Sources have confirmed that Stony Brook forwards Scott King and Chris Braley will transfer out of the program at the end of the semester.
An extremely extremely long and athletic stretch-four with the ability to knock down shots from behind the arc 6’10”, King never really put it together on the court, averaging just 3.1 points and 1.2 rebounds per game over his career. As a red-shirt junior, King saw his playing time and touches decrease, averaging career-lows of 7.9 minutes and 3.0 points per game. King will graduate this summer and be eligible immediately as a graduate transfer.
An extremely strong and physical forward, at 6’5”, Braley brought toughness and rebounding to the floor, but struggled to carve out a niche. Recruited for his 3-point shooting, Braley struggled to find his stroke, hitting just 26.3 percent of his threes over his first two seasons, including just 21.1 percent as a sophomore during the past season. Should he transfer to another Division I program, Braley will have to sit out the 2015-2016 season per NCAA transfer rules, but can play immediately if he transfers to a lower division.
Both King and Braley were blocked from above on the Seawolves’ depth chart by two-time conference player of the year Jameel Warney, as well as forwards Rayshaun McGrew, Roland Nyama, Tyrell Sturdivant and Jakob Petrus.
With a the NCAA Tournament dreams dashed for seven of the America East’s nine teams, and a day remaining before the March Madness showdown between bitter rivals Albany and Stony Brook for all the marbles, One-Bid Wonders decided to take a look back at the America East basketball season that was in dunks. Take a look and enjoy — all nine America East teams and quite a few players are represented.
Who was the conference’s best dunker? What was the best dunk of the season? Leave us a comment below.
In anticipation of the America East championship and the start of March Madness, which tips off with top-seed Albany facing three-seed Stony Brook at 11 a.m. Saturday, OBW’s Sam Perkins linked up with Big Apple Buckets’ Ryan Restivo and the America East’s Jared Hager to take a look back a the season that was, before looking ahead to the championship game that will be.
The trio shared a great deal of laughs, as well as insider insight over the course of the night, with topics ranging from their overall impressions and biggest surprises during the regular season; thoughts on the change in the conference’s post season format, from a single-site tournament to a high-seed host playoff; the best game of the post season; and of course, detailed breakdowns and predictions of the big game itself.
That was the mantra for Stony Brook men’s basketball on Wednesday night when the third-seeded Seawolves walked off the court at Island FCU Arena after squeaking out a 62-57 win over sixth-seeded Binghamton in the quarterfinals of the America East Playoffs. The victory was just that: a survival.
Despite taking multiple double-digit leads in the second half, Stony Brook had a hard time sealing the game. The Bearcats were able to keep it close, and for a moment there, one could hear the collective thought of a home crowd of 3,289 that’s seen countless March letdowns by the Seawolves thinking, “Not again.”
That moment came with 28 seconds left and Binghamton down 58-55. Willie Rodriguez drove down the lane and kicked the ball out to the left wing where a wide-open Justin McFadden was waiting. The freshman let the ball fly, the crowd held its breath, and the ball was halfway down before popping back out.
“It was a little frightening,” Stony Brook point guard Carson Puriefoy admitted afterwards. “But we’re a veteran team. If he had made that shot, we would come down and get a good [shot] up. There isn’t a situation we haven’t been in this season. Just because they make shots doesn’t mean we can’t come back and make our move so I was confident in our guys.”
The Seawolves (22-10) advance to the semifinals on Sunday for a showdown at Patrick Gym against second-seeded Vermont (18-12), which downed UMBC, 66-39, in the quarterfinals. Top-seeded Albany (22-8) will host No. 4 New Hampshire (19-11) in the other semifinal.
“Coach Pikiell’s motto is, ’40 gets you 40,’ so it’s all about survive and advance,” Stony Brook center Jameel Warney said.
Despite dispatching Binghamton (6-26) in two regular-season meetings, Stony Brook knew this would not be an easy game.
“You’re playing a dangerous team, they have talented young players, credit to coach (Tommy) Dempsey because at the end of the year the more tape I watched on them I saw they weren’t playing like a team that’s lost a lot of games, they were playing like a good basketball team,” Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell said. “I told our guys this will be the hardest 40 minutes they’ll play, and it always is in the first round of the tournament when no one wants to put their uniforms away.”
The Bearcats gave the Seawolves everything they could handle, from a stifling 2-3 zone to All-Rookie selection Rodriguez’s strong low-post presence. Binghamton took a two-point lead into halftime and held Stony Brook to 30.8 percent shooting in the first half, including a stretch of shooting 0-for-12.
“Offense is the most inconsistent part of the game, we know that,” Puriefoy said. “Our coaches tell us all the time, in the playoffs we need to rely on our defense. We know we’re a great defensive team and we can rely on that when our shots aren’t falling. We kept it close so we can make a run in the second half.”
Stony Brook, which prides itself on dominating the glass, was even outrebounded 19-16 thanks in large part to Rayshaun McGrew being held to six minutes in the first half due to foul trouble.
“It was frustrating, but I didn’t want to show my emotions during the game,” McGrew said. “I didn’t want to bring the team energy down so I just cheered them on while I was on the bench and tried to pick them up when things were going bad while I wasn’t out there.”
The Seawolves woke up early in the second half, taking their largest lead of the game at 41-30 thanks to a 14-0 run. Scott King (six points) played some big minutes off the bench and the crowd erupted when he drained a transition three and later threw down an alley-oop slam.
Puriefoy finished with 14 points and five assists and McGrew had 14 points and eight rebounds. Warney, who was named America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year on Monday, had 11 points and 14 rebounds for his nation-leading 21st double-double to go along with three assists, two steals and a block.
For Binghamton, Rodriguez put up a game-high 19 points and added six rebounds. Romello Walker chipped in 10 points and eight boards.
One thing is for certain, though: the Seawolves can’t expect to shoot 31 percent in a half and be let off the hook against a team like Vermont. Maybe it was a good thing for the Seawolves that the first-round game was such a dogfight, it was a slap in the face to let them know they’re playing playoff basketball. But at this point, a win’s a win; no matter how ugly it is or how it gets done, it’s all about doing what needs to be done to get that “W.”
Stony Brook has now won seven straight games and will take that confidence into Burlington when they face the Catamounts, who swept the regular-season series, including a 17-point comeback win on Stony Brook’s home floor on Feb. 7.
“We can play with any team in this league,” Pikiell said. “Nothing is ever easy here for us, so we’ll go on the road to a tough place and we’ll be ready to play.”
Romello Walker sat in the post-game press conference, his eyes a light shade of red. Binghamton’s season had just ended in a 62-57 loss to Stony Brook in the quarterfinals of the America East Playoffs. But the feeling consuming the freshman wasn’t sadness.
“My feeling is, my belly is empty. I’m hungry,” he said, eliciting a few laughs but remaining completely stone-faced.
Walker may have been literally craving nourishment, but he was speaking figuratively, as he and his teammates looked hungry all throughout Wednesday’s game. For much of the night, the sixth-seeded Bearcats (6-26) hung right there with the third-seeded Seawolves (22-10). At no point did they look overmatched, and it makes them excited for next season.
“I feel really good about where we are right now, heading into the offseason and into next season,” Binghamton men’s basketball head coach Tommy Dempsey said. “I feel like we’ve really grown throughout the year and I can’t wait to get back on the court with these guys.”
Despite falling behind by double-digits twice during the second half, Binghamton fought back and had an opportunity to tie the game in the final minute. Trailing 58-55 with 28 seconds left, Willie Rodriguez drove down the lane and found Justin McFadden wide open on the left wing. His stroke was pure, and the ball went in just enough for a split-second to make the crowd of 3,289 at Island FCU Arena hold its breath, but then it rimmed out.
“I thought it was going in. When I kicked it out and saw him wide open I got excited, I really thought it was going in and he would tie the game up,” Rodriguez said.
The Bearcats played very well on defense, holding the Seawolves to 30.8 percent from the field in the first half. Their 2-3 zone stifled Stony Brook and held America East Player of the Year to 11 points. Rodriguez finished with a game-high 19 points and Walker added 10 points and eight rebounds. But while all these stats are impressive, they mean nothing to Binghamton because the game ended with a loss.
“This is going to stick with me, I know it’s going to affect my offseason drastically because I don’t like this feeling,” Walker said. “I don’t want to feel this feeling again.”
Binghamton has had to suffer through a lot this season. Star junior forward Jordan Reed unexpectedly left the team early in the year. Freshman Dusan Perovic, who showed a lot of potential and emerged as the team’s leading scorer, was lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL in January. Sophomore guard Nick Madray hasn’t played since December after suffering a severe ankle sprain. But through it all, the Bearcats feel they’ve came out stronger.
“There were a lot of ups and downs, but it’s going to help us prepare in the offseason,” Rodriguez said. “I know, myself, I’m going to get better and I know my teammates are going to get better.”
“I feel like everything that could’ve happened was happening to us,” Walker said. “That kind of made us stronger. I think that next year, since we fought through basically everything this year, we’re going to come back prepared for everything and ready for anything.”
Binghamton has just two upperclassmen (one junior and one senior) on its roster. With a young nucleus, led by All-Rookie selection Rodriguez, the Bearcats know their future is bright.
“It doesn’t matter what happened in November or December, or what our record is. I know you look down at the stat-sheet and say ‘Oh jeez’ when you look at our record,” Dempsey said. “But where we are today, I’m really, really excited. This isn’t a 6-26 team right now, this is a team that can compete with the top teams in this league and they’re going to get a lot better. It’s going to be a lot of fun here over the next couple of years.”
OBW America East men’s basketball Player of the Year
Jameel Warney, Jr., C, Stony Brook
When you look at Jameel Warney as his own man and his own player, and stop trying to hold him up to the lofty standards of the greatest America East players of all time, or the curse of how dominant he “should be” because of his “talent,” it becomes impossible to ignore just how amazing Warney is.
Yep, Stony Brook didn’t live up to preseason expectations, but you know who did: Warney, who led the league in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots both overall and in conference play, and led the entire nation in double-doubles, all while drawing double, triple and quadruple teams every night. The 6’8” 260 pound monster was completely and totally unstoppable when he got the ball on the blocks, averaging 16.3 points and 11.4 rebounds on the season, and also turned into a game-changing defender on the other end (2.4 blocks per game). But perhaps the most underrated part of his game was the big man’s deft passing touch, as the bruising junior was equally adept at passing out of swarming defenses as he was to drawing them.
Sam Rowley for Albany had a brilliant senior season, and certainly was a worthy candidate, and if you took him off Albany the Great Danes would have struggled, ditto for Vermont shooting guard Dre Wills. But if you took Warney off Stony Brook, the Seawolves would have been duking it out with the likes of Binghamton to stay out of the AE bottom three.
The creme of the crop, the best of the best, the Fab Five. Without further ado, here’s our America East men’s basketball All-Conference First Team. Flame away.
OBW America East First Team All-Conference
Sam Rowley, Sr., F, Albany
After showing flashes of being a completely and utterly dominant player, Rowley has finally embraced his role as the Great Danes’ go-to scorer, team leader, and the best player on the league’s best team. With the best low-post moves in the league (“crocodile rolls” as head coach Will Brown calls them), and the ability to finish with either hand, the 6’5” Aussie was an absolute matchup night mare this year, ranking second in the league in scoring (14.3 ppg), fourth in scoring in conference games (15.1 ppg), third in overall rebounding (7.7 rpg) and fourth in rebounding in AE play (7.5 rpg) while ranking fifth in overall field goal percentage (53 percent) and second in field goal percentage in AE play (56.3 percent).
Evan Singletary, Jr., G, Albany
No one in the league hit more big shots than Evan Singletary, who drilled game winning daggers throughout conference play, while also stepping in to Peter Hooley’s role as the team’s go-to perimeter scorer while also flawlessly running the Great Danes offense. Singletary ranked seventh in the league in scoring and scoring in conference play (12.7 and 12.9 ppg), and also made a huge impact on the defensive end.
Jahad Thomas, R-Fr., F, UMass Lowell
Definitely our most controversial pick, we already know we’re going to catch a ton of flack for this. Yes, Thomas is a freshman. Yes UMass Lowell finished sixth in the standings, and yes Thomas missed the final seven games of the season due to a torn ACL. But in 22 games the 6’2” battering ram was absolutely dominant – more dominant than any America East player not named Jameel Warney or Sam Rowley, and the AE’s version of Charles Barkley. Thomas also faced more defensive pressure – constant double and triple teams and even Box-1 defenses on multiple occasions – than any other America East player other than Warney and all he did was deliver, bulling his way to the hoop and earning every single one of his buckets and rebounds. Thomas tied for second in the America East in overall scoring (14.3 ppg) fifth in rebounding (6.5 rpg), and shot 52.3 percent from the floor (sixth overall). He also always seemed to be making the big play in the games biggest moment and was also the River Hawks best defender.
Jameel Warney, Jr., C, Stony Brook
What do you really need to say about Warney? He led the America East in overall scoring and scoring in league play (16.3 and 17 ppg, respectively) as well as overall rebounding and rebounding in AE games (10.4 and 11.4 rpg, respectively), and in blocked shots both on the season and in conference play (2.4 bpg, 2.3 bpg), and led the entire nation in double-doubles, all while facing double, triple and quadruple teams every night. Dude was a beast.
Dre Wills, Soph., G, Vermont
Dre Wills did absolutely everything for Vermont. He was the Catamounts best defender, best rebounder, best intimidator, spark plug, enforcer, and most efficient scorer. Wills led the league in field goal percentage both overall and in league play as a 6’1” guard (58.6 and 60.9 percent, respectively), while completely taking out opponents’ best scorers, and also made a big impact blocking shots and distributing the ball. The kid did everything.
This was one of the toughest years we’ve had distinguishing between our Second Team All-Conference and our First Team, with 10 truly quality selections. With that being said, here’s a look at the OBW America East men’s basketball Second Team All-Conference
OBW America East Second Team All-Conference
Cody Joyce, Jr., F, UMBC
Despite playing with no reinforcements – and we mean none – in the low post, and facing relentless defensive pressure, Joyce established himself as one of the best front court players in the league, ranking fifth in the league in scoring (13.5 ppg), second in scoring in league play (16.1 ppg), sixth in overall rebounding (5.7 rpg) and fifth in rebounding in conference games (6.4 tpg).
Tanner Leissner, Fr., F, UMass Lowell
Leissner emerged as the Wildcats best player, go to scorer and complete game-changer, ranking sixth in scoring in conference games (13.1 ppg), third in rebounding in conference play (8.5 rpg), sixth in overall scoring (12.8 ppg) and fourth in total rebounds (7.4 rpg), while serving as the focal point of the Wildcats offense.
Ethan O’Day, Jr., F, Vermont
If not for ongoing foul issues, O’Day would likely have been on our First Teamer, as whenever he stayed on the floor he was a complete game changer, ranking Eighth in the league in both overall scoring and scoring in conference games (11.9 and 12.7 ppg, respectively), finishing second in field goal percentage (56.7 percent) second in blocked shots (2.2 bpg) and tied for first in blocks per game (2.3 bpg).
Carson Puriefoy, Jr., G, Stony Brook
Puriefoy had an up and down season overall, but when he was playing well, he was electric, pushing the Seawolves offense, getting to the rim and knocking down tough shots. He ranked fourth in overall scoring (13.9 ppg), fifth in scoring in league play (13.4 ppg), second in assists (3.4 apg), and fourth in assists in AE play (3.4 apg).
Peter Hooley, R-Jr., G, Albany
Hooley missed nine games to be by his mother, Sue’s side during her final days as she fought against colon cancer, but he was a game changer whenever he was on the court, averaging 13.7 points per game and 2.4 assists per game, while shooting a robust 44.1 percent from the floor and 35.5 percent from downtown. He also continues to have the immeasurable “clutch” factor, hitting big shots at big moments.
Coaches vote for a variety of different reasons — some for who they think the best players are regardless of factors or pre qualifiers, but many because they want to pay homage to the upperclassmen, or for the best player on the best team, or because they don’t like transfers or JuCos.
When it comes to our awards, we give added weight to performance in conference play, and helping carry their team to wins (important note: There is a difference between carrying a team to wins, and getting carried along for the ride). But at the end of the day, we simply try to pick the best individual players no matter their class, seniority, or how they came to play in the America East.
With that said, here’s a look at our America East men’s basketball All-Conference Third Team.
OBW America East Third Team All-Conference
Rayshaun McGrew, Jr., F, Stony Brook
McGrew had a bit of an up-and-down season, and certainly benefitted from playing behind the unstoppable force that is Jameel Warney. That being said, the 6’7” junior’s rebounding numbers – his 9.5 rebounds per game in AE play and 8.4 rebounds per game each rank second in the conference — speak for themselves:
Mark Nwakamma, Sr., F, Hartford
If Nwakamma had been healthy, instead of battling a knee injury throughout much of the conference slate there’s an excellent chance he would have landed on either the All-Conference First or Second teams. His numbers – ninth in overall scoring (11.8 ppg), seventh in rebounding (5.7 rpg), 17th in scoring in conference games (10.9 ppg) and sixth in rebounding in AE Play (5.8 rpg) — remain admirable none the less.
Willie Rodriguez, Fr., F, Binghamton
Rodriguez did everything for the Bearcats, rebounding, defending, scoring from all over the floor, while making all the little plays that don’t show up in the box score. His 11.6 points per game overall, 12.7 points per conference game, 5.5 rebounds per game and 5.7 rebounds per conference game rank 11th, eight, eight and seventh, respectively.
Ray Sanders, Jr., G/F, Albany
Saunders was a lock down defender all season long for the Great Danes, spearheading their defensive attack, but turned it on offensively down the stretch in conference play when Albany needed him the most, ranking 16th in scoring (11.2 ppg) and 11th in rebounding (5.3 rpg) in AE play.
Jaleen Smith, Soph., G, New Hampshire
Smith was the unsung hero of the Wildcats, the biggest surprise in the league. On the defensive end, he was a lock down defender and the lynchpin of the league’s best defense. On offense, he created off the dribble, got to the rim, and found the open man, while also making a dent on the glass (his 5.6 rebounds per game in AE play ranked ninth).
Dick Bennett once said, simply but profoundly, “For us to be successful on defense, we must get back and stop the basketball, eliminate easy baskets, keep the ball out of the lane, and bother the shooters.”
Bennett would have been happy with the five members of our OBW America East men’s basketball All-Defensive team, as they have those qualities in spades. Without further ado, here’s a look at our picks for the five best defenders in the “AE”.
OBW America East All-Defensive Team
Devarick Houston, Sr., F, UMBC
Houston, a 6’7” ball of energy and enthusiasm, was one of the best and most versatile defenders the league has seen in a long time, and literally spent time shutting down the 1-through-5 positions throughout the year. Whether it was blocking shots, picking pockets or rebounding the ball, he did it all.
Ray Sanders, Jr., G/F, Albany
An incredibly strong, tough and rugged 6’4” wing, Saunders was one of the most underappreciated players in the league and the unsung hero of the Great Danes, drawing the nightly assignment of covering the opponents best scorer.
Jaleen Smith, Soph., G, New Hampshire
A very long 6’4”, Smith played with tremendous energy and enthusiasm and emerged as arguably the best defender on the best defensive team in the conference, and spent the season running opposing scorers off of the 3-point arc and off the court entirely.
Jameel Warney, Jr., C, Stony Brook
Warney owned the glass, leading the league in defensive rebound both overall (6.9 drpg) and in conference games (7.3 drpg), while also leading the America East in blocked shots in conference play (2.4 bpg) while tying for the overall lead(2.3 bpg).
Dre Wills, Soph., G, Vermont
Wills was a one-man terror with the athleticism of a two-guard, the physicality of a power forward and the tenacity of a Tasmanian devil. Wills absolutely shut down opposing scorers, picked pockets, disrupted passing lanes, and also blocked shots (he ranked fourth in both overall blocks and blocks in conference games) and rebounded the ball (his 4.7 rpg led the Catamounts).