A couple of years ago, anyone could have told you it would take a miracle for Stony Brook to win the America East regular-season title. So, it shouldn't be a surprise that the league named senior Muhammad El-Amin player of the year and Steve Pikiell coach of the year at an awards ceremony this afternoon in Hartford.
Those two are the main miracle workers, but the efforts of guard Bryan Dougher and forward Tommy Brenton also were recognized with a selection to the all-conference second team. In addition, center Andrew Goba was named to the all-academic team.
"I didn't think I'd get the award because (Vermont forward) Marqus Blakely won it two years in a row," El-Amin said. "I was shocked and amazed."
El-Amin finished as the third-leading scorer in the conference, averaging 16.8 points per game. But his value never was more evident than during the Seawolves' 10-game winning streak that culminated with a title-clinching win over Vermont. In the last five games of that streak against tough Maine, Binghamton, UMBC, Albany and the Catamounts, El-Amin really stepped up his production, averaging 24.6 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting.
"I was being more aggressive," he said. "I took extra shots in practice because I knew we had a tough schedule and I had to stay in attack mode."
Pikiell was not immediately available for comment, but certainly his honor was well deserved. In five years at the helm, Pikiell has lifted Stony Brook from doormat status to league champion. This is his second straight winning season (21-8, 13-3 America East) and first 20-win season.
The Seawolves are guaranteed at least an NIT bid, but they are shooting for the NCAA berth that goes to the winner of the conference tournament. They open against eight-seeded Albany (7-24, 2-14) at noon Saturday in Hartford University's Chase Arena. If they win, they will play in a semifinal game at 5 p.m. Sunday, and if they make the finals, the Seawolves earn the right to host the title game on Saturday, March 13.