In Beth O'Boyle's second season in charge of Stony Brook women's basketball, the Seawolves made a quantum leap forward with a 10-win improvement to 14-16. But that's just a jumping-off point for the 2013-14 team, which has added some high-end recruits to the mix and was voted third in the America East preseason poll.
O'Boyle knows she has a solid foundation with forwards Sabre Proctor, who is the leading returning scorer in the conference with a 10.9 average, and Brittany Snow, who was named to the all-rookie team last season. And senior point guard Chikilra Goodman averaged 8.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.2 steals.
The mystery is how well seven newcomers, some of whom could be major contributors, will blend with eight returning players. "It is a little bit different," O'Boyle said. "We've established the culture of how we're going to do things, but we have seven players who have never played a college game, and that's a very scary experience."
But it's a good kind of scary. With the prospect of modernized 4,008-seat Stony Brook Arena looming next season, O'Boyle's recruiting stock is going up. The real source of anxiety is the wait for a ruling from the NCAA on whether 6-1 junior guard Jessica Ogunnorin, a transfer from Cal-Riverside, will be eligible this season or must sit out a year.
"She would be a big addition," O'Boyle said. "Very athletic, strong, shoots threes, plays inside, very good player. Fingers crossed."
Even if Ogunnorin has to wait, O'Boyle has depth in the backcourt with seniors Teasha Harris and Natalie Myers, sophomores Kim Hanlon and Miranda Jenkins and freshmen Kori Bayne-Walker and Kristie Costantino competing for playing time. The third starting forward position figures to be a battle between two freshmen, Elizabeth Manner, who averaged 24 points as a high school senior, and 6-3 Angelica Hauer, with freshman Jasmine Bailey and sophomore Alyssa Coiro adding depth.
In a way, the template for this season is similar to what O'Boyle did a year ago when she blended in Snow as a freshman and Proctor as a transfer. "Sabre has the ability to score in a variety of ways," O'Boyle said. "She's a go-to player for us. It elevates all of our players because they have to learn how to defend her in practice.
"Brittany leads by example. She's got such a motor. It's really helping us with our tempo. I think she's going to have another big year."
Snow's work ethic helped set a tone a year ago, and she has confidence in the newcomers' ability to fit in after a summer spent working together. "The summer workouts helped us so much to play together as a team," she said. "I feel we're better off than last year even with all the new players."
Two-time defending America East champion Albany was the unanimous winner of the preseason poll, with Hartford second. But Stony Brook clearly is gaining respect.
"We have a lot of talented freshmen, and I believe the sky is the limit for us," Proctor said. "As long as we stay humble, we can go anywhere."