Stony Brook University's basketball team is on the edge of glory, a victory away from its first appearance in the NCAA Division I Tournament. Senior forward Dallis Joyner fervently hopes to achieve the goal he set as a freshman.
"I just want to take Stony Brook to the NCAA Tournament," said the 6-7 Joyner, repeating the line that has been a recurring theme for the player who has experienced an extreme range of emotions in the America East Tournament. He was the hero of last Sunday's semifinal against Albany when he batted in the rebound of Dave Coley's missed jump shot at time expired for a 57-55 victory. That gave SBU a berth in Saturday's championship game against Vermont.
It helped relieve the nearly yearlong pain Joyner experienced since the Seawolves' loss to Boston University in the conference title game last season. With that game tied at 54, Joyner was called for a foul on John Holland, who made two free throws with 2.4 seconds left for the winning margin.
Joyner has carried the burden of that foul ever since. "Every day, every single day this summer I worked out with that on my mind," he said. "It just stuck with me every day. It felt like the last call was on me. I didn't completely feel like I lost the game, but it was a feeling of emptiness."
Joyner, averaging 9.0 points and 6.5 rebounds, never told his teammates or his coach of his pain. "It's his last go-round," Steve Pikiell said. "I don't know what motivates him; if that has, he's having a great year. He leads the league in field-goal percentage ; he's the best post defender in the conference. He's a great team defender.''
Basketball means so much to him, but it meant very little until his freshman year at Granby High School in Norfolk, Va. "I was completely not interested in basketball," he said. Joyner said Granby coach Tiran Matthews "heard about a 6-5 guy walking in the halls. He pulled me out of class and said, 'You need to come to practice.' I remember the first day, I didn't have basketball shorts, I had khaki shorts. I was terrible. My sophomore year, I started to see my success go up. I worked out three times a day, I started to develop. That's when I started falling in love with it."
He became a smashing success as a senior when he shattered the glass backboard after a dunk. Now, he thinks about cutting a piece of the net if he and his team can get the job done against Vermont. He watched BU's Holland do it last year. "It was definitely an image that stuck in my head, seeing him cut the net down," Joyner said. "It was painful, but then it was like something I had to work toward. I have not won any championship tournaments in my whole career. When coach Pikiell recruited me he said, 'We haven't been there,' and he believes in me. I've shared that dream with him since Day 1."