CAA Preview: Hofstra Pride

hofstraHead Coach: Joe Mihalich (5th Season at Hofstra, 20th Overall)

Last Season: 15-17 Overall, (7-11 CAA), T-7th Place, Lost in First Round

Projected Finish: 4th

 

Preseason All-Conference Selections: G Justin Wright-Foreman (First Team), C Rokas Gustys (Second Team), G Eli Pemberton (Honorable Mention)

Additions:

  • G Kenny Wormley (Junior, JUCO/Siena)
  • F Joel Angus III (Graduate Senior, Southeast Missouri State)
  • F Matija Radovic (Montverde Academy/Beograd, Serbia)
  • F/C Kevin Schutte (CSE Zwolle, The Netherlands)
  • G Jalen Ray (Hampton, VA)

Losses:

  • G Deron Powers (13 ppg, 5.2 apg)
  • G Brian Bernardi (12 ppg, 36% 3PT)
  • F Ty Greer (5.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
  • G/F Jamall Robinson (3.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
  • F/C Andre Walker
  • F Tommy Ros

by Justin Littman

Following the departure of three senior starters, including CAA Player of the Year Juan’ya Green, last season presented an opportunity for new talent to step to center stage and prove themselves. Nobody took advantage of this opportunity more than 6’0” sophomore guard Justin Wright-Foreman, who emerged from the shadows unlike anyone else in the nation. Wright-Foreman, who played just four minutes per game during his freshman season, averaged 18.1 ppg overall, and 23.2 ppg during conference play. This included a streak of ten consecutive games scoring at least 20 points, and he rightfully earned his way to Second Team All-CAA honors.

Wright-Foreman led a dangerous four-guard offensive attack that thrived on perimeter shooting. Senior Point guard Deron Powers was third in the CAA in assists, and was surrounded by a trio of shooters that also included senior Brian Bernardi (12 ppg) and freshman Eli Pemberton (12.8 ppg, 40% 3PT). They efficiently knocked down triples to help Hofstra place second in the CAA in three-point percentage. The Pride took comfort firing away often, knowing that their elite man in the middle would be there to recover the misses. Rokas Gustys, one of the key contributors remaining from the previous era of Hofstra basketball, finished fourth in the nation in rebounding last season (12.1 rpg). Collectively, Hofstra rebounded nearly one-third of their own misses.

Hofstra will remain an offensive-oriented team this season. Although they will need to find a way to make up for the playmaking ability of Powers, they may have a solution in 6’4” junior point guard Kenny Wormley. Wormley, a transfer who spent last season in Junior College after spending his freshman year at Siena, shot over 40 percent from three in each of his first two college seasons. Alongside backup point guard Desure Buie, who missed most last season with an ACL injury, and another year of development for Wright-Foreman and Pemberton, Hofstra should have enough talent on offense to figure it out. As for the loss of Bernardi, look no further than 6’7” freshman forward Matija Radovic. Radovic, who arrives at Hofstra from prestigious Montverde Academy, was the team’s fourth leading scorer on a recent four-game trip to Canada, including a game where he made five of his six three-point attempts.

The big question for Hofstra remains their defense. While the Pride’s up-tempo offensive attack is a joy to watch, this team will need to seriously improve upon their second-to-last finishes in both field-goal percentage defense and defensive rebounding if they hope to climb the CAA ladder. This team simply did not have the personnel to keep up last season. Wormley will likely represent a slight upgrade over Powers on this side, but without significant improvement from other starters Hofstra will fall in danger of a repeat performance. A clear area for improvement is defensive rebounding, which they should be better at given their prowess on the offensive glass. However, Rokas Gustys has had issues staying out of foul trouble since he arrived at Hofstra, and Coach Mihalich has not had many other options when Gustys comes out of the game. Coach Mihalich’s attraction to an up-tempo style doesn’t leave much room for depth up front. There simply aren’t many rim-running centers that will find their way to the CAA.  If Gustys can show significant progress in this area, it may shore up their issues on the defensive glass. However, if Gustys continues to struggle with foul trouble, the spotlight for rebounds and rim protection may turn to sophomore Hunter Sabety, who showed promise last season, or graduate transfer Joel Angus III.

Bottom Line: Hofstra is a well-coached program, and this team has top-level talent to push forward in the CAA this year. Justin Wright-Foreman is an incredible talent, and will garner serious consideration for CAA Player of the Year at the end of the season. Rokas Gustys has the rebounding ability to control games, and could be in for a monster senior season if he can manage to stay on the court. However, Hofstra will need to find a way to show significant improvement on the defensive end. They may not have the right personnel to be a great defensive team, but significant improvement on the defensive glass does not seem out of the question. An improvement in defensive rebounding could be enough to make this defense passable. Combined with an effective run-and-gun offense, Hofstra will once again be regarded as a formidable foe. If the Pride stay healthy, they should be able to avoid another bottom four finish in the CAA. This is a group that will likely finish in the middle of the pack, but they have the upside to become one of the best teams in league if they can figure out how to put it all together.

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