April 1, 2016
This is the third and last article on Hofstra’s 2015-16 Men’s Basketball team. Here is a summary report of what took place this season and what to expect for the following year.
This was a banner year for the club. The team basically featured a near dream offense that was unfortunately complemented with a porous defense. There was the starting five that consisted of Rokas Gustys (C), Denton Koon (PF), Ameen Tanksley (SF), Brian Bernardi (#2), and Juan’ya Green (#1). Rokas – who I refer to as “The Brute” – came into his own this season and probably should have been behind MVP Green for MVP honors. Freshman Desure Buie had a decent season. The club beat Florida State (neutral site), lost to South Carolina at the buzzer (neutral site), and beat St. Bonaventure (at Olean). The club’s record, prior to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tournament: 22-8, 14-4.
I attended the CAA Tournament in Baltimore in early March where I was treated to 7 thrilling games over a 3-day span. What a great vacation. The tournament itself was the culminating event of the Hofstra season. Without going into details, the team made it to the finals but lost to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) in overtime. The general consensus of the media following the loss was that Hofstra suffered from “fatigue” and “was running on fumes” while the UNCW defense – particularly against the two Hofstra guards – contributed significantly to the loss. The season ended with a thrilling but another heartbreaking 2-point loss in the NIT at George Washington; interestingly, GW then went on to decisively win the NIT championship at the Garden.
Here is what I had to say earlier in the season: “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, following 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 constrained by a 5-man rotation due to the loss of Malik Nichols, which could expand to six with the addition of Buie; this might spell disaster in a potential 3-day/3-game tournament in March. I maintain that 35+ minute players in a high powered offense will unquestionably cheat on defense – and this problem needs to be addressed.” No one will ever convince me that a 35-40 minute starter will play with the same intensity defensively as a sub who knows his playing time is limited to under 10-12 minutes.
Here is a comment from afar from two fans on this season. Bob Hausner: “The Pride lived up to expectations. The CAA proved to be competitive and Hofstra was in the mix. They came down to the wire and lost heartbreakers in the tournament final game and the NIT first round. Their starting five was the equal of any other team in the CAA. Green lived up to all preseason expectations. Unfortunately, the loss of Nichols, the 6th man, was devastating and hurt the team. The short bench resulted in their running out of gas in the last game.” Ed Borenstein: “As a former alumni and long-time Hofstra basketball fan, I was very excited that Hofstra finally won the CAA conference plus had the CAA player of the year in Jaun’ya Green. Although it was disappointing that they lost the championship game in the CAA Tournament, they played hard and got into the NIT. I’m looking forward to next year and have confidence that Joe will build on the progress they made.”
Next season? Assuming Rokas and Buie will not transfer, the club should have a reasonable chance to again be in the hunt for top honors. With only minimal improvement, I would expect Rokas to contend for MVP honors the next two years. Three point specialist Bernardi should be set for another good season. Buie is the wild card. He could make the Hofstra faithful forget about the great guards of yesteryear – Speedy, Charles Jenkins, Moore, Green, etc. He too could become part of the MVP picture during the next three years. He should improve dramatically in the future but what I love most about this skinny impersonator for a basketball player is his great defense. Remember what I stated in my book Basketball Coaching 101: “In reality, defense has recently emerged as the name of the game. The author has repeatedly told basketball aficionados that defense is 50% of the game. And every individual has responded with something to the effect: “of course, I (or we) know that”. But really? Who believes them? After all, from the first day a player is introduced to basketball, defense has almost always been an afterthought… It is great guards that get a team to a championship game, but it is great defensive guards that win championships. It is their ability to create havoc on the opponent’s offense that makes the difference. Bottom line: defense doesn’t get the credit it deserves in the role it can play in determining the outcome of a game.”
All in all, it should be another very good year, particularly if the team exceeds the minimum requisite defense DNA.
Here is a comment from afar from an avid fan on next year’s season (Bob Bernstein): “This will obviously be a very difficult season with the loss of Green, Tanksley, Koon and Nichols. But there is some good news: two notable additions are 6’8” Oceanside transfer (from Tufts) Hunter Sabety, and guard Deron Powers from Hampton College. Notable returns, in addition to Rokas and Bernardi, are 6’10” Andre Walker and small forward Jamail Robinson. There are a lot of positives.”
Here is some personal information on the three seniors as the spotlight dims and they ride off to a new way of life – perhaps never to be heard from again.
- Kenton Koon, the graduate transfer from Princeton University. I dubbed Kenton the most underrated player on the team, primarily because of his court savvy. He was also the only player on the starting five who didn’t look for his shot. He was my type of contributor – a true team player.
- We are all hoping that Green will be drafted (by the NBA) sometime in the coming months. He has a legitimate shot because of his great passing, excellent foul shooting, and tremendous court presence. Shooting, speed, and defense may be questioned by some interested teams. From a personal perspective, I would draft him because great one (#1) guards have always been close to my heart. Perhaps Speedy Claxton can help.
- Ameen Tanksley probably hopes to make it in Europe and he has a reasonable shot to succeed. He had a great CAA Tournament. The main problem is that he is a “tweener”, i.e., too small for a small forward (#3) and not possessing the qualities for a #2 guard. But he is all heart and tough as nails. His four years with Coach Mihalich is obviously a plus.
Baseball has arrived. As my father often put it: Let’s go Mets. But it will be a while before this Hofstra basketball season leaves some of us. But nonetheless, Coach Mihalich, his assistant coaches, Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway, and all the players need to be congratulated. Thank you all for an exciting season. It was also a memorable year in that Tom Yaeger, the CAA Commissioner since its inception 31 years ago, announced that he was retiring. He and his wife plan to remain at their lake home in Virginia. Congratulations, good luck and good health to Tom.
I close with a poetic executive summary of the 2015-16 season. My thoughts often turn to the passage of time which, in turn, are reminders of sayings involving the orbiting of the sun that have withstood the test of time. Here is a sampling.
Henry David Thoreau
Walden. I, Economy
To him whose elastic and vigorous thought
keeps pace with the sun
the day is a perpetual morning.
Minot Judson Savage
Things Not Done
There comes an hour of sadness
With the setting of the sun,
Not for the sins committed,
But the things I have not done.
Like our shadows,
Our wishes lengthen as our sun declines.
How does the above relate to this narrative? Darkness is now approaching for the two kids from Philly who provided two years of immense basketball talent as they prepare to ride off into the sunset, awaiting a new beginning. But then, having stepped out of the darkness and experienced the early morning rays of light upon the darkened sky, Buie now awaits his day in the sun. Perhaps Scarlett O’Hara (Vivian Leigh) said it best when the curtain descended on Margaret Mitchell’s classic “Gone with the Wind” “After all, tomorrow is another day.” (perhaps drawn from Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixode – tomorrow will be a new day?).
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MAY 1: On the 2016 East Williston School District Budget Vote
JUNE 1: On Barack Hussein Obama V
JULY 1: On Financial Inequity