December 1, 2015
Thanksgiving is now a near distant memory. It is now December. Christmas and the New Year are around the corner. What’s the significance? It primarily means one thing for basketball buffs in the Nassau County area: the 2015-16 Hofstra basketball season has arrived.
Every year, at about this time (December 1), I introduce the reader to Hofstra’s Men’s Basketball Team and start the prediction process for the coming season. This year is no different – so here goes…
I begin with some comments about last year’s team. There were concerns, hopes, and expectations; second year Coach Joe Mihalich (he has my vote for second-best coach in the NCAA) had inherited a team in disarray the previous season, but the 2014-15 season team featured Juan ‘ya Green and Ameen Tanksley – the two Niagara University transfers and Brian Bernardi, plus returnees Jamail Robinson/Malik Nichols and two first-year centers. So what happened? They had a good season finishing 5th in the CAA (Colonial Athletic Association) with a decent record of 20-14, 10-8. The group started off strong, went into a tailspin after Tanksley scored 30+ points at the Barkley Center, and came back strong at the end of the season. The CAA tournament was up for grabs and I felt they had a chance to win it and earn a berth in the NCAA tournament.
It would be appropriate to also mention last year’s Hofstra/William & Mary (H/W&M) CAA Tournament semi-final game. This may sound like sour grapes but Hofstra was the best team in the tournament and the best team lost because of poor officiating (a CAA official effectively said the same thing to me). The H/W&M foul ratio was an unbelievable 2/1. The refs called “touch” or “phantom” fouls near the end of the game that put W&M in a position to win. As a former basketball ref, and the reader can check this with any other ref, you simply don’t make this class of call at the end of a game. These three officials shouldn’t get another playoff game in the future. If you think I’m nuts, check the near perfect quality of the officiating the next night in the finals. (P.S. I mailed these thoughts to my friend, CAA Commissioner Tom Yaeger.)
Here’s what I’ve got on this year’s team. Hofstra has extended Coach Mihalick’s contract. Most of the players are returning; key losses include center Kone and off-guard Nesmith. There’s a few additions, the most noteworthy of which is 6-8 Denton Koon, a Princeton graduate student transfer with one year of eligibility and freshman guards Justin Wrights-Foreman and Desure Buie.
Here’s my analysis: The team looks pretty solid. Are there any concerns? Of course. The loss of Kone may be problematic if the two centers – Gustys and Walker – do not improve. The departure of Nesmith is a bigger concern since the club’s roster seems to be light on one (point) guards with experience. I have repeatedly claimed that it is great guards that get a team to a championship games, but it is great defensive guards that get you to the Promised Land; i.e., win a championship. Nesmith filled that role and I’m not sure that Mihalick has a satisfactory replacement. Green is a solid scorer and a great passer but he has yet to convince me that he is a great defensive player, which he will have to demonstrate in order to move on to the next level.
This may be Hofstra’s year. Then again, it may turn out not to be for a host of reasons. At the top of the list is a porous defense, followed by the lack of a backup center, the lack of a shot blocker, and the lack of a great defensive guard. Furthermore, Coach Mihalich appears committed to six-man rotation which could expand to seven with the addition of Buie; this might spell disaster in a potential four-day/four-game tournament in March. I maintain that 35+ minutes players in a high powered offense will unquestionably cheat on defense—and this problem needs to be addressed if the club is to go all the way.
A note on the aforementioned Freshman guard Desure Buie. He may turn out to be the heir to a long list of great guards who have performed at Mack Arena. I think this baby-faced under six foot 120 pounder (he can’t be six feet tall and weigh 150 pounds as reported) will bring fame and fortune to the program after Green and Tanksley leave at the end of the season. He’s the real deal in my estimation.
The team’s record at the time of the posting of this article was 3-2. Three home games remain in December, including their league opener against Delaware at 1:00 PM on the day of New Year’s Eve. There are also 9 home league games during January and February. The CAA Tournament is scheduled for March 4 – 7 at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore.
As noted on numerous times in the past, attending Hofstra games still remains the best sports buy in the New York Metropolitan area. There is ample free parking, the concession stands are not a rip-off, there isn’t a bad seat in the house and its $6 for seniors and children.
In the meantime, my Basketball Coaching 101 (436-page) book is still out in the marketplace at either amazon.com or createspace.com for $17.95. I gave it my best shot and know the book will win no prizes. Despite rave reviews, sales are sluggish; it is not available in stores and there has been no signings in bookshops. The explanation provided to me is that it is now a word-of-mouth book, i.e., via personal recommendation of one reader to another, the media, press, many authorities, etc., have essentially overlooked the book.
I thank those of you who have read it cover-to-cover and have had nothing but positive things to say about it. It’s been great for my ego. So … the readers’ help is required if meaningful sales are to materialize. Nonetheless, thanks to those who are pushing the book. I ask others to consider contacting their circle of friends and inform them of the book, and further recommend they contact their circle of friends, etc. Details on the book are available on my Facebook page: Basketball Coaching 101.
Consider buying the book – I really do need the royalty money to help subsidize my gambling habits.
NEXT POSTINGS (tentative):
JANUARY 1: On Climate Change II
FEBRUARY 1: On How to Write a Book
MARCH 1: On Random Thoughts XXIII
APRIL 1: On Financial Inequity
MAY 1: On the 2016 East Williston School District Budget Vote