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Tyrell Sturdivant is leader of Stony Brook’s young basketball team

Stony Brook forward Tyrell Sturdivant looks to shoot

Stony Brook forward Tyrell Sturdivant looks to shoot past Vermont forward Drew Urquhart during the first half of an NCAA men's basketball game at Island Federal Credit Union Arena on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Tyrell Sturdivant’s Twitter picture, and the very first photo on his timeline — pinned there from a year and a half ago — is an image of him with a basketball net for a necklace, kissing the America East championship trophy.

His Twitter handle — the name he wants the Internet to associate him with — is @NoDaysOff_Rell. It’s the second part of his name, preceded by his life’s philosophy.

It was Sturdivant — Stony Brook’s starting forward and newly minted team leader — who went from 252 pounds to 225 at the start of last season and changed the composition of his body along the way. The 6-7 senior also led the charge this summer, spending time at the gym and shooting mornings and nights, so when the slew of new kids joining the team showed up, they just thought this is how things are done.

After Stony Brook lost in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational last season, “I talked about investment . . . how much you invest is how much you’re going to get in return, and I really challenged the guys to invest more in what they were doing,” coach Jeff Boals said. “Ty has been showing by example that [idea of] investment, putting in the time. I’m really happy.”

Sturdivant, who spent most of his time with his back to the basket last season, tried to stretch out his game in the offseason and has put in time with his three-point shot. Now, with a team populated by youth, the senior has become the voice of experience, an especially vital role given how much talent Stony Brook has lost in the last two years.

It was only two seasons ago that Jameel Warney, the best player in Stony Brook men’s basketball history, played his final game. The year after Warney left, Stony Brook was ranked seventh in the preseason poll, only to shock the America East by finishing second.

Stony Brook won’t necessarily sneak up on anyone again, and that’s reflected in how the players feel about themselves and their chances. They were ranked fourth in this year’s preseason poll, while Vermont was the unanimous choice for No. 1.

Still, with the departure of Lucas Woodhouse and Roland Nyama, the Seawolves have lost key personnel while the other top-tier teams in the conference have retained their talent.

“Our experience and our confidence are way higher than it was this time last year,” said Sturdivant, who was named to the conference third team last season after leading the Seawolves in rebounds with 5.4 per game. He also averaged 10.4 points, second on the team. “And I’m looked up to on this team, so setting the example is really important . . . Being in the gym, see me working hard, they follow suit.”

Their first challenges will be some of the most difficult. Only two full-time starters return from last season (the other is Junior Saintel), and there are five new players plus a redshirt freshman. That crew will have the tall task of facing Maryland, the University of Connecticut and Michigan in their first four games.

“It might be a little overzealous of a schedule,” Boals said. “I think there’ll be some positives with it. We started out 0-4 last year . . . [Early in the season], my goal was to get better every single day. We keep our eye on the prize, to March 10, the league tournament championship game. We’re going to continue to build and be positive. There’ll be some ups and downs during the non-conference season, but that’s why you play those games, to learn.”

The plan is to use that time to solidify roles — the Seawolves haven’t quite settled on a starting point guard yet — and simply learn how to jell. Akwasi Yeboah, the redshirt sophomore from England who was named to the America East All-Rookie team, is expected to have an expanded role this season. There’s also some buzz surrounding freshman forward Anthony Ochefu, brother of former Villanova national champion Daniel Ochefu.

“There will be some roles evolved and filled,” Boals said. “Our goal won’t change, and by January, we want to be a good team.”

SEAWOLVES TO WATCH

Akwasi Yeboah I Guard/Fwd, Soph

Yeboah burst onto the scene last year from Chigwell, England and immediately made an impact as a redshirt. He made 10 starts and played in 31 games, averaging 5.1 rebounds per game — second on the team — and 9.5 points. He was named to the America East All-Rookie team and has proven he knows how to produce in the clutch, registering career highs 21 points with 16 rebounds over Binghamton in the conference playoff quarterfinal.

Junior Saintel I Guard/Fwd, Sr

Saintel is the only regular returning starter, other than Sturdivant, and will be key in tethering the very young team. The Chipola College transfer started in 26 games, averaging 4.6 points and 3.6 rebounds. He had 10 assists, 16 blocks and 10 steals.

THE SCHEDULE

(all times p.m.)

NOVEMBER

10 Maryland, 7

At Nassau Coliseum

14 at UConn, 7

17 at Ball Stat,e 7

19 at Michigan State, 4

22 Brown, 6

26 Bucknell, 2

29 Shawnee State, 7

DECEMBER

2 Saint Francis, 7

4 at LIU-Brooklyn, 7

7 at Columbia, TBA

12 Hofstra 7

17 at Providence, 2:30

22 at Rutgers, 7

30 Norfolk State, 7

JANUARY

3 Maine, 7

6 at Hartford,7

10 Albany, 7

13 at Vermont, 2

18 Binghamton, 7

21 at New Hampshire, 1

24 at UMass Lowell, 7

27 Albany, 7

31 UMBC, 7

FEBRUARY

3 Hartford, 7

8 UMass Lowell ,7

11 at Maine, 2

15 at Binghamton, 7

18 New Hampshire, 2

21 at UMBC, 7

24 Vermont, 7

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