Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell has good reason to be optimistic about the direction his basketball program is head with four returning starters from this season's America East regular-season champions. But the one who is leaving is conference player Muhammad El-Amin.

Sitting on press row on Sunday during the Seawolves' 70-63 semifinal tournament loss to Boston University, I heard several reporters and radio commentators mention how much they admired El-Amin. While sophs Bryan Dougher and Chris Martin fueled much of a second-half comeback that wiped out a 16-point Stony Brook deficit, it was El-Amin who hit the go-ahead three-pointer for a 44-41 lead and who then added six of the Seawolves' next nine points to give them their high lead at 53-48.

When Boston coach Patrick Chambers was asked which of Stony Brook's weapons most concerned him, he said, "I voted for El-Amin for conference player of the year. We had to step up and get the ball out of his hands."

The Terriers did that by coming at El-Amin with double-team pressure, and the result was a total of eight turnovers by him in the and no more points after his free throws with 6:42 left because he was generally forced to pass and denied room to shoot and add to his team-high 20 points.

"BU doubled Mo, which no one had done all year," Pikiell said. "We had no prep time. It's hard to make adjustments on the fly. They were running guys at him. He had eight turnovers, which we usually don't do. It wasn't characteristic of what we normally are."

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Pikiell always emphasized that El-Amin never lacked for confidence in his shot to the point where the coach sometimes had to rein him in. But he knows as well as anyone how tough it is to find a consistent scorer, who can create his own shot and make big plays on a regular basis. It's not going to be easy finding a replacement for El-Amin, who was a difference-maker who helped Pikiell put Stony Brook on the winning track over the past two seasons.

Asked to express the disappointment he felt over seeing the Seawolves' NCAA hopes disappear yesterday, El-Amin instead chose to focus on the bright side. "We had a good year that fell one game short of our goal," he said referring to the America East title game and the chance to play for the NCAA bid. "We're looking forward to the NIT now."

The Seawolves have an automatic bid to the National Invitation Tournament as a result of winning the regular-season title. Because the NIT is a money-making venture, there's considerable question whether it will approve Stony Brook's bid to host a tournament game. But whether El-Amin gets one more appearance on campus or not, he can take pride in the role he played in helping to put Stony Brook basketball on the Division I map.