Stony Brook's Tommy Brenton (24) shoots the free throw line...

Stony Brook's Tommy Brenton (24) shoots the free throw line against Holy Cross. (Dec. 31, 2009) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

HARTFORD -- Whenever Stony Brook lost a close one last season, it was difficult for coach Steve Pikiell not to think about what might have been if only forward Tommy Brenton hadn't missed the season with a dislocated kneecap. Yet even with that and several other key injuries, the Seawolves reached the America East Tournament final and barely lost out on an NCAA bid when it fell to Boston University by two points.

So imagine how good Pikiell feels this season about a team that has Brenton back, 12 players with starting experience and the addition of junior college transfer Ron Bracey and freshman Scott King to boost the Seawolves' offensive production.

Stony Brook received three first-place votes and finished second to defending champion BU in the preseason coaches' poll, and Pikiell says his team is ready to challenge for the NCAA Tournament bid.

"I expect us to defend people and be one of the best rebounding teams in the conference,'' Pikiell said at the America East media day luncheon Thursday. "This year, we have to improve on the offensive end to make life a little bit easier, but having all of our weapons available is going to help us a great deal.

"I think this team should be competing for league titles again. Are we going to have a great weekend in March? I can't look down the road that far, but I like where our program is.''

Brenton still is rounding into basketball shape, but Pikiell said he got back in the swing in terms of handling contact on SBU's European tour in August, and he should be 100 percent by the time the Seawolves open the season Nov. 11 at Indiana.

Two seasons ago, the 6-5 Brenton led Stony Brook in rebounding and assists and was considered the top defender in the conference.

"He makes a huge difference for us,'' Pikiell said. "He brings a presence. I'm really excited to have him back.''

Although guard Bryan Dougher became Stony Brook's all-time leading three-point scorer and led the team with a 12.8 average, the Seawolves struggled to find other scorers much of the season. Down the stretch, wing man Leonard Hayes came on strong. Marcus Rouse provided an offensive spark off the bench and guards Dave Coley and Anthony Jackson gained valuable experience.

The Seawolves also return starting center Dallis Joyner and forwards Anthony Mayo, Eric McAlister and Al Rapier, all of whom made contributions. Now they add Bracey, a 6-5, 220-pound forward from Kellogg Community College in Michigan, where he averaged 23.8 points and 6.8 rebounds, and the 6-8 King, who has a three-point touch and a 39-inch vertical leap.

"Ron led us in scoring on our European trip and had no idea what we were doing, which was a great sign,'' Pikiell said. "He's strong and gives us a true three-man that can score in multiple ways, defend and handle the ball.''

The schedule is tough, with non-conference games at Indiana and Northwestern of the Big Ten, at Boston College of the ACC and against Rutgers of the Big East at Madison Square Garden, but Pikiell says the Seawolves are ready.


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