Midwood grad to play women’s hoops at Stony Brook

Jessica Previlon has overcome harder things before. So she didn’t get too down last month when most interest from four-year colleges had all but dried up.

The athletic, 5-foot-11 forward helped lead Monroe Community College to the NJCAA Division II women’s basketball national title back in March. But that tournament was held in Peoria, Ill., and all the schools that came calling were far away. The Brooklyn native wanted to stay close to home.

“I still kept my confidence and said I know I will get something hopefully before I graduate,” said Previlon, who also had Division I interest coming out of Midwood. “But the whole point was that I thought I wasn’t going to go anywhere and it was really bothering me. And it was kind of hard to think of such a thing.”

She got a big break in the last few weeks. Former St. Bonaventure associate coach Jesse Fleming, who had seen Previlon at the NJCAA tournament, took a job on new Stony Brook coach Beth O’Boyle’s staff. Quickly things came together. Previlon went on a visit to the Long Island school over the weekend with Monroe coach Seth Goodman and fell in love with it. On Wednesday, she signed scholarship papers, making things official with Stony Brook.

“[O’Boyle] walked me through the school, but walked me to the academic office first which was important,” said Previlon, who also had an offer from Robert Morris. “Then she showed me the dorms and I met the girls and they were very polite and welcomed me to the environment. Everything was just awesome.”

When Midwood athletic director Artie LaGreca, who was Previlon’s coach, found out about her commitment earlier in the week, he said he walked into the school with a broad smile on his face. Previlon grew up in the Vanderveer Projects, one of the toughest neighborhoods in Brooklyn. She wasn’t a star basketball player until her junior year and only blew up as a senior.

“She’s like my pride and joy,” LaGreca said. “We’ve had kids go to bigger schools and better academic schools. Those girls were like destined for stardom in some way. Jess had to really, really work hard for everything she got. I love all those kids, but when I think of her it’s a special warm spot in my heart because of what she’s accomplished.”

Previlon credited a lot of people for helping her along the way – from LaGreca to Goodman to her Brooklyn Saints travel coach Rochelle Murphy to her mother, Viergelie Noel, and brother, Gibson Noel.

“They always had faith in me and I had faith in myself as well,” Previlon said. “I’m just proud of myself and I knew I could do it, but I couldn’t have done it without them.”

LaGreca thinks the lengthy, chiseled Previlon can make an impact right away in the America East. He points to a game during her senior year against Minisink Valley and current UConn player Stefanie Dolson in which Previlon was extremely successful despite giving up four inches.

“Jess was a beast in that game,” LaGreca said. “She more than held her own. That’s the kind of kid she is. She’s a very difficult kid to match up against. … She can defend a girl who’s 6-foot and 6-1. The girl is a freak athlete. She can get 6-1 kids in foul trouble. They’re gonna get in foul trouble and if not they’re going to get a beatdown.”

Monroe’s Shanee Williams, a Bergtraum grad who signed with Syracuse, was named the NJCAA tournament MVP back in March, but Goodman said at the time that it was actually Previlon who might have had the biggest impact. She had 11 points in the championship game, but her rebounding and defense was pivotal.

That’s why it hurt her that weeks later there were no local schools interested. Previlon never put her head down, though. Her mental toughness, of course, might be her best attribute, more than her athleticism and strength.

“I think it’s a tremendous success,” Previlon said. “It’s a book that’s not done yet. I’m on to a next chapter.”

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