Tommy Brenton didn’t move after he felt the “the crack, the pop.”
The Stony Brook standout’s knee had gone one way, while the rest of his body had drifted in a completely different direction on a shot-block attempt in a preseason pickup game.
Unbeknownst to him, he’d dislocated his kneecap and torn ligaments in his right knee.
But he never pondered the possibility that he’d miss the entire 2010-11 season as he lay on the court. He’d recover after surgery in time to help the Seawolves challenge for the America East title, he thought.
“I had hope,” Brenton told ESPN.com
But he was wrong.
Brenton never played one game following multiple surgeries and setbacks in rehab. But that wasn’t his greatest obstacle last season.
As the Seawolves (13-7, 8-1 AE) missed a chance to go to the NCAA tournament after Boston University hit a pair of free throws with 2.4 seconds on the clock and won the America East tourney title, Brenton could only watch.
Based on the severity of his injury, he didn’t know if he’d ever have another chance to compete with his teammates.
“Before last year, the biggest injury I had was a sprained ankle, which is like sitting out two weeks. To get this one, [sitting out seven months], was unreal,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine anything like it. There was times I didn’t know if I’d play again just because of the rehab I was doing. Thinking about learning how to walk again with my leg because part of it, I couldn’t even feel it. Getting all the muscle back, learning how to jump again, learning how to slide, it was just unreal.”
With Brenton, the Seawolves won the America East crown two seasons ago.
Even without Brenton -- a tough 6-foot-5 guard/forward who’s leading the Seawolves in rebounding (8.1 rpg), assists (3.5 apg) and steals (1.7 spg) this season -- the Seawolves nearly made the Big Dance.
But his return to the floor has reinvigorated a Stony Brook team that’s on top of the America East conference again. On Friday, Stony Brook snapped a five-game losing streak to Boston University with a 66-57 victory over the Terriers.
As the game grew feisty and the two rivals showcased the tenacity that scratched any pregame plans to become Facebook friends, Brenton was the scrappy presence his team needed. The one it missed last season.
“We kind of feed off the energy that he brings and last year we didn’t have anybody doing that,” said Bryan Dougher, the team’s leading scorer at 14.1 ppg. “I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t ready to carry the load last year like I should’ve been. … He just does so much that people don’t even notice sometimes.”
Boston University and Stony Brook, the league’s top defensive teams, could meet again in this season’s America East tournament. But unlike last season, the Seawolves will have Brenton, a leader for a Seawolves team that possesses the highest Ken Pomeroy rating in its league.
The rematch would probably demand the same physicality as Friday’s meeting. And that’s fine with Stony Brook. It’s actually welcomed.
The Seawolves take pride in their aggressive defense.
Portions of last week’s win over Boston University resembled a summer playground game.
And in the middle of it all was a grateful Brenton who’s back to employing the rugged basketball that an unfortunate knee injury wouldn’t let him play last season.
“I think every game is going to be like that as the tournament comes closer and everyone’s fighting for a higher seed. Every one counts,” Brenton said.
Brenton will welcome – and cherish – every battle.