CAA Preview: Hofstra Pride

Last season: 27–8 (15–3 CAA, first place), lost in CAA final

Coach: Joe Mihalich (seventh season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: First

Losses

  • G Justin Wright-Foreman
  • G Kenny Wormley
  • F Jacquil Taylor
  • F Dan Dwyer
  • F Matija Radovic

Additions

  • G Caleb Burgess
  • G Omar Silverio
  • G Jermaine Miranda
  • F Kvonn Cramer

By Matt Neiser

Led by Justin Wright-Foreman and his second-straight CAA Player of the Year season, the Hofstra Pride were a force to be reckoned with in 2018–19. A 16-game winning streak — the longest in the nation before Northeastern ended it on February 2 — helped Hofstra secure the CAA regular season crown before a loss to the Huskies in the CAA Championship game ended their season.

Wright-Foreman has carried the Pride the past few seasons, but he’s gone — off to compete in the NBA and G-League on a two-way contract after being drafted 53rd overall by the Utah Jazz. Now, reigning CAA Coach of the Year Joe Mihalich faces the challenge of replacing 27 ppg (second in the nation) of scoring and the bevy of other contributions the lethal lefty brought to his squad. Hofstra is also losing grad transfer Jacquil Taylor, their starting center and defensive anchor.

Despite the major losses, the Pride still have plenty of talent. Headlining their 2019–20 crew is All-CAA second team senior guard Eli Pemberton, who averaged 15 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game on 45 percent shooting (35 percent from three) last season. The 6’5” guard has been a consistent scoring option behind Wright-Foreman throughout his career and finally has the chance to be top dog. An all-around scorer with playmaking upside, Pemberton will be the key to Hofstra’s success.

Also returning is senior guard Desure Buie, the reigning CAA Defensive Player of the Year. Buie’s 82 steals last season led the CAA, and it wasn’t even close; the next highest in the conference was JMU’s Darius Banks with 56. His defense will be invaluable for the Pride in a conference full of dynamic guards.

Other notable returnees include senior Tareq Coburn and junior Jalen Ray, a pair of sharpshooting guards. Coburn started 25 games last season and shot 43 percent from behind the arc on 3.4 attempts per game, while Ray came off the bench and contributed his own 39 percent from three on 3.7 attempts. The two combined for 16 points per game and are poised to build on those numbers with Wright-Foreman’s departure.

The big question mark for the Pride is their frontcourt. After losing Taylor (6’10”), Dan Dwyer (6’8”), and Matija Radovic (6’7”), they’re left with little experience at the four and five spots. Of the four players on their current roster over 6’6” tall, 6’8” Stafford Trueheart’s 11 minutes per game in 2018 lead the way.

Bottom Line: Losing Wright-Foreman is going to hurt. It’ll take some time for Hofstra to adjust, but the Pride still have more than enough talent to compete in the CAA. If Pemberton rises to the challenge as their primary option and they can scavenge serviceable minutes from their big men, there’s no reason to think Hofstra won’t be back in the title hunt this season.

CAA Class of 2019 Goes Pro

Picture credit: nuhuskies.com

By Milton Posner

On April 7th, four CAA basketball players stood on a speedily assembled court in America’s largest shopping mall as dollar bills fluttered around them.

Northeastern’s Vasa Pusica, Hofstra’s Justin Wright-Foreman, Charleston’s Jarrell Brantley, and UNCW’s Devontae Cacok had won the Dos Equis 3X3U National Championship — and its $100,000 prize — after seven straight wins over teams representing other conferences.

It was an entertaining, financially rewarding experience for two-thirds of the CAA’s 2019 First Team. But it would pale in comparison to where they were headed.

Pusica went first. Two weeks after the 3X3U Tournament, he signed a contract with KK Partizan, the winningest team in his native Serbia’s top basketball league. Since joining the team, he has averaged eight points, two rebounds, and two assists over 12 games. Pusica possesses the deliberate ballhandling, mature decision-making, and versatile scoring skill to isolate or to attack in the pick-and-roll.

Brantley and Wright-Foreman went next. The Indiana Pacers drafted Brantley with the 50th pick, then flipped him to the Utah Jazz for Utah’s 2021 second-round pick and $2 million. The Jazz also nabbed Wright-Foreman 53rd with their own pick. It marked the first time since 1992 that two CAA players were chosen in the same draft.

Both have great upside; Brantley is a 6-foot-7-inch, 255-pound powerhouse boasting strong athleticism, positional versatility, and a diverse offensive skill set. Wright-Foreman is an electric combo guard who displays blazing quickness, on-the-catch and off-the-dribble shooting, and strong drives courtesy of deft handles and space-consuming spins.

On Tuesday, the Jazz signed both of them to two-way contracts. These contracts allow players to alternate between the NBA and G League (minor league basketball). Brantley and Wright-Foreman will likely spend most of their time with Utah’s G League affiliate (the Salt Lake City Stars), but they can spend up to 45 days with the Jazz.

They will make about $80,000 (prorated) for their G League time and about $900,000 (rookie minimum, also prorated) for their NBA time. The Jazz can make either contract into a standard NBA contract at any time, provided they have a free roster space. Should the pair finish their two-way deals, they would be eligible for qualifying offers and restricted free agency.

Brantley played four Summer League games — he was limited by a hamstring injury — averaging nine points (38 percent shooting) and five rebounds in 22 minutes. Wright-Foreman also played four games, averaging 12 points on 33 percent shooting, three rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 26 minutes per game.

But it was Devontae Cacok who shone brightest in Summer League. The 6-foot-7-inch, 240-pound dynamo averaged 23 minutes across eight contests, logging 12 points on 60 percent shooting, nine rebounds, and two steals a game for the Los Angeles Lakers. His Summer League coach and teammates have praised his defense, rebounding, energy, and toughness.

On July 9th, the Lakers signed Cacok to an Exhibit 10 contract, essentially a training camp invite with a bonus attached. It incentivizes Cacok to remain with the Lakers’ G League affiliate by paying him $5,000 to $50,000 if he is waived by the NBA club, signs with the G League team, and remains there for at least 30 days. The Lakers can also convert the deal into a two-way contract, allowing Cacok to transition between the NBA and G League clubs.

Just 100 days ago, these four athletes donned glitzy plastic sunglasses, gold-colored chains, and shot dollar bills from guns as they celebrated a win in a high-octane but mostly-for-fun tournament. Now they’ve all got real jobs, and how they develop and expand their skills will determine their longevity in an ever-changing sport.