Friday, March 2, 2012
Dougher led Stony Brook's turnaround
The call from Stony Brook basketball coach Steve Pikiell and assistant Jay Young came as Bryan Dougher was headed home to Scotch Plains, N.J., after a day at the beach with his high school buddies. The windows were down and the radio was blasting as Dougher strained to ignore his friends' antics and talk with coaches from a school he'd "barely ever heard of.''
That was the first of many calls that ultimately sold Dougher on SBU and helped reverse the Seawolves' basketball fortunes.
"They did a great job selling what they were going to do, and everything they said has come true,'' Dougher said recently. "They needed somebody to come in and turn the program around, and they made me feel like I was the top guy. Coach Pikiell said he was going to give me the ball. He did, and we never really looked back.''
Four seasons later, Stony Brook has secured its second America East regular-season title in three years and reached the 20-win plateau for the second time, and Dougher needs only 30 points to move past D.J. Munir's school record of 1,590 since the Seawolves moved up to Division I in 1999-2000. The only thing missing is the school's first NCAA Tournament berth.
Dougher and fellow seniors Dallis Joyner, Danny Carter and Al Rapier can change that by winning the conference tournament, starting against 2-28 Binghamton (a 73-67 overtime winner over UMBC) at noon Saturday at the University of Hartford. If the Seawolves (20-8) win, they'll meet the Albany-New Hampshire winner at 5 p.m. Sunday in the semifinals. A victory in that game would allow them, as the No. 1 seed, to host the title game March 10 at 11 a.m.
It's a goal Dougher and his teammates have targeted after narrow misses the past two years. "We've talked about it all year,'' said Dougher, who has averaged 12.8 points per game in his career. "It gets emotional sometimes, especially with the seniors and Tommy Brenton, who came in with us. I see it in everybody's eyes. We want it now more than we ever did.''
The leadership of the unimposing 6-1, 195-pound Dougher, who has started all 122 games the past four seasons, has been a critical factor in Stony Brook's rise to prominence. Pikiell recalls scouting Dougher the summer before his senior year in high school. He led the prestigious AAU tournament in Las Vegas in scoring but drew scant attention because he wasn't on a high-profile team.
Recalling that event, Pikiell said, "The first time I saw him play, I watched him warm up, and he went like 21-for-21 from the floor. Then he proceeded to score 42 points. But his team wasn't one of the sexy AAU teams. Bryan was playing the 8 a.m. game. I'd be the only guy there and he'd have 40 points. Every day, he put up numbers. I'd say to myself, 'Are other coaches reading the paper?' I loved him.''
Pikiell has a long list of superlatives when describing Dougher. "He's got that grit and toughness and will,'' he said. "He's a great IQ guy. For me, he's like a coach's dream . . . He's going to be the leading scorer in our Division I history, and the guy never got a dunk.''
Dougher's 327 career three-pointers are a school record by 106 and counting. Setting Stony Brook's Division I scoring record is a goal, but more important is the legacy left by Dougher and his classmates.
"I just hope people consider our class that came in 'program-changers,' '' Dougher said. "Making the NCAA Tournament would mean a lot. It would be the end for us, but it would be the beginning for the program.''