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River Hill graduate named defensive player of year in men's basketball

BasketballCollege SportsAmerica East ConferenceStony Brook SeawolvesNBA DraftNCAA

Stony Brook senior Tommy Brenton has a spot in his parent's Laurel home where his basketball trophies and awards are on display — carefully arranged by his mother, Susan, to showcase a career's worth of accomplishments.

The problem these days is that at the rate the honors are rolling in for the 2007 River Hill graduate and former Howard County Player of the Year, the space in the family room simply isn't big enough.

"My mom told me the other day that we're basically out of room," said Brenton, who played his final season in a Seawolves' uniform this winter. "It's a good problem to have, I guess."

After a senior campaign in which he averaged 8.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.6 steals for a Stony Brook team that won its third regular-season America East Conference Championship in the last four years, Brenton has received a steady stream of recognition.

Entering this week, he has been named the recipient of a dozen different awards this season from a wide array of organizations. And the most recent of those accolades, the 2013 Lefty Driesell National Defensive Player of the Year award handed out just before this year's NCAA Final Four in Atlanta, may be the best of the bunch.

Last year's recipient of the award was Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis, who went on to become the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.

"The whole thing really caught me by surprise … my coach (Steve Pikiell) shot me a text that I had won and, to be honest, I wasn't sure what was going on," Brenton said. "I definitely didn't see that coming. It was a great moment for me."

The truth is, thanks to hard work and perseverance, Brenton's basketball career has been filled with great moments.

His senior year at River Hill, he was the guiding force that helped the Hawks capture the program's first and only state championship. In the championship game, he hit a state-record 19 of 20 shots from the foul line.

Yet, even with him averaging 20.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game that last year at River Hill, Brenton didn't get any Division I scholarship offers. So he instead opted to attend Hargrave Military Academy, where under the guidance of coach Kevin Keatts he helped lead the school to a perfect 29-0 season and a Prep School National Championship.

"Going into (Hargrave) I really had no idea of what to expect … I hadn't really even heard of prep school before," Brenton said. "But I owe a lot to coach Keatts for helping me reach my potential and achieve my goal of playing DI."

After taking three official visits, Brenton decided on making the move to Stony Brook and found immediate success. As a freshman with the Seawolves, he was named to the America East All-Rookie team and led the team with five double-doubles. The following year he was even better, making the All-America East second team and all-defensive team after leading the conference with an average of 9.7 rebounds a night.

But tragedy struck leading up to Brenton's junior campaign, as a knee injury during a pick-up game sidelined him for an entire season.

"The biggest injury I had ever had before that was an ankle sprain, so mentally it was definitely difficult," he said. "I was out of basketball completely for about seven months and never got back to 100 percent really until seven or eight games into the next season. The whole thing makes you realize how much you take the simple things for granted — like jumping or just bending your knee."

Granted a redshirt, Brenton didn't lose the year of eligibility and, after a little bit of a slow start, got back to doing the things he does best. He averaged 7.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists as a junior to earn himself America East Defensive Player of the Year honors and a spot on the Conference's first team.

Yet as good as those first few years were, they paled in comparison to what Brenton was able to do this past winter as a senior.

He was a team leader in minutes, rebounds, assists and steals, putting himself at the center of everything the Seawolves did on both ends of the floor. As the end-of-the-year awards reveal, though, Brenton's calling card was on defense.

"I owe a lot of what I did defensively to my teammates," he said. "I was able to do some crazy things because of the guys behind me and the fact that I trusted them to have my back."

The lengthy list of honors for this past season include, among others, the America East Player of the Year, America East Defensive Player of the Year, Lou Henson Mid-Major All-American and National Defensive Player of the Year.

"Tommy has been the anchor of our program the last four years and his defense has played a major role in our team winning three out of the last four America East regular season championships," Pikiell said in a release through the Stony Brook athletic department. "I've told my players time and time again that offense is inconsistent, but defense is always consistent."

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