Stony Brook has been through a lot of changes since last season ended with a 20-13 mark and a loss in the America East semifinals. Despite the strong record, there was a spate of transfers and the Seawolves lost their top three scorers — Elijah Olaniyi, Makale Foreman and Andrew Garcia — in the exodus. They brought in a number of transfers to replenish the roster.
"We had talent last year, but we really didn’t play all that well together," said 6-9 senior Mouhamadou Gueye, who averaged 6.4 points and 7.0 rebounds last season. "I know that from the outside this might look like a rebuilding year for us, but I expect us to be a contender for the championship. If we work well together this team could be better than last year’s."
Here are five keys for Stony Brook this season:
- Need for unity: The Seawolves simply don’t have much in the way of cohesion and, as coach Geno Ford said, "the only way that will come is with the experience playing together." The preseason was short, there were no scrimmages and the non-conference schedule is limited so the team could be a work-in-progress early. As Dayton transfer Frankie Policelli said, "we have to communicate and play through our mistakes."
- Policelli's importance: Policelli, a 6-7 redshirt sophomore out of Long Island Lutheran High School, had to sit out last season after his transfer from Dayton, but should be a high-impact player. His three-point shooting could be a difference-maker on a team that shot only 41 percent from the floor a year ago. He could be a go-to scorer.
- Scoring from Gueye: All of the roster turnover means returning players will have new roles. Gueye will have to take on more of the scoring while maintaining his strong play off the backboards. "Mo has never been in the role where defenses are gearing up to stop him," Ford said. "He is going to be seeing double-teams for the first time and will have to get used to that. I believe he will and he is capable of being an all-conference player."
- Rodriguez on point: The Seawolves will have a new point guard in junior college transfer Juan Felix Rodriguez, a speedy 6-footer who blends a pass-first instinct with an ability to get to the rim and finish. How quickly he becomes a leader may dictate the arc of the season, but as Policelli said, "he has already shown us all how well he knows the game — he is always in the right place and knows where we want the ball."
- Boarding school: Stony Brook persevered through poor shooting with good rebounding last season. It has be strong on the boards and is banking on 6-9 Akron transfer Jaden Sayles and hard-nosed 6-6 junior college transfer Mohamed Diallo when he returns from a broken hand suffered last month.