Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell knew that Rayshaun McGrew was going to come along eventually, it just wasn’t going to come right away.
In early September, prior to the start of the 2013-14 season, McGrew took an untimely practice top of key jumper from about 17 feet. After a Pikiell whistle, the veteran head coach of the Seawolves instructed – in no uncertain terms – that the Chicago junior college transfer should worry about rebounding the ball, not jump shots.
Pikiell knew that once the 6’7” 230 pound forward understood his role, he was going to blossom. McGrew showed signs toward the end of last season as the Seawolves made the America East championship game and he has picked up where he left off. His 14 points and game-high 12 rebounds were the difference in Stony Brook’s 71-61 victory over New Hampshire on Saturday at Island Federal Credit Union Arena.
“McGrew killed us, he was probably the X-factor in the game,” New Hampshire head coach Bill Herrion said. “He played great. He really hurt us.”
On Saturday, McGrew drained four jumpers from around 17 to 19 feet – now akin to taking them and developing them in his game, to account for eight of his 14.
“I kind of feel like my role is the same, it’s just a bit larger,” McGrew said adding he has to fill the void left from Eric McAlister. “I feel like rebounding, working as hard as I can on defense and doing whatever I have to do to help my team to win.”
It was no accident that after the Seawolves first timeout of the second half, finding themselves down 28-27 after a 6-0 spurt by the Wildcats, their next possession set up McGrew to post up along the right baseline over freshman Tanner Leissner. The 6’7″ junior’s shot went off glass and in to give Stony Brook the lead back.
“He took that four spot and made it his from day one,” Pikiell said. “He’s been a double-double guy as much as Jameel has been; he’s been right behind him.”
“I think that last year was a learning curve for him and he played behind a good player, fifth year senior, and now he’s really taking the reins. He’s going to have a great junior year and a great senior year hopefully too.”
McGrew has been making plays for the Seawolves ever since. His put back off Warney’s free throw miss in the season opener against Columbia delivered Stony Brook’s first win at the new arena. He has started to put together plenty of double-double performances, in their win over New Hampshire and over then #13 Washington, to go with three other such performances.
He has had some rare off nights so far this season, against higher level competition where Pikiell admits he felt the 6’7″ McGrew could not battle greater size, but after two straight double-doubles, the Chicago junior should see more of that growth in his future.
“It’s great to see him grow during his time here,” junior Jameel Warney said. “Last year and his time now because he is one of the X-factors on the team, like the coach from New Hampshire said. He’s only getting better.”
McGrew’s performance helped Stony Brook pound the glass and crush New Hampshire, who started freshman at both power forward and center, 43-23 on the glass. Warney led the way with 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and his classmate Carson Puriefoy battled for 12 points, but the Seawolves have seen their third option come alive in the form of another junior.
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.