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Steve Pikiell 'thrilled' by extension

Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell directs his

Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell directs his players against Maine during the first half of the America East Tournament quarterfinal game in Albany, N.Y., on Saturday, March 8, 2014. (Credit: Hans Pennink)

The pressure on Stony Brook basketball coach Steve Pikiell to produce the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament berth is palpable, and the disappointment of falling short in the America East championship loss to Albany in Pritchard Gym was painful at the end of the past season. But it’s a pressure Pikiell is happy to accept along with the contract extension he received from SBU on Wednesday.

The one-year extension maintains Pikiell’s contract through the 2018-19 season, which is the full five-year limit on contracts in the SUNY system. “I’m excited about the new arena, and I continue to be excited about Stony Brook University,” Pikiell said. “It’s a great place to be and a great place to work. I’m thrilled.”

The move from 1,630-seat Pritchard Gym to 4,000-seat Stony Brook Arena in the fall comes with a certain amount of pressure to put fans in the seats, but considering what he faced when he took over the floundering program nine seasons ago, it’s a pressure Pikiell welcomes.

“Pressure? When we were 4-24 and had the worst APR in the country, that was pressure,” Pikiell said. “Pressure is when you haven’t had a winning Division I season. I like this kind of pressure over that kind.”

Not only has Pikiell recorded four 20-win records, four postseason berths and three regular-season titles in America East in the past five seasons, but he has the program positioned for continued success. “I love my team,” Pikiell said of the group he has coming back next season.

Conference player of the year Jameel Warney will just be a junior next season along with second-team all-conference guard Carson Puriefoy III. Wing man Ahmad Walker, who started as a redshirt freshman, also is back as part of the core. Forwards Rayshaun McGrew, Scott King and Anthony Mayo all have considerable experience, and guards Kameron Mitchell, Chris Braley and Ryan Burnett all got a taste of action.

An exciting addition will be athletic wing man Roland Nyama, who was a redshirt last season but was very impressive in practices. The incoming recruiting class includes Michigan’s Mr. Basketball, guard Deshaun Thrower, and Chester, Pa. forward 6-8 Tyrell Sturdivant and 6-5 wing man Brian Sekunda of State College, Pa. In addition, former Harborfields point guard Lucas Woodhouse recently announced on Twitter his plans to transfer from Longwood to Stony Brook, where he will have two years of eligibility starting in 2015-16.

Just as previous Seawolves Tommy Brenton and Bryan Dougher have moved on to play pro basketball overseas, seniors Eric McAlister, Dave Coley and Anthony Jackson have signed with an agent with the expectation of pursuing pro careers. So, Stony Brook’s program is far removed in terms of success from what Pikiell inherited.

“I am proud of being a head coach at a great place,” Pikiell said. “I know we haven’t gone to the [NCAA] tournament, but we’re going to be there. It takes some time. I’m just proud we’re knocking on that door, and we continue to do that no matter who we graduate.”