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SBU men's basketball team has some new faces but same old confidence

Stony Brook University men's basketball new coach Geno

Stony Brook University men's basketball new coach Geno Ford at practice, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Stony Brook looks like a true contradiction in terms entering this men's basketball season. A lot has changed and yet so much seems the same. The faces are familiar and yet the context is completely different.

And there is the one thing that has become a big-picture constant: the Seawolves are expected to be one of the best teams in the America East Conference and contend for the title. Stony Brook was tabbed third in a preseason poll of conference coaches — with Vermont the prohibitive favorite — and opens at home Tuesday night against Yale.

Jeff Boals departed after three seasons as coach to return to his alma mater, Ohio University. A coaching change can shake a program, but Boals was replaced by Geno Ford, who was associate head coach. As a result, there has been some continuity for returning players and for recruiting.

There is a lot of personnel back from the 2018-19 team that finished 24-9 and went to the CBI national postseason tournament. Three of the top five scorers return — 6-5 Elijah Olaniyi, 6-5 Andrew Garcia and 6-3 Miles Latimer — representing 32.3 points per game. Also back is America East defensive player of the year Jeff Otchere, a 7-footer who averaged 2.4 blocks in 18 minutes per game.

But new additions and a revamped offense have the Seawolves feeling excited.

The newcomer who could make the biggest impact is point guard Makale Foreman, a 6-1 redshirt junior transfer from UT-Chattanooga. He was a double-figure scorer with the Mocs two seasons ago before sitting out last year under NCAA transfer rules. When Boals exited, Foreman said, “I was upset because I was looking forward to playing for him,” but added “them going with Geno made it all easier.”

“He's an elite shooter, a legitimate deep threat with NBA range, who is also a solid ballhandler and playmaker,” Ford said. “His ability to score on the perimeter gives us something we did not have last year and he is someone every defense will have to be aware of.”

Long Islanders might recognize two other additions: freshmen Tavin Pierre Philippe and Tyler Stephenson-Moore. Pierre Philippe played at Baldwin High School last season and Stephenson-Moore helped Long Island Lutheran win the state Federation Class AA title. Both were Newsday all-Long Island first-teamers and Ford said “both are going to play.”

“Defense and spot shooting three-pointers translate instantly and those happen to be things [Stephenson-Moore] is pretty proficient at,” Ford said. “Tavin is a high-level athlete with the skills to play either guard position.”

Ford said Stony Brook will switch to an offense similar to the one Michigan ran the past several years.

“The past two or three years . . . in rebounding, we’ve been first or second in the league [and] defensively we’ve been first or second in the league,” Ford said. “Last year Vermont was first in offense and we were sixth or seventh and that's why they finish first and [we] finish second. We haven’t been very efficient, we have been a high turnover team, and we haven’t shot the three particularly consistently. So what we've tried to do offensively is rework the entire thing.”

Foreman not only will man the point, he hopes to fill a leadership void created when leading scorer Akwasi Yeboah transferred to Rutgers.

“I’ve been around this team for one year and I know I can be the floor general we need—,” he said. “It won’t be hard because I believe in what we have.”

Ford does too. “I don’t know what our record will be on Jan. 1," he said, "but at that point I’ll take this year’s team over last year’s I have to believe.”

DID YOU KNOW?

— The Seawolves have an extremely challenging non-conference schedule that includes games against defending NCAA champion and 11th-ranked Virginia, 12th-ranked Seton Hall and Providence. Plus there's the Dec. 10 road game at rival Hofstra.

— A number of the returning Seawolves were anointed with America East honors last season. Miles Latimer, all-Rookie team; Jeff Otchere, defensive player of the year; Andrew Garcia, sixth man of the year; Elijah Olaniyi third-team all-conference.

— In 2008 at Kent State, Geno Ford was elevated from assistant to head coach and won two regular-season conference titles in three years there. He also spent four years as Bradley's head coach.

— ROGER RUBIN

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