As the Stony Brook men’s and women’s basketball teams prepare for their 2013-2014 seasons, their progress and excitement is embodied in the near-readiness of the 40,000 square foot Stony Brook Arena, with a capacity of more than 4,000 spectators and bowl seating that will bring fans even closer to their favorite players.
Anticipated to open in the fall of 2014, the arena has proved to be a popular selling point for future recruits and present players and coaches alike.
“People are really excited,” said men’s basketball Head Coach Steve Pikiell. “The whole university campus has changed, with new dining halls, the Rec Center, and all these things help in recruiting.”
The peak in excitement comes at a time when both the men’s and women’s basketball programs have made great strides, both on the court and off. In their 2012-13 season, the women finished with a 10-win improvement from the previous season, earning a No. 4 seed into the conference championship.
For Head Coach Beth O’Boyle, the focus will be on continuing that forward momentum and increasing the team’s tempo as she welcomes seven new recruits. The process of meshing veterans like senior guard Teasha Harris with the new players will be the key to keeping up the team-oriented defense that led to the team’s success in the past.
“When you have a senior who’s not afraid to talk, who’s not afraid to show emotion,” said O’Boyle. “It just helps, and it helps us with what we’re trying to establish and build our culture.”
For both O’Boyle and Pikiell, their message to their teams is always the same: we always play for a league championship.
The men’s team is coming off its best season as a Division I team in the school’s history, clinching its third America East regular season championship in four years and winning the most games in a season since 1977, when the team competed in Division III.
With the loss of forward Tommy Brenton, who was a game changer for all of his five years with the Seawolves, Pikiell said that his team will have to replace him “by committee,” with new players stepping up early in their tough season.
“Our youth scares me, and I’ve got to be conscious of that, especially early on,” Pikiell said. With non-league opponents like LaSalle, who played in the Sweet 16, VCU and Northeastern coming up, the more experienced players will have to lead the younger men who haven’t played on a national stage before.
“You can warn them and you can tell them, but until you live it a little bit, you don’t really know,” Pikiell said. “I’m hoping for our veterans, the ones we do have, that they can get those guys through the tough times.”
After a disappointing end to a stellar season last year, the Seawolves are ready to get back to work, and to keep up their successes in the classroom as well. They scored a 1000-point Academic Progress Rate for the third straight season in 2012-13.
But, in the words of Coach Pikiell, this new arena is going to be the players’ home, and they’re ready to make Stony Brook proud.