ATLANTA -- One year ago, the winner of the Lefty Driesell Award as national defensive player of the year was 6-11 freshman center Anthony Davis, who merely led Kentucky to the national championship and then became the No. 1 NBA draft pick.
This year's winner? Would you believe Stony Brook's Tommy Brenton?
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The fifth-year forward has been the Seawolves' heart-and-soul player almost from the moment he set foot on campus, and he even was America East Conference player of the year this season. But to be recognized for his contributions nationally by a panel of coaches and media for an award sponsored by Collegeinsider.com is a towering achievement.
"Usually, these awards go to players from high majors,'' said Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell, who was in Atlanta Friday night to accept the award for Brenton, who was unable to attend the banquet. "I'm excited and thrilled they recognized what a great player Tommy has been. It's unbelievable. He's in select company. Usually, these awards go to first-round picks. The committee did their homework.''
The 6-5 Brenton is the fourth winner of the award, following Davis, Old Dominion's Kent Bazemore and Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado. Brenton led Stony Brook in rebounds (8.5 per game) and steals (1.6), and if they measured floor burns and charges taken, he would have been at the top in those categories.
The Seawolves ranked 13th nationally in scoring defense, giving up 57.5 points per game, and were sixth in field-goal percentage defense (.378).
Much of that was related to the leadership of Brenton, the quintessential "glue guy,'' who also led the team in assists (4.8) and chipped in 8.4 points per game. Brenton did the job in the classroom, too, obtaining a master's degree in education.
"It shows how far the program has come,'' Pikiell said. "We've made huge strides at the national level. We're getting respect. A tip of the hat to Tommy.''