Category: Sports

Draw woes, questionable call end Stony Brook’s season against Syracuse

Originally published in The Statesman.

The Stony Brook Women’s Lacrosse team’s season ended against Syracuse on Sunday afternoon, as the Orange used a late four-goal push to defeat the Seawolves, 7-6, and advance to the NCAA quarterfinals.

Stony Brook held senior midfielder Kayla Treanor, a two-time Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year, without a point, a shot attempt or even a ground ball in the contest.

But the Syracuse star’s presence made a difference in the draw circle. Treanor, the most effective self-drawer in the country, controlled eight faceoffs herself, while the Orange as a team beat the Seawolves in the category, 11-4.

“Possessions matter,” head coach Joe Spallina said. “I like to think that if we had the ball seven more times on offense, we’d be up two or three.”

Stony Brook’s defense had success through much of the first half. The team assigned a single player to follow around and “faceguard” Treanor — a tactic uncommon from the Seawolves zone — and the Orange did not score in the contest’s first 19:50. Treanor finally got the team rolling with strong faceoff play, however.

“She’s just so fast in the way she turns it back,” freshman midfielder Kasey Mitchell, who took the bulk of Stony Brook’s draws in the game, said. “You just have to try to keep it away from her, honestly. It’s a respect thing, you can’t try to beat her.”

With Stony Brook’s star’s facing double-teams, Mitchell scored three goals in the contest, the most in her young career, the third of which was 3:17 into the second half and gave the Seawolves a 5-3 lead.

“They were helping onto our main girls and someone had to step up,” Mitchell said. “I was just at the right spot at the right time.”

By virtue of dominance on the draw, Syracuse rallied back. Senior midfielder Kelly Cross scored off a quick pass from senior attacker Halle Majorana. Later in the half, the Orange scored on a pair of free-position goals — first from senior Gabby Jaquith then from redshirt sophomore Taylor Gait — to tie and go ahead, 6-5.

Treanor won the draw and Syracuse sought to kill the clock. Stony Brook senior defender Alyssa Fleming was assessed a yellow card on a stick-to-the-head call. With Fleming sidelined for two minutes, madness ensued.

Syracuse senior midfielder Erica Bodt struck post on the power play and the ball ricocheted all the way to the offensive zone line and out of bounds. Amid the commotion it was unclear which team would be awarded possession. In lacrosse, possession after a shot goes out of bounds is awarded to the player nearest to the ball when it crosses the line. Much to Spallina’s chagrin, the Seawolves were not given the ball in what would have been a chance to tie the game.

“It was a bad call,” Spallina said. “It’s a race to the ball, but their player was out of bounds before the ball went over the line. Once you’re out of bounds you’re not part of the play anymore. We had two players, still inbounds, closest to the ball.”

Syracuse was granted possession, getting a two-player man-up situation when sophomore attacker Kylie Ohlmiller was granted a yellow card.

“What the ref sees they have to call,” Ohlmiller said. “But when it’s a close game like that I think it has to be our ball. First of all, we were there first and second of all, I did not swing at her head.”

The Orange extended the lead to 7-5 on a free-position shot by Bodt. Stony Brook’s Samantha DiSalvo cut the score to 7-6 off an Ohlmiller feed, but Mitchell turned the ball over after winning the next faceoff.

The Seawolves’ attempts to force a turnover proved futile as the Orange ran out the clock to end the game. Stony Brook’s season ends with a 17-4 record, with three of the four defeats coming by 7-6 scores.

Stony Brook will return 96.8 percent of its goal-scorers next season, including junior midfielder Courtney Murphy, who scored her 100th goal of the season in the game, becoming the first player in Division-I lacrosse history to achieve the feat.

“You name it, offensively, they’ll be back,” Spallina said. “I love our talent, I love our system. This won’t be the case next year.”

But in the interim, the loss stings for a Stony Brook team that had national title aspirations.

“We want people to be scared to play us,” Ohlmiller said. “They were scared to play us. We had it in the bag, it was just a couple plays that we had to finish.”

Mitchell scores in last second, Stony Brook beats Albany for AE crown

Originally published in The Statesman

The game was tied with mere seconds remaining. The ball lay nestled in the stick of Stony Brook freshman midfielder Kasey Mitchell as the crowd — speckled with Stony Brook red and Albany purple alike — stood collectively with anticipation.

Watching most of the contest from the sideline, Mitchell had not recorded a single statistic all day. But with the America East Women’s Lacrosse Championship on the line, the freshman had a free-position chance to win the game at the buzzer.

She delivered.

Mitchell took two steps in from the left and shot the ball under the crossbar and into the net, sending the Stony Brook bench and crowd into eruption. The Seawolves defeated the Great Danes, 10-9, to claim their fourth consecutive conference title.

So what was going through Mitchell’s head as she stepped to the free-position line, preparing for the game-deciding shot?

“Honestly, nothing,” Mitchell said. “I was just praying to God that it went in.”

Head coach Joe Spallina, who said he had never won a lacrosse game with a buzzer-beater in his life — not as a player nor as a coach at any level — had complete faith in the freshman to keep composure in the highest of stakes.

“Ice in her veins, man,” Spallina said. “She’s a tough kid.

“I think when you’re a little kid, it’s like that situation, you know, bases loaded, bottom of the ninth, mighty Kasey at the bat,” he said, grinning at his pun. “She hit it out of the park.”

The game could not have been much closer, as Stony Brook and Albany were tied eight times in the contest. Neither team took a lead larger than two goals, a stark contrast from last Saturday’s regular season meeting when the Seawolves annihilated the Great Danes, 13-4.

“I think they played their offense a little differently,” junior midfielder Dorrien Van Dyke, who scored four goals in the game, said. “They definitely had more of a fight today.”

With 4:14 remaining in the game, Albany senior midfielder Rachel Bowles scored on a free-position shot to give the Great Danes a 9-8 lead, their first of the second half.

Albany controlled the ensuing draw and looked to burn as much time as possible. America East co-Defensive Player of the Year Alyssa Fleming forced junior attacker Dakotah Savitcheff into a critical turnover and secured the ground ball. Stony Brook cleared the zone, taking offense, where Spallina called timeout with two minutes remaining.

“Pretty much when you go down and people are stalling in the women’s game it’s almost impossible to get the ball back,” junior attacker Courtney Murphy said. “Flem won the game for us, she came up with that ball … I think people would forget about that play, but if it wasn’t for her they would have been celebrating on our field.”

When play resumed, the ball cycled around the field. It eventually found junior attacker Alyssa Guido, who found Murphy crashing to the front of the net for a quick catch-and-shoot to tie the game, 9-9. Scoring her 95th goal of the season, Murphy leapt wildly with celebration, having kept her team’s championship hopes alive.

“We just needed a goal,” Murphy, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, said. “By any means necessary, we had to do it. Guido’s awesome, she found me. I closed my eyes and I heard it hit the pipe — we had hit the pipe on two shots before that — so I was like ‘No way, oh my god it’s going to pipe and out,’ but it went in and we got the momentum.”

Murphy scored four goals in the game, creeping closer to the NCAA single-season goals record, 98, set by Delaware’s Karen Emas in 1984.

Savitcheff also scored four goals in the game, as the Great Danes star was a constant threat. Perhaps her finest play of the offensive player’s night came on defense, however. With just over seven minutes to play, Savitcheff stripped the ball from Stony Brook junior attacker Taylor Ranftle in the neutral zone. She garnered the loose ball and hurled a deep pass for junior midfielder Sarah Martin, who scored on a breakaway to tie the game 8-8.

“We just had some breakdowns,” Spallina said of his defense. “[Savitcheff]’s a really good player, they put her in good spots, she made plays.”

But the game will be remembered for the unlikely heroism of Mitchell, the freshman whose nerves kept cool enough for Stony Brook to win the game and clinch its spot in the NCAA Tournament.

“That finish, I mean, I don’t even know how you can write it up because I don’t even have words for it,” Van Dyke said. “It was awesome.”

No. 8 Stony Brook Men’s Lacrosse falls to Marist in overtime thriller

Originally published in The Statesman

The game had it all — behind-the-back goals, controversial calls and overtime — but in the waning seconds of the extra period, Marist freshman attackman Thomas Rago slipped behind the Stony Brook defense, took a pass from junior attackman J.D. Recor and scored to give the Red Foxes a 10-9 upset victory over the eighth-ranked Seawolves on Tuesday night.

Stony Brook had several opportunities to win the game, most notably in the final minute of regulation. With 55 seconds to play, the Seawolves led, 9-8, and Marist senior attackman Joseph Radin missed the net wide of the goal. Stony Brook backed up the shot, gaining possession with a chance to run down the clock.

Stony Brook senior defenseman Lucas Rock had the ball near his own goal. Marist sophomore goalkeeper Brian Corrigan abandoned the net, as the Red Foxes pressed in search of a turnover.

Head coach Jim Nagle told Rock to shoot at the open goal, despite being 70 yards away, so he did, launching the ball across the field, over the net and out-of-bounds. It appeared that Stony Brook was closest to the wayward shot attempt, which would give the Seawolves possession. But after brief deliberation, the officials awarded possession to the Red Foxes instead, leaving the Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium crowd stupefied.

“The guy initially made the call, red [Marist’s jersey color],” Nagle said. “I don’t think he thought it was a shot, and then he conferred with the other guy. My question was, why did he need to confer? If red was closest, and it was a pass, then it’s red ball either way. So they conferred, and then they stuck to his call, which I didn’t really understand.”

Marist gained possession, cleared its zone and tied the game with 13.1 seconds left, as sophomore midfielder Gannon Morrison scored past Stony Brook sophomore goalkeeper Brandon Maciejewski. The contest headed to overtime, where the Seawolves had two offensive possessions — one of which ended in a turnover and the other of which ended in an unsuccessful shot attempt from senior midfielder Chris Hughes.

“From an offensive standpoint, we weren’t executing well,” senior attackman Brody Eastwood said. “We had a few costly turnovers, and it definitely hurt us in the end.”

Eastwood scored three goals, but the team struggled on offense as a whole. Stony Brook’s nine goals tied its fewest this season, set against Fairfield last month. The Seawolves finished the game with 12 turnovers, compared with the Red Foxes’ five, as ball insecurity contributed to the contest’s outcome.

Throughout the entire game, the lead switched back and forth. Neither team built a three-goal lead at any point in the evening. The first half ended at 3-3, as offense was scarce, but in the second half, particularly the fourth quarter, both teams’ attack picked up.

With 14:13 remaining in the game, senior attackman Matt Schultz received a pass from junior attackman Ryan Bitzer and shot the ball behind his back, tying the game, 6-6.

Minutes later, Marist responded, as Radin, the 2015 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year, beat Maciejewski on a behind-the-back goal of his own to give the Red Foxes an advantage.

Junior midfielder Alex Corpolongo used a screen from senior midfielder Challen Rogers and whipped in a perimeter goal from the right side. Seven seconds later, junior faceoff specialist Jay Lindsay won the draw to himself, stepped into the offensive third of the field and launched a second Stony Brook goal, putting the team up, 8-7, against Marist with 6:44 to play

“Any time you score two goals in that short of time, it’s a big boost,” said Lindsay, who won all eight fourth quarter faceoffs he attempted. “It helps the morale on the bench and gets everyone more into the game.”

But the change in momentum did not last, as Radin scored his fourth goal of the game just one minute later to tie the game, 8-8.

Eastwood gave the Seawolves a 9-8 lead with 4:32 remaining in regulation, finishing in traffic after receiving a pass from Rogers, but the potential game-winning goal was negated by Morrison’s heroics in the final minute.

Stony Brook’s overall record fell to 9-3 with the loss. Its only two losses before playing Marist were to Brown and Albany — two teams ranked in the top-10 of both major polls. Marist entered Tuesday’s game with a 5-5 record.

“To be honest, I thought our guys were going to be better than this team,” Nagle said. “We have a lot of upperclassmen, and it’s pretty disappointing. I think sometimes when you don’t expect to be in a tight game, and you are, you start to tighten up and choke a little bit. We did that tonight.”

Stony Brook returns to action on Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m., when the Seawolves host the UMass Lowell River Hawks.

Stony Brook falls to Kentucky in first NCAA Tournament appearance

Originally published in The Statesman

After losing in four of the last five America East Championship games, the Stony Brook Men’s Basketball team finally appeared in its first-ever NCAA Tournament on Thursday night. However, Stony Brook’s first chance came against eight-time national champion Kentucky. The Seawolves’ inexperience in the big dance showed, as the Wildcats won the first round game, 85-57, at Wells Fargo Center in Des Moines, Iowa.

The length and size of Kentucky’s defense stifled the Stony Brook offense throughout the game. Head coach Steve Pikiell’s team shot just 26.3 percent from the field, as Kentucky blocked an NCAA Tournament record 15 shots in the contest, including six from freshman forward Skal Labissiere.

After trailing 33-19 at halftime, Stony Brook was unable to cut into the deficit. The Wildcats made 76 percent of their shots in the second half, which included a 21-6 run, to pave the way for a comfortable victory as the Seawolves ended their season with a 26-7 record.

“They were being Kentucky. They are a great defensive team. They were really athletic,” senior forward Jameel Warney said. “You can’t take away from their athleticism, and it’s a different level being face-to-face than just seeing them on TV.”

Kentucky freshman guard Jamal Murray, the third-leading scorer in the Southeastern Conference, scored 19 points for head coach John Calipari’s team. Freshman guard Isaiah Briscoe added 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats, who will face the Indiana Hoosiers in the second round on Saturday.

Warney notched his 60th career double-double, scoring a game-high 23 points and grabbing 15 rebounds for the Seawolves in what became the final contest for the three-time America East Player of the Year and the Seawolves’ all-time leading scorer and rebounder.

Warney’s success came despite being double-teamed on nearly every possession.

“I will tell you that the respect we had for him we never played him one-on-one,” Calipari said. “Think about that. The guys that have watched me coach know that very rarely do we do that. Like, we just don’t play that way. So we did today.”

“I thought [senior forward] Alex Poythress did a great job of trapping,” Calipari added before praising Warney again. “Skal [Labissiere] did a great job of making shots tough and he still got 23 points. He still got 23.”

No other Seawolves player topped 10 points in the contest. The Stony Brook backcourt struggled as senior guard Carson Puriefoy and junior guards Lucas Woodhouse and Ahmad Walker combined to shoot just 6-for-35 from the field in the game. Senior forward Rayshaun McGrew shot 2-for-11 in the game.

The Wildcats may have led by an even larger margin if it had not been for the Seawolves’ rebounding success. Stony Brook led Kentucky in total rebounds, 46-44, including a 30-23 advantage at halftime, with Warney alone grabbing 10 rebounds in the game’s opening 20 minutes. Stony Brook’s 25 offensive rebounds in the game were the most that Kentucky allowed all season.

In the first half, the Seawolves’ poor offensive execution allowed the Wildcats to take a significant lead, setting the tone for the onslaught that followed. Stony Brook made only three of its first 27 field goal attempts, as Kentucky jumped out to a 28-13 lead with 3:56 remaining in the half. Calipari’s team took a 33-19 lead into the locker room on the way to the victory.

Stony Brook and Kentucky were teams on two different levels, and it showed on Thursday night.

While the Seawolves are perennially near the top of the America East Conference, the game gave the team a sniff of what it strives to be in the future, as Warney even said after the game that Kentucky will make the tournament’s Final Four.

“We have to play who they put us in the bracket with, and we played a great, great program,” Pikiell said. “55th trip to the tournament. Maybe our 55th time we’ll look like them, too.”

Ball movement keys potent Seawolves offense

Originally published in The Statesman

91 points against Princeton. 86 points against NJIT. 83 points against American, UMass Lowell and UMBC.

All of these point totals, achieved this season by the Stony Brook Men’s Basketball team, would have marked a season-best for the Seawolves against Division-I opponents last season.

In fact, Stony Brook is averaging an America East Conference-best 77.3 points per game in 20 contests so far in the 2015-16 season, making it the highest-scoring offense in the team’s Division-I era to date. The scoring is also a significant 11.9 point-per-game improvement from the Seawolves squad that averaged 65.4 points last year.

Ball movement and passing has been a major key in contributing to Stony Brook’s improved offensive efficiency this season, allowing the Seawolves to take more open shots.

Perhaps the best measure of a team’s passing ability is the rate at which it records assists, which are awarded when a player makes a pass that directly leads to a basket by another player. According to Kenpom.com, an advanced statistics database for college basketball, Stony Brook has recorded an assist on 59.3 percent of its made field goals this season, up significantly from the 49.1 percent rate that last year’s team attained.

More simply, the Seawolves are averaging 17.3 assists per game as a team this season after averaging 12.0 assists last campaign.

Head coach Steve Pikiell praised his senior center, Jameel Warney, when asked about his team’s ball movement.

“It all starts with Jameel,” Pikiell said after Friday night’s home win against Albany. “He’s your best passer as your big guy and it’s an unselfish approach. Guys are good passers to begin with but it starts with him—the other day against Hartford he led us in assists.”

Warney, a two-time America East Player of the Year, demands more respect than most players in the low post, as teams throughout the season have thrown double-teams at the America East’s scoring leader, guarding him with multiple defenders. Warney excels in making plays out of double coverage, often passing the ball to a teammate across the court to reverse the point of attack and create holes in the opposing defense.

“I think that really helps the mindset of all the guys,” Pikiell added. “When your best player is willing to make the extra passes, then it’s kind of contagious. Luke [Woodhouse] is a good passer, Ahmad [Walker] can really pass the ball too.”

Neither Walker nor Woodhouse—a pair of junior guards—played for Stony Brook last season, as Walker was attending Barton Community College and Woodhouse was required by NCAA rules to redshirt, or sit out for one season, after transferring to Stony Brook from Longwood University. Their presence has elevated the team’s offensive game, particularly in the passing department.

Walker, as a starting wing player on Pikiell’s offense, has doled out 4.6 assists per game this season, leading the America East. The Port Washington-native notched eight dimes against both Loyola and Hofstra and has dished out at least three assists in 19 of 20 games this season.

Woodhouse, playing the role of the “sixth-man,” as the first substitute off the bench for the Seawolves, has added 3.3 assists per game himself. His prowess in facilitating ball movement was well-known to Stony Brook when he transferred. As a sophomore at Longwood, the point guard ranked fifth in the country with 6.7 assists per game.

The passing display by the Seawolves this season—often comprising of three or four passes directly leading to an open shot—has put the team head and heels above the rest of the conference offensively. Stony Brook leads the America East in scoring, two-point field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage and assists.

For many years, Stony Brook has been known for its strong defense—leading in conference in fewest points allowed in five of the last eight seasons. But now, the team may finally have the offense to match its defensive play, perhaps making this team more dangerous than ever before as it seeks its first trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Two freshmen leading women’s basketball charge

Originally published in The Statesman

Stony Brook Women’s Basketball is off to its best start in America East history, beginning the conference slate with a 5-1 record. The team recently tied the Division-I program record by winning nine consecutive games before losing at Albany on Thursday. Over the course of those contests, the team outscored its opponents by 10.4 points per game.

The recent success has been spearheaded by two freshmen—forward Ogechi Anyagaligbo and guard Davion Wingate—who have starred for the Seawolves in recent weeks.

“We’re playing with confidence now,” Anyagaligbo said. “I can say for a fact that in our second game of the season, against Hofstra, I was terrified out there. Now we’re playing with more confidence and we know each other better. We’re playing as if we want it. We’re hungry for these games now.”

Anyagaligbo is one of two freshmen in the nation averaging a double-double per game this season, the other being Southern Mississippi forward Caitlin Jenkins. In addition, Anyagaligbo is looking to become the first player to average a double-double in the America East since the 2003-04 season. Perhaps more impressive is that she is making 59.3 percent of her shots, the best rate in the conference.

Anyagaligbo has started alongside senior forward Brittany Snow in the frontcourt each game this season for the Seawolves The freshman says she has learned a lot while following in the footsteps of Snow, the team’s leading scorer.

“Britt[any Snow], she just works so hard,” Anyagaligbo said. “She’s like a role model to me. Anything she does, I want to do it too.”

One of the other veteran leaders of the team, junior guard Kori Bayne-Walker, has missed much of the last month’s games with a lower-body injury first suffered against Wagner on Dec. 18 game and then re-aggravated against Binghamton on Jan. 6. According to Stony Brook Athletics, the Seawolves are aiming for Bayne-Walker to return next Saturday, when the team takes on Vermont at home.

“Those are some tough shoes to fill,” head coach Caroline McCombs said after Friday’s loss against Albany. “[Wingate has] done an outstanding job of coordinating everything we’re doing, stepping into that role. Being able to score the ball, finding open players, I think Davion has done an outstanding job of running our team.”

Wingate has excelled in the interim, acting as the starting point guard and averaging 14.1 points per game in her last nine games. Wingate, described in the past by McCombs as more of a scoring guard than a traditional point guard, says she has been working with Bayne-Walker to better run the Stony Brook offense.“It’s been a good opportunity for me to learn the point guard position better and learn some things from Kori,” Wingate said. “She always tells me to be confident.”

Wingate’s confidence has shown on the court, particularly late in games. Against Binghamton, she scored 17 points in the second half to lead her team to a comeback victory after her team trailed by 16 midway through the third quarter.

“I just don’t want to lose,” Wingate said, describing her tendency to take games over late. “I hate, hate, hate to lose.”

Although the pair of Seawolves freshmen have not seemed to have too much trouble at the collegiate level, Anyagaligbo spoke to the adjustment from high school to the NCAA, particularly the difference in game length. College women’s basketball has ten-minute quarters, making the game in total eight minutes longer than high school girl’s basketball, which has eight-minute quarters.

“I have to say that the eight minutes added onto the game have been a huge difference for me,” Anyagaligbo noted. “You have to be in better shape. The game’s longer and the court’s longer.”

Wingate has seen a huge uptick in playing time with Bayne-Walker out—she has played 322 of 325 total minutes of action in her last eight games.

The nine-game winning streak for the women’s basketball team had coincided with a 10-game winning streak from the men’s team, and one would be mistaken to think the players were unaware.

“There’s a friendly competition between the guys and the girls,” Anyagaligbo said in a mid-week interview. “You don’t want to be the first ones to lose, you know?”

Although the women’s team was ultimately the first of the two programs to lose in conference play, the pair of freshmen are no longer lacking in the confidence that had hindered them early in the season.

While Anyagaligbo acknowledged she was “terrified” before the November game against Hofstra, that is not the case anymore. She now enters games with more of a determined mentality.

“I expect us to win,” Anyagaligbo said. “I expect us to play our hardest ball, to go out there and not beat ourselves.”

Behind these two freshmen, Stony Brook has fulfilled Anyagaligbo’s rising expectations, as the Seawolves have enjoyed one of the best season starts in program history.

Warney committed to team and March Madness dream

Originally published at The Statesman

As a young boy growing up in northern New Jersey, Jameel Warney would shoot baskets for hours with his step-dad on a hoop outside his Plainfield home. When he was nine years old, Warney asked his mother, Denise, for a trampoline.

“For what?” she asked.

“I want to dunk.”

Even  during his elementary school years, it was apparent that for Warney, now a two-time defending America East Player of the Year, basketball was not merely a sport — it was an obsession.

“I can never get enough basketball,” the Stony Brook senior forward said. “I mean, I love playing the game, I love playing 2K [a basketball video game], I love watching basketball. When the NBA or college basketball is on, that’s my favorite time of the year.”

Sunrise to sunset, he breathes basketball. The sport has always been his only love, but he was not always as great at it as he is today.

In the summer following sixth grade, when Warney first played for Mike Heller, his longtime AAU coach on the New Jersey Hot Shots, he had already been playing in the yard for a few years. Warney liked the game and had size and strength that screamed potential. But he had never played organized basketball on a team before, and it showed.

“Jameel was maybe the worst basketball player I’d ever seen in my life,” Heller recalled. “He was lazy, not very talented. Just horrible. So bad.”

Such a description may have been appropriate at the time, but before long, it could not have been further from the truth.

Warney studied NBA stars Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, emulating their style of play. He watched basketball religiously and improved along the way. Before long, Warney had footwork as good as any big man in Union County. According to Heller, Warney was dominating the Amateur Athletic Union competition by eighth grade.

His mother and Heller decided it would be best for Warney to attend high school at Roselle Catholic, a 25-minute drive from his home. Warney’s mother was concerned about the education at the inner-city Plainfield High School and preferred a private school. Warney was hesitant at first, but decided it would be for the best.

“Coming from an inner-city, you see a certain kind of lifestyle that certain people are living,” Heller said. “You either choose that lifestyle or you choose to be better than that lifestyle. From day one, Jameel’s always chosen the better lifestyle.”

At Roselle Catholic, Warney was a four-year starter, ranking first in school history in career rebounds and blocked shots and ranking second in career points. Warney helped turn Roselle Catholic into one of the best basketball schools in the state of New Jersey. A seven-win team in Warney’s freshman season, the Lions won 18 games by his junior season.

“He helped us start it all. Before he got here, not too many people knew about Roselle Catholic,” the high school’s head coach Dave Boff said. “By the time he left, we were a top-10 team in the state.”

Warney averaged a double-double in his sophomore, junior and senior seasons of high school and was considered by EKB Scouting Service as the fifth-best recruit in New Jersey that year.

Former Stony Brook guard Bryan Dougher played a major role in bringing Warney to the Seawolves. The two had known each other for six years, having both played on the Hot Shots. Using the lure of a new arena and a strong academic university, Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell was able to secure a verbal commitment from Warney early in the process.

Bigger and better-known schools across the country like Iowa and Tennessee offered him scholarships to play basketball, but Warney kept his commitment to attend Stony Brook.

“His loyalty, from day one, has been something special,” Pikiell said. “His loyalty to his teammates, to his university, to his friends; it’s probably his strongest suit.”

Warney may have the national accolades now—leading the NCAA in total rebounds and double-doubles last season—but he has not forgotten where he came from. Warney shows deep loyalty toward his hometown. He trains with his high school team during the summer and he calls his mother after every game.

“Plainfield means everything to me,” Warney said. “I grew up there, I lived there all my life. It’s just something I can’t forget about.”

When the two-time America East Defensive Player of the Year leaves Stony Brook, he will be the first male in his family to graduate college.

This year, Warney has been under a microscope during almost every team practice, with NBA scouts present monitoring his every move. Pikiell said that every team has been in contact and either has or will visit this fall. The special attention doesn’t deter Warney from his number one goal this season—winning an America East title.

“When I first came here, I saw it as a challenge. I wanted to be on the first team to make it to the tournament,” Warney said. “With this as my last year, I’m so obsessed with winning now. I want to cut down that net.”

Pikiell noted that Warney has stepped up more than ever as a leader. Sophomores Tyrell Sturdivant and Jakub Petráš have taken strides under Warney’s mentorship.

“He’s got a really playful personality—I think he plays around the most on our team. The thing with him though, is that when he steps between the lines, it’s wartime.” Sturdivant said. “That’s one thing I really learn from him.”

Warney will be ready for one last war. One last battle. Throughout his childhood, he dreamed of being able to dunk. His senior season provides one last chance to complete the biggest slam dunk of all—leading Stony Brook to its first NCAA tournament berth.

Vince Erdei uses wit and skill to lead Stony Brook Men’s Soccer Team

Originally published in The Statesman

In soccer, some strikers beat a defense with speed. Some beat a defense with their footwork, while others beat a defense with a powerful shot.

Stony Brook sophomore forward Vince Erdei beats defenses with his wits.

Growing up in Budapest, Hungary, Erdei has been an avid chess player from a young age. He credits much of his soccer prowess to the strategic mindset acquired from chess.

“For me, they say I have vision on the field and I can predict what’s going to happen,” Erdei said. “I think in chess you basically have to do the same thing. You have to predict what is going to happen in the game, so I’m proud that I played chess, and I think it helped me.”

Described as a “cerebral player” by head coach Ryan Anatol, Erdei has taken the America East Conference by storm this season, scoring five goals and tallying three assists in 13 matches.

Last season, Erdei was primarily used as a defensive midfielder for the Seawolves. This season he is playing striker, his natural position, and has formed a potent duo alongside senior forward Martin Giordano.

“I‘m not the kind of striker that’s going to score the biggest goals in the game, but I’m always there,” Erdei said of his strong positional play. “I’m always on the spot, and that’s why I’ve been able to score a lot of goals this season.”

Erdei was not always a soccer player, however. In Hungary, where chess is immensely popular, Erdei played the board game competitively from a very young age. Midway through his childhood, he found that he didn’t have the attention span to play the game for hours at a time.

“I was just the type of person that couldn’t sit in the same spot for hours,” Erdei said. “I decided that I had to quit chess and I had to do something more interesting, so that’s why I started to play soccer. I started late compared with other players.”

After finishing high school, Erdei attended school for one year at Corvinus University at Budapest, while also playing semi-professional soccer for the reserve team of Ferencvárosi Torna Club.

Hungary has no organized collegiate sports association, and Erdei found managing both his academic career and his athletic career overwhelming.

Erdei’s performance at Ferencvárosi caught the eye of Anatol and Stony Brook began the recruitment process.

“We had a chance to see Vince play on video earlier in the year [two years ago],” Anatol said. “That is what first got our attention. I was aware of the club that Vince played for and knew of its reputation for producing players of a high level.”

For Erdei, continuing to live in Hungary would have likely meant he would need to choose one or the other—school or soccer—as he didn’t have the time to do both. After participating in a summer clinic at Stony Brook in June 2014, Erdei was offered an athletic scholarship.

That was an opportunity he could not pass up.

“Here you can do both, and that’s why it was a huge advantage. That’s why I wanted to come here,” Erdei said. “Hungary’s a small country in Europe, and the quality of living isn’t as good there. Over there, everyone dreams about coming to the United States. It’s the American Dream.”

At Stony Brook, Erdei is one of three Hungarians, joined by senior midfielder Alejandro Fritz and sophomore defender Barnabas Mako, on a very diverse roster. The team has nine international players and several more whose parents were not born in the United States.

“I think it’s great that there’s a tendency like this,” Erdei said about the multicultural roster. “We have good connections between the European players, the Americans, the Latinos.”

Erdei is looking to graduate with a double-major in economics and applied mathematics, and he hopes to stay in the United States and pursue a financial career after college.

A key influence and role model for Erdei is his oldest brother. Marton Erdei played tennis at the University of New Orleans ten years ago, so he has personal experience as an international student-athlete. Today, Marton Erdei works as an investment banker on Wall Street and encourages his younger sibling to pursue life in the United States.

“My dream job probably would be the same as what my brother [Marton] does right now,” he said. “He lives in the city; he works for Morgan Stanley.”

Whatever Erdei ends up doing, he would like to pursue it here.

“Hopefully I can stay [in the United States], because I would like to keep this American Dream up,” Erdei added. “I love my country, I miss my family, obviously, and my friends, but this is of bigger importance.”