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Stony Brook men's basketball anointed favorite to win America East

Guard Juan Felix Rodriguez is Seawolves' top returning

Guard Juan Felix Rodriguez is Seawolves' top returning scorer at 13.3 points per game. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

One of the most turbulent offseasons in college sports has ended and the Stony Brook men’s basketball program is looking all the better for it.

Between the coronavirus pandemic and changing NCAA transfer rules, about 1,000 college athletes had their names in the transfer portal at one point or another, and the Seawolves’ program appears to have gained a windfall. They were anointed the preseason America East favorite with five first-place votes and a total of 77 points, edging Vermont, which had four first-place votes and 74 points. New Hampshire was third with the other first-place vote.

The Stony Brook men’s program not only is returning its top three scorers in Juan Felix Rodriguez (13.3 points), Frankie Policelli (10.7) and Tykei Greene (9.7) but has several high-profile transfers joining the Seawolves.

Elijah Olaniyi, a 6-5 guard, played three seasons for the Seawolves and was a first-team all-conference selection before transferring to Miami. He spent one season with the Hurricanes and averaged 10.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in 32.7 minutes and returns as a grad transfer. He also was picked preseason all-conference.

Jahlil Jenkins is a grad transfer from FDU, where the 6-foot point guard averaged 14.4 points and 4.0 assists and made 39% of his three-point attempts.

Anthony Roberts, who is 6-4, was an all-conference freshman at Kent State. He transferred to St. Bonaventure but got into only three games before making the move to Long Island.

The transfer trend in college basketball has cut both ways for the Seawolves. After they were 20-13 in 2019-20, Olaniyi, Makale Foreman and Andrew Garcia transferred out.

"We’ve been hit kind of hard with some departures. We’ve been now very fortunate with some incoming talent," Seawolves coach Geno Ford said. "It’s hard to get a high school kid that is as productive right away in our league as a transfer. You can get a good freshman . . . but we haven’t had freshmen come in our league average 15 [points] a game on good teams. Now you’re able to go get transfer guys that can come in and change your fortunes pretty quickly."

Getting them to blend well will be the next hurdle, and Ford said part of the trick will be to get so many guards to play together. "We’re very excited we got a lot of new faces and we do have some offensive firepower," he said. "It’s a much different team than we’ve had — the scoring is very guard-heavy. We don’t have the shot-blocking that we’ve had the last three years. I like our guys and they’re working hard, so hopefully we can live up to expectations."

The Seawolves went 9-14 last season while dealing with several coronavirus interruptions but look like a team ready to challenge this season. They will open Nov. 9 at George Mason and play road games against Kansas, Florida and Yale.

"It’s better to be picked near the top, but there’s so much work to do before March," Ford said. "This is the hardest schedule we’ve played since I’ve been here, so we’ll find out what we’re about pretty quickly."

Women also tops. The Stony Brook women’s program also was selected as the preseason favorite in the America East, receiving six first-place votes and 78 points. Maine got 74 points and three first-place votes.

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