By Dylan Butler
With sweat still dripping from his brow almost 20 minutes after Stony Brook’s 60-52 loss to Binghamton in both team’s America East conference opener Saturday, Larry Jennings summed up his first collegiate game in nearly a year and a half in three words.
“Tired and sore,” he said.
It was the Ravenswood native’s first game in a Stony Brook uniform and his time back on the court since transferring from St. Joseph’s (Pa.) at the end of the 1999-00 season.
Jennings had the date Nov. 17, 2001 highlighted on his calendar as the former St. John’s Prep star was expecting to make his triumphant return to college basketball in front of family and friend at Alumni Hall against St. John’s.
Instead Jennings was forced to watch from the end of the Seawolves bench, nursing a broken left foot he suffered Oct. 26. in Stony Brook’s 72-55 loss.
“I’m glad I’m back, I just wish I never got hurt because it’s just backtracking all the time,” said Jennings, who had seven points in 26 minutes in his Stony Brook debut. “I just take it day by day and work my way back into the flow.”
Losing Jennings, who was projected to be a starting guard, was also a tough blow on Stony Brook, who has since struggled mightily.
“We’re 1-11, we don’t make any excuses. That’s awful, we’re embarrassed that we’re this way,” said Stony Brook head coach Nick Macarchuk. “Losing him certainly has hurt us. Not that we would have won many more games even with him because the schedule was pretty good, but we would have won a couple of them and we wouldn’t be as down as we are right now.”
Macarchuk wanted to use Jennings sparingly Saturday, only expecting to use the 6-foot junior guard a few minutes each half.
But after starting point guard Lee Church had three turnovers in the opening two minutes, Macarchuk subbed in Jennings sooner than he had hoped.
“I figured I was going to play him maybe five minutes a half, but the way the game played and the lack of energy we had I decided I was going to play him so I played him as much as I could,” Macarchuk said. “And we have to get him in shape too so we decided to let him play.”
Binghamton’s reception to Jennings’ return was a lot colder than the nice ovation he received from the SBU Sports Complex crowd of 1,984, as the guard nicknamed “Buddha” because he was a chubby child, hit the floor hard after a layup attempt.
Following the non-call by the referees, Macarchuck was hit with a technical foul.
“No foul,” Jennings said with a smile. “That’s what happens when you go to the hole.”
Jennings, who said he was only about 60 percent healthy, scored all seven of his points slashing to the basket in the first half, including a three-point play to cut Stony Brook’s deficit to 23-21 with 3:57 left.
Despite not knowing any of the offensive sets, Jennings infused a much-needed spark in Stony Brook’s lethargic play. He was able to push the ball up the floor and despite having only started practicing last Wednesday, Jennings still blew by Binghamton defenders.
“There’s always room for improvement but I don’t think I played as well….I don’t really know,” Jennings said. “It was my first time back so I didn’t know what to expect either so whatever came to me was good.”
Jennings was visibly exhausted in the second half and his lack of conditioning caught up with him in the second half as he missed all four shots he took.
“He’s out of shape and has a long way to go,” Macarchuck said. “We talked about not even playing him today because he’s not ready to play yet. But then I talked to the doctors and they said his leg was completely healed and I decided it was time to give him a chance to play.”
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.