Moore said. “I was in the gym making sure I was prepared.”
The work in the offseason paid off for Stephenson-Moore, as he had his best year yet as a Seawolf. He became a regular in the starting lineup, starting 22 of the 28 games he played. He averaged 25.5 minutes per game, a sizable increase from his first two seasons.
Stephenson-Moore finished the 2021-22 season with averages of 7.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 0.9 assists. He put up a .479/.448/.852 shooting line. Stephenson-Moore credits the improvement to his work ethic.
“Just staying in the gym,” Stephenson-Moore said. “When you get so many reps up, all of these shots feel like layups. Either contested or not I’ve practiced those shots every day for a couple of hours. It just shows that even though you can have a down year, if you work and don’t dwell on it you will always improve.”
Stephenson-Moore’s career year was tainted with the announcement that Stony Brook would be banned from the American East tournament following their agreement to join the CAA. That same day, the Seawolves lost their game against Binghamton. After the news broke, the team finished the season going 5-6 after starting 13-7.
“It hit a lot of us,” Stephenson-Moore said. “The team was built to win, we had a lot of graduate students in their last year. It took a lot of us from the whole year.”
Stony Brook’s roster finds itself rebuilding this season. It has undergone several changes, highlighted by the loss of nine players. This essentially guarantees Stephenson-Moore a huge role. Getting the chance to play a lot of minutes in the CAA is a challenge that he looks forward to.
“I’m excited,” Stephenson-Moore said. “I feel like this would be a chance for me to showcase to everyone what I can do in a tougher conference. I’m just as athletic, if not more than some of the guys in the conference.”
Defensively, Stephenson-Moore made a positive impact on the court for Stony Brook last season, highlighted by his game-saving block against Saint Peter’s. Trying to build off of that, he has seen an improvement from his end.
“I’ve gotten stronger,” Stephenson-Moore said. “I feel like I can hold off a lot of the bigger guys, I feel quicker and more athletic.”
Stephenson-Moore also makes his impact in the locker room. Head coach Geno Ford announced in his CAA media day press conference that he and forward Frankie Policelli were voted as co-captains for the 2022-23 season.
“I was a captain senior year in high school,” Stephenson-Moore said. “To be named captain senior year of college shows maturity and a lot of growth within myself.”
Ford believes that Stephenson-Moore is worthy of his title as team co-captain.
“Tyler’s a winner, man,” Ford said in an interview with The Statesman. “I would follow that guy into any alley he wanted to go. We may get beat up, but it ain’t going to be because I have to worry if he’s over there trying his part.”
Stephenson-Moore has expressed interest in coming back for his last year of eligibility, something that he sees benefiting himself athletically and academically. He hopes to continue his playing career after college.
“I’m going to let my performance show if I’m able to play after,” Stephenson-Moore said. “I’m a good shooter, so I feel like I can be utilized.”
Opening tipoff on Stephenson-Moore’s fourth season will come on Monday, Nov. 7, when the Seawolves will take on the Florida Gators down in Gainesville, Fla.