December 1, 2021
Two teams come to mind when one thinks of basketball on Long Island: St. Johns (Queens) and Hofstra (Nassau County). Hofstra has held the upper hand in recent years. But last year, SJ head coach, Mike Anderson, revitalized the team with a high-pressure defense that created havoc for a number of teams (I have a bet on them to win the NCAA this year at whopping odds of 175-1). Hofstra, on the other hand, took several steps backwards after coach Jo Mihalik went on medical leave last year and the team utterly failed to respond to the new leadership. That was then, now is now, and the article is about Hofstra’s Spring season (I did not bet on them at 2500-1.).
Five topics on Hofstra’s upcoming season are reviewed below: coach, players, defense, tournament thoughts, and closing comments. Here we go.
- Coaching: There is a new sheriff in town and his name is Speedy Claxton. Everybody is enthused about his selection to lead the Pride. So am I. He will do fine, even though it is his first year. My dear friend and mentor, Jack Powers, former Executive Director of the NIT, had this to offer on Speedy: “He is a wonderful kid, a quality person, a great player, and certain to succeed. Rick Cole made a great choice.” My sentiments…exactly.
- Players: Here is some bad news. The club lost Isaac Kante who I believe would have been a dominant center in the CAA this season. This was a major loss, particularly since the club lacks both a solid big man and shot blocker. The club appears to be top heavy with quality guards. They include: Jalen Ray who will need to have a superstar year on offense, and improve his defensive play; Aaron Estrada, a solid addition from Oregon University; Cabet Burgess, a holdover who shows promise; and, Zachary Cooks, another solid addition from New Jersey Institute of Technology;
- Defense. The club has almost exclusively played zone since the arrival of coach Mikal ich. Here is some good news. Speedy announced early on that that the club would almost exclusively play zone defense. As I’ve always said, if you play against a zone, your grandmother can guard you. I’ve also said that it is defense that wins championships, particularly backcourt defense. Bottle up your opponent’s playmaker and you’re in business.
- Tournament thoughts. The object every season for any club in a mid-major conference is to win their tournament, NOT their conference. Iona College, with essentially mediocre seasons, has won the MAAC tournament in the last 4 years in a row. Does Tim Cluess know something that other coaches don’t know? I believe he has figured out that the corrupt NCAA has stacked the deck against mid-major teams, and the only way to survive and prosper is to win their tournament. Bottom line: Play to win the tournament, NOT conference games during the season. How does a team do this? I discussed this very topic in the 2nd edition of my “Basketball Coaching 101” book.
- Closing comments. The team chose to open against 3 top 25 ranked teams: Houston, Maryland, and Richmond. Did these games provide a wakeup call? Perhaps. Houston was an overtime loss; Maryland was 2-point loss with some really poor time management at the end of the game, and Richmond was also a loss. The club was 3-4 at the time of submission of this article.
One more thing. My spies tell me that Hofstra has aspirations of moving from the CAA to the MAC. I hope not since the CAA gives the club a more “spatial” presence.
Finally, attending Hofstra games for me 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 Mack Sports Complex, the concession stands are not a rip-off ($3.50 for a dog, $3.00 for a soda, etc.), and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Did I mention that it’s $9 for seniors and children, and the whole exciting atmosphere is conducive to family attendance? Consider sharing it with someone you care about.
NOTE: A real downer. An assistant in the Athletic Department cancelled my media pass for Hofstra games. That will probably adversely affect future Hofstra articles, but more importantly, reduce my ability to contact / involve key basketball personalities such as players, coaches, ADs, and officials in the second edition of my book “BASKETBALL COACHING 101”. It will not affect my involvement elsewhere. Anyway, I enjoyed my serving as a good will ambassador for the program — and it was good while it lasted.
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JANUARY 1: On Zzzabuu VI
FEBRUARY 1: On Great Eats VI
MARCH 1: On Purely Random, Pristine Thoughts XXVI
APRIL 1: On Hofstra’s 2021-22 Basketball Season
MAY 1: On the EWSD Tax Vote
Here are this month’s three offensive suggestions from the upcoming second edition of my “BASKETBALL COACHING 101” book.
- Practice inbounding the ball at various locations on the court when the opposing team is pressing.
- The player nearest to the ball should take it out immediately after a basket or foul shot and pass it to the first open man.
- Do not leave the foul line after the first of two (or three) free throws, and do not slap / shake the hand of a fellow teammate.