Adversity. It’s a word that we probably use way too much in sports.
Coaches, players and the media…We are all guilty in the overuse of the word. Relatively speaking, though, Stony Brook has every right to use it, especially with so many player games -at least 53- lost to injury
Seawolves coach Steve Pikiell had no problems spouting it out on Sunday.
“It’s a great win for our program after all the adversity we went through,” Pikiell said after Sunday’s 69-47 shellacking of Vermont in an America East semifinal.
The adversity he was referring to? Tommy Brenton was lost for the season with a knee injury last summer. Chris Martin missed 13 games with a torn meniscus and Marcus Rouse missed five games with the same injury. Junior center Dallis Joyner and freshman guard Dave Coley also missed games with injuries this season.
With all eligible players at or near 100 percent, Stony Brook is playing basketball at the level Pikiell expected them to be at. Stony Brook has won four straight games and six of its last eight.
The Seawolves (15-16), who will face the winner of Hartford and Boston University, are just one win away from its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament as a Division I program.
Leonard Hayes led the Seawolves with 20 points and Martin added 14. Stony Brook also got eight points each from Joyner and Al Rapier.
“I love the way we player. We went for it,” Pikiell said. “Chris made big plays. Lenny made big plays. We played great defense and came right at them.”
If Stony Brook manages to pull off the miracle and win the tournament, some will frown on a sub-.500 team in the dance.
But a further examination of things would reveal Stony Brook deserves everything it gets. The injuries were more problematic than most people think. Brenton (7.6 ppg, 9.7 reb) led the America East in rebounding last season and shot 53 percent from the field.
Losing Chris Martin, who averaged 10.8 points last season, for so many games was also a killer. Not having two experienced players to lean on really made things tough for the Seawolves this year, especially on offense. If Stony Brook had Brenton and Martin for a full season, there's no doubt the record would've been better.
Everything happens for a reason.
Pikiell’s youth-laden crew, which includes four freshman, four sophomores and only one senior, really benefitted from the on-the-job experience.
Those experiences are what could be what earns Stony Brook its dancing shoes.