It's Tommy Brenton's turn to lead.
The 6-foot-5 forward and team captain is stepping up this season as the Stony Brook Seawolves' leader, focusing the team's efforts on getting back to the America East championship game – and winning a trip to the NCAA tournament that has eluded the team in the past couple of seasons.
"I think he gets a lot of respect from our players. He leads by example in practice," head coach Steve Pikiell said. "He's one of the smartest players at all times on the floor. I think he gets respect from not just our players on our team but also our opponents."
Brenton, a former standout River Hill High School basketball player, is averaging 7.7 points, 8.5 rebounds (ranked third in America East), 4.8 assists (ranked first in America East), and 2.2 steals per game, and recently became Stony Brook's all-time leading rebounder. Last season, he started in all 32 games, averaged 7.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.7 steals, and was named the conference's defensive player of the year.
The Seawolves are 8-2, enjoying their best start in program history.
But two years ago, that kind of success was an uncertainty for Brenton. During a summer practice in 2010, he suffered a knee injury that took him out for an entire season. He redshirted the 2010-11 season, and when he returned last season, it took him a few months to adjust back into the system.
"It was a tough transition. ... Having the confidence in that knee took him some time," Pikiell said. "Now you would never know he had any problem with it."
When the Seawolves travel to face the University of Maryland on Friday, the game will be an unofficial homecoming for Brenton. As a high school senior at River Hill, he helped the Hawks win their first state championship in 2007 playing on that very court in College Park.
Brenton totaled 28 points and snared 10 rebounds in the 2007 championship when River Hill defeated Bethesda-Chevy Chase, 60-51, according to Press Box Online.
"It means a lot that the coaches would schedule a game like this," said Brenton, who is now a graduate student. "Now, being a college athlete, it’s going to be an even bigger honor to play Maryland."
His coach even called him "the face of the program."
"They love him as a player. He's by far the most popular player within our fan base," Pikiell said.
Brenton said he will look to teammates like junior guard Dave Coley, named the America East Player of the Week this past week, and freshman forward Jameel Warney, named the conference's Rookie of the Week for the third time this season, to make big contributions in the game.
"Just as a team we’ve clicked so well that down the stretch and in close games you can count on everybody to stick to their role," he said. "We can close out games and not have to battle back from a deficit."
Stony Brook University is located in Stony Brook, New York.