By Michael Kelly
Last night was the “Senior Night” for the men’s basketball team, a game that saw Stony Brook defeat Vermont to capture its first ever America East regular season title. The seniors on the team—Desmond Adedeji, Eddie Castellanos, Muhammad El-Amin and Andrew Goba—all saw themselves honored prior to the game and thanked for their contributions to the program.
I was not thanked, but it was my “Senior Night” of sorts- I have written about the men’s and women’s basketball teams since my sophomore year, and, since I am a senior, it was likely my last night ever covering a Stony Brook home game. And what struck me as I watched last night’s game was not anything that had to do with the players on the court, but it was the screaming crowd.
(Photos by Amanda Marzullo)
When I went to my first basketball games at Stony Brook back in the fall semester of 2006, the arena was always empty. The team was lackluster and, at points, the empty arena was depressing to sit in. I had come to Stony Brook for a variety of reasons, but one of my criteria in choosing a school was I wanted to go to a D-1 school so that I could watch the basketball games.
Then I found myself at Stony Brook, being one of about 100 kids in a 6,000-seat arena watching bad basketball; not exactly the dream. It was only cool to go to a Stony Brook basketball game once in my first two years here, and that was when the campus was buzzing because the nationally ranked Villanova Wildcats were coming to play the Seawolves.
The Seawolves lost that game by 22. Not exactly a great moment in Stony Brook athletics.
But, slowly things have evolved here at Stony Brook. The team got better, games were moved to the smaller (and louder) Pritchard Gymnasium and fans started to seem to care. When some fans actually traveled up to Albany last spring to watch the team (lose) in the America East Tournament, you could sense that things were changing.
Last night was the culmination of the change. It was the fifth sellout of the year, and you can now say without a doubt that this school cares about basketball. Sure, the crowd had the usual bandwagon flaws—most did not know when/what to cheer, they seemed more interested in doing the wave, etc—but did add some genuine passion to the games.
When Dallis Joyner nearly ripped down the rim with one of his dunks last night, you could feel the crowd’s excitement. Anticipatory silence erupted into cheers when Bryan Dougher three-pointers ripped through the net. More importantly, when Tommy Brenton dove late in the second half for a steal, the crowd knew to yell and scream in appreciation for his effort.
After the game, the crowd stormed the court to join the players. For once, Stony Brook seemed like a real college basketball team, the kind you can see playing on ESPN. Coaches, players and fans mingled on the court, coming together to celebrate the win, attempting to dispel the idea that Stony Brook is a school where people lack any semblance of school spirit. After having an obscure D-1 basketball program for more than 10 years, Stony Brook basketball had finally arrived.
But, perhaps the most memorable part of the night happened off to the side of the court. It did not involve any players, but instead was a brief conversation I overheard between two older men.
“This is great!” one said to the other. The other man paused for a second before responding, looking out at the court filled with smiling students, all clad in red.
“It took a long time,” he responded.