For senior guard Marcus Rouse, it’s all about the team these days.
“I just try to go hard, and give 110 percent,” says Rouse. “Whether it’s hitting shots, or getting rebounds, or steals, defense, it’s all about whatever I can do to help the team.”
After starting 31 games over his first two years with the Seawolves, head coach Steve Pikiell decided to have Rouse become one the first players off his bench.
Since then, Rouse has not only accepted the role, but has been thriving in it.
“The team is going good, we’re on a good roll,” Rouse said. “I want to keep that going. It’s team first definitely.”
This season, Rouse has averaged 6.5 points per game, 1.9 rebounds per game, and is second on the team with 32 steals. He has also been extremely reliable with handling the ball, only committing 12 turnovers so far this season.
Coach Pikiell said he is very thankful to have a versatile player like Rouse to turn to on his bench.
“He’s terrific defensively, gives us high energy off the bench, he’s smart, cerebral, veteran, and can really shoot the ball too,” Pikiell said. “He does a lot of things well, not just one thing in particular.”
Even though Rouse has not started any games this season, he is still getting lots of opportunities. He has played in all of the team’s 27 games, is averaging 19 minutes a game, and has often been on the court for key moments in games.
“He’s playing starting minutes,” Pikiell said. “It’s more about getting the minutes than when you come into the game.”
Rouse is no longer worried about whether or not he will start, but rather making sure he is ready to contribute when his name called. “It’s just staying ready, staying warmed up, and staying ready to do what my coach asks to help the team win,” Rouse said.
Coming off the bench has not had any negative effect on Rouse’s shooting, as he is statistically having his best shooting season ever at Stony Brook.
This season he has not only been one the best shooters on the Seawolves, but one of the best shooters in the entire America East conference.
He ranks second in the conference’s three point percentage list this season, only behind Boston University’s John Papale. He has made 38 of his 89 three point attempts this season, which is good for a .427 percentage. Rouse has also had five games this season where he has had at least three shots made from behind the arc.
He credits his sharp shooting abilities, to the amount of hours he puts in between games.
“I’m always shooting, practicing,” Rouse said. “I’m always in the gym. Repetition.”
These are also similar work habits to one of Rouse’s favorite players to watch, Ray Allen of the Miami Heat. “The way he shoots the ball is beautiful.”
The contributions Rouse has made off the bench this season is one of the big reason his team currently sits in first place in the America East Conference. The Seawolves currently have a 21-6 overall record and an 12-2 record in conference games.
But while Rouse is happy with his team’s success so far this season, he has bigger goals in mind for his team.
“I liked to graduate as a champion,” Rouse said. “You know not only regular season, but the NCAA, I’d like a chance to experience that.”
The last two years for the Seawolves have ended in heartbreaking fashion. In 2011, Stony Brook lost the America East Championship game to Boston University by just two points. Then in 2012, Stony Brook lost again in America East Championship to Vermont, on their home court.
And those two defeats have not been forgotten by Rouse. “It really drives me,” Rouse said. “I just remember that feeling we had. The way we lost that motivates us.”
Now he is motivated not only to capture the team’s first ever America East Championship, but also its first-ever NCAA tournament bid.
“Ever since I’ve been here, my four years, that’s always been the goal, making the NCAA tournament,” Rouse said. “It seems like we’re right there.”
By now, Rouse is used to playing big games. Not only has he been a part of numerous important contests over his four years at Stony Brook, but before coming to Stony Brook, he had a starring role on the basketball team at DeMatha Catholic High School.
In his senior year of high school, he was named his team’s MVP, as he led them to a 32-4 record, and a No. 7 national ranking in the ESPN RISE FAB 50 boys’ basketball rankings. He also helped DeMatha to the 2009 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles as well as the 2009 City title. He averaged 11.1 points a game that year, which helped make him a 2009 second team All-Washington Catholic Athletic Conference selection.
While at DeMatha, Rouse got used to playing in front of large crowds and dealing with the pressure of big games.
“High School at DeMatha it was always a sold out game,” Rouse said. “Always TV cameras. Just the hype, always. You know coming here, it made it easy for me.”
Now he is in his senior year at Stony Brook and is one of the players that is looked upon for leadership. But for Rouse, it is more about leading by example.
“He’s been a very great reliable guy,” Pikiell said. “He comes to practice every day, and comes prepared. He gives us leadership in exemplary ways.”
Although Rouse’s collegiate basketball career will soon be coming to an end, that does not mean he plans to stop playing. After graduation, he will attempt to play basketball overseas, although he is not sure where he will play yet.
“That’s my biggest goal, to keep the dream alive,” Rouse said.
It is far from surprising that he is not ready to give up playing the game of basketball. He started playing at around the age of five when his mom bought him a Huffy kiddie court, a miniature basketball court, to play on.
“She said I never sat down, and that I was always playing on it,” Rouse said.
As for his years at Stony Brook, Rouse says that he is very thankful for his time at Stony Brook, and that it taught him a lot of life lessons. But, before his time at Stony Brook is up, he has one more thing he’d like to accomplish. And he’ll have a chance to do that this March.