Following an injury-plagued 2022-23 season that saw Stony Brook’s worst finish in 15 years, the Seawolves are resurging in 2023-24 behind a cast of veterans and local products.
Off to an 8-7 start with six wins in their last eight contests, a fully healthy squad rife with transfer talent has been integral to Stony Brook’s early season success.
Nobody on the roster has epitomized this more than Aaron Clarke, who made just three appearances last season with a nagging back injury but has returned in a starting role for the Seawolves.
Once again battling injuries early this season, Clarke’s talents were on full display in late December’s 69-65 win over Brown. With 19 points, six boards and two steals, it was Clarke’s clutch shooting late in the second half that staved off a comeback effort from the Bears.
“[Clarke] had a stretch where he took the game over for us,” Stony Brook head coach Geno Ford said. “He banged a couple three’s, hit a tough pullup on the baseline, and had a couple drive kicks that led to some baskets for us on his extra pass stuff. We’re lucky we had the cushion we had, which was obviously just enough to get us over the hump as [Clarke’s] two free throws sealed it.”
Now fully healthy, Ford said having a veteran presence like Clarke to lead the backcourt is critical to the team’s continued development with conference play underway.
“For us, good point guard play is the difference between winning and losing close games,” Ford said. “Aaron’s a guy that we know can close games. He battled injuries but to his credit, when he came back he was fully in shape.”
Similarly battling injuries last season but returning to contribute in 2023-24 is Dean Noll, a graduate transfer from Cornell who missed the entirety of last season after tearing his ACL.
Pairing alongside Clarke in the backcourt, Noll has started all 15 contests this season for Stony Brook and averages 8.5 PPG while shooting a consistent 32% from deep.
He’s quietly been a spark plug for the Seawolves, putting on his best performances against the toughest competition with 15 points against St. John’s, 14 points against Nebraska and 16 points over Yale.
Another transfer playing a big role for the Seawolves this season is 7-footer Keenan Fitzmorris, who arrived on campus during the 2022 offseason from Stanford.
Averaging 11.2 PPG, he’s currently Stony Brook’s third-leading scorer. Against Brown, he contributed 16 points to edge out the win.
“We have enough shooting which allows guys to play one-on-one in the box and [Fitzmorris] is a hard guy to play one-on-one,” said Ford. “[Against Brown], Fitzmorris was really good for us.”
Rounding out the transfer contingent is Chris Maidoh, who arrived on Long Island after four seasons at Fairfield where he played limited minutes. Under Ford, he has emerged with a career-best year and is averaging 8.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG and 1.1 BPG as a physical interior threat.
Essential to this resurgence has been a pair of local products in Tyler Stephenson-Moore and Andre Snoddy.
Stephenson-Moore, a native of Jamaica, N.Y., and a graduate of Long Island Lutheran High School, is a fifth-year senior who’s spent all five seasons with the Seawolves.
He’s currently Stony Brook’s leading scorer for the second consecutive season, averaging a career-high 15.5 PPG which is good to rank in the top 10 in the Coastal Athletic Association.
While Snoddy, a Melville, N.Y. native who graduated from Saint Anthony’s High School, returned home this offseason after two years at Central Connecticut State.
While his stats don’t necessarily jump off the page with just 4.7 PPG and 5.9 RPG, Ford raved about Snoddy’s decision making and his ability to perfect the small things.
“[Against Brown], he did only have five points but I thought Snoddy was awesome and I told him after, to me it’s the best game he’s had all year,” Ford said. “He had a very complete game, didn’t make many mistakes, and I thought he was very sharp.”
According to Ford, having a pair of local products as effective contributors has emphasized that relationship with the local community, and it's made this strong start to the season even more significant.
“[Stephenson-Moore and Snoddy] are not only good players, but the fact that they’re local, fans know them,” Ford said. “Tyler’s been here for five years, Andre just got here, but he’s made an impact. Any time you can get local guys, it’s beneficial to the program and in that case, both those guys we got right.”
After a 1-1 start to conference play with a win at Northeastern before a loss at home to Charleston, the Seawolves will look to continue this resurgence with a matchup against Towson Thursday at 7 p.m. ET.