December 1, 2014
One of my articles last December was entitled: “Hofstra Men’s Basketball: Is There Hope on the Horizon?” Well, December has arrived and that can only mean one thing: it’s time for Hofstra Men’s Basketball. And this year, the title is “There is Hope on the Horizon.”
Gone is Hofstra’s lifetime superstar Charles Jenkins. Gone are Mike Moore and shot blocker Greg Washington. What’s left? Let’s find out about the present squad.
First, and perhaps foremost, is the 2nd year coach, Joe Mihalich who I ranked in my upcoming book, “Basketball Coaching 101” as the 2nd best coach in the county. (However, my colleagues claim that the statement is based on the fact that Mihalich is the only coach who talks to me.) And who is Joe Mihalich? Credit is due to Hofstra’s outstanding Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway who somehow managed to convince Mihalich to leave Niagara University and resettle at Hofstra. Hofstra now has a Men’s Basketball roster comprised of student-athletes who under Mihalich’s direction, have been as equally focused on their schoolwork as on Mihalich’s playbook, and managing to stay out of trouble. So in a very real sense, Hathaway will deserve credit if and when there is a turnaround in the basketball program.
Second, are the players. There are, relatively speaking, massive changes here. The returnees include Dion Nesmith (who was shockingly granted an additional year of eligibility), Jamail Robinson – who I predict will be a big surprise this year, and Moussa Kone – who may have difficulty getting playing time at center. The new additions are the wild card. Included here are transfers Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley–transfers from Niagara, SMU transfer Brian Bernardi, redshirt freshman guard Eliel Gonzalez, Rokas Gustys from Oak Hill Academy, transfer Malik Nichols, and freshman center Andre Walker. This is truly a quality group.
The third factor is the Conference itself, the CAA (Colonial Athletic Association). The quality of both the conference and players have been decreased with power teams transferring out of the Conference and player graduation. It boils down to this: Hofstra is loaded and has a reasonable chance to win the tournament championship and (yes!) move on to the NCAA Tournament.
There is a fourth factor. I believe that the route to basketball championships is through the backcourt. Hofstra definitely will have the best backcourt in the CAA with Jaran’ya Green and Dion Nesmith. These two could probably start for many teams in the country. If the “bigs” can hold their own, my NCAA prediction will very likely become a reality. And don’t forget my sleeper Jamail Robinson.
But there’s more on the fourth factor. As noted, it is the backcourt that usually determines the level of success of a team. But most importantly is the defensive capability of the backcourt. How important is defense? Here is a case and point. Stevie Mejia served as the point (or I) guard for the 2012-13 Hofstra team. Colleagues in press row commented on several occasions that Stevie wasn’t playing at his full potential. What they were referring to was his scoring. Yet, during the season, Stevie stopped the star guards Scott Machado and Michael Alvarado of Iona and Manhattan College, respectively, Cold!, and each were projected first round and second round picks, respectively. I am sure there have been better defensive guards, but he is the best little guard I have ever seen. Furthermore, Hofstra lost three games during the 2013-14 season because of an inability to stop the star guard of the opposing team.
The reality is that defense doesn’t get the credit it deserves in the roll it can play in determining the outcome of a game. The reader should never forget that defense is 50% of the game. DEFENSE IS AS IMPORTANT AS OFFENSE. You can never lose a game if your five starters have the capabilities of shutting down their opponents. However, you can lose a game even if your five starters have the capability of scoring at will.
So, what’s the bottom line? There is indeed hope on the horizon this season despite the 10 wins record last year. The sun will not be setting on the horizon…it will be rising as the strangers on the squad get better acquainted and the freshmen centers mature. I believe that this is going to be an exciting year that may (and hopefully) extend deep into March. Only time will tell whether the hope is real or whether it is just another adjustment year.
Finally, folks do yourselves a favor and consider attending one of the games. Attending Hofstra games still remains the best sports buy in the New York Metropolitan area; it’s even cheaper than going to the movies. There is ample free parking, easy access in and out of the Sports Complex, the concession stands are not a rip-off ($3.25 for a dog, $1.50 for a soda, etc.), and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Did I mention that its $5 for seniors and children, and the whole exciting atmosphere is conducive to family attendance? I suggest sharing it with someone you care about. I guarantee you won’t regret it.
Note: The above article was written in early November. The team’s record at the time of posting this article (November 28) was 3-2.
NEXT POSTINGS: (tentative)
JANUARY 1: On Football Boxes
FEBRUARY 1: On Great Eats
MARCH 1: On the Sats
APRIL 1: On Paying Student Athletes III
MAY 1: On School Taxes