By Jon Rothstein
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Tommy Brenton is like a great play on Broadway.
You can hear reviews of how great the product is, but it can’t be truly appreciated until it’s witnessed in person.
Like a special leading act that elevates an entire cast, Brenton has single handedly taken Stony Brook from basketball purgatory to a mid-major program that’s annually competing for a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament.
“He’s everything to us,” Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell said of Brenton, a fifth-year forward, who had a triple-double (15 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists) in the Seawolves’ win over Maine last Saturday. “We didn’t have a winning record until he got here. Now in every year Tommy’s played, we’ve never had a team that’s won less than 16 games. He’s exceeded my expectations.”
And everybody else’s too.
The 6-5 Brenton (8.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.8 SPG) is already the Seawolves’ all-time leader in assists and steals. He’s also grabbed 1,000 rebounds in his career and is on pace to score 1,000 points.
“He’s unique,” Pikiell said of Brenton. “When I recruited him, he was an undersized power forward but now he plays five positions for us. There’s been several games where he’s guarded the opponent’s center but brought the ball up the floor for us as a point guard.”
Whatever you think Brenton contributes statistically, his intangibles stand out much more when you see him in person. Any coach, regardless of conference would take Brenton on their team in a second. He’s easily one of America’s best glue guys.
But despite all of the individual accolades that Brenton has received during his career — he’s yet to be on a team that’s played in the NCAA Tournament — and that’s something that’s eats at him every day.
“It’s the only thing that matters,” Brenton said of reaching the field of 68. “A lot of people talk about getting 1,000 rebounds or 1,000 points but it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t make the NCAA Tournament.”
Stony Brook has been close several times in the past few years, reaching the conference title game in both 2011 and 2012 only to fall to Boston University and Vermont.
Will this year be different? No one knows for sure but there’s a special chemistry that’s starting to develop with this particular group of Seawolves.
Through 20 games, Stony Brook is 15-5 and in first-place in the America East heading into tonight’s game at Albany. In addition to Brenton up front, freshman power forward Jameel Warney is built like a blacksmith and averaging 11.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
The requisites are in place for this squad to break through and reach the field of 68, but Brenton and Pikiell both know that they have to be flawless down the stretch to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.
“Tommy talks about it a lot,” Pikiell said of the NCAA Tournament. “He brings it up almost every time we’re in the locker room because he knows this is it for him. The time is ticking.”
Will Stony Brook make the tourney? Be heard in the comments…