If you want to really get hype about Stony Brook basketball for the upcoming season, consider this: the Seawolves return five starters from a team that won 23 games and came within a last-second shot of making the NCAA tournament.
This core includes Jameel Warney, the reigning two-time conference player of the year, and one of America’s premium post players. Now, for the kicker: in ‘15–16, one of DI’s best passers will be getting him the ball.
“Jameel is big-time,” says Lucas Woodhouse, whose 6.7 assists for Longwood in ‘13–14 were fifth-best in DI. He transferred to Stony Brook following that season, and sat out the past year. “I love playing with this whole group, and I can’t wait to get started this season.”
Goes for the rest of America, I think. Woodhouse came to Stony Brook in part to be closer to home, but he also saw a team on the brink of making history. The Seawolves have never made the NCAA tournament. Best believe they’re raring to get there, next March.
Woodhouse took time to talk with Alley Whoops on Wednesday morning. Here’s the transcript.
Alley Whoops: Having practiced with this team for more than a year, and played in games on the overseas trip to Germany and Italy in August, what do you see as Stony Brook’s greatest strengths in ‘15–16?
Lucas Woodhouse: I just think we’re very deep. On any night, any one of us can contribute. If you stop one of us, there’s a bunch more that can step up. Last year, we really improved, and that continued this summer, with the foreign tour. We all got the same amount of minutes in games. We tried out different lineups.
AW: Did you feel like the overseas tour allowed you to get more comfortable in the flow of this offense, at game speed?
LW: Yeah, I think so. The more I play with them, the more comfortable I get. They’ve done a good job accepting me, and wanting me to do well and help them. I’m still getting comfortable, and there’s still more to do, but we’ll be good to go by the time the season starts.
AW: What do you feel you bring to this team?
LW: I think, just bringing anything I can, honestly. I just want to get people organized, get the ball in the right spots. I want to help our seniors and our coaches get to the NCAA tournament. This program has never been there, and that’s the ultimate goal. I’ll do whatever they want.
AW: Did Stony Brook recruit you out of high school?
LW: They didn’t really pursue me that much out of high school, to be honest. But things happen for a reason. I ended up coming here as a junior. I liked the idea of coming home. This is my backyard, basically, and now my family gets to see me play.
AW: In two seasons at Longwood, you did some serious work on the program’s assists records — all-time, single-season, and single-game. How did you most grow as a player there?
LW: Being at Longwood, I gained a ton of experience. I got to play pretty much right away, and I played a ton and gained a lot of experience at the DI level. That really helped me get confident in my game. Now, I want that to translate to Stony Brook.
AW: What were some of the biggest factors in your decision to transfer from Longwood?
LW: For me, Virginia was really far from home. (Longwood is located in Farmville.) Basketball-wise, it was a good fit, but I wanted to see what else was out there. Stony Brook came calling, and I decided it was a good opportunity for me.
They were already a good team; last season, they were one point away from getting to the NCAA tournament. (Stony Brook lost a heartbreaker to Albany in the America East tournament championship game.)
AW: Longwood has about 4,500 undergrads; Stony Brook has about 15,000. Did it take some time to adjust to the jump in school size?
LW: Not really. It’s still like a tight-knit community in the Stony Brook athletic department. So it’s similar to Longwood in that way. Everybody knows everybody, it’s family oriented, and that’s really helped me to adapt.
AW: You were a three-year captain at Harborfields High. Did that experience help you grow as a leader? What about your head coach, Chris Agostino?
LW: Yeah, Chris really helped me a ton. I didn’t really start playing until my sophomore year, because my body wasn’t physically mature. But Chris put the ball in my hands, and wanted me to be a leader. We lost in the state championship my junior year; then we won it when I was a senior.
Chris gave me confidence, and we have a good relationship.
AW: What teams and players did you follow, growing up? Do you still pick pieces from players now, to add to your own game?
LW: I didn’t really follow any teams from the New York area, but I always used to go to the Big East Tournament games, and St. John’s games. I watch videos of players all the time.
I really like guys like Ricky Rubio and Steve Nash — how they pass the ball, the way they add a little flash. (Stony Brook players received iPads ahead of this season. Perfect for Woodhouse’s study sessions.)
AW: You worked with Harborfields Alliance for Community Outreach: how did you get started in the program, and what were some of the most rewarding aspects of that work?
LW: My dad helped run the group at my school, and we’d go around during holidays, and times of need, and get food together and pile bags for less fortunate families. We’d do that every two weeks or so, to help out the community.