CAA Preview: Hofstra Pride

By: David J Kroopnick

Last year: 7-25 (4-14 CAA) Last in CAA

What Happened: 2012-2013 was a season Hofstra fans are hoping to soon forget. The season started with a number of issues: transfers Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Taran Buie were suspended four games for violating team rules; the Pride were unable to use their own practice facility for a few weeks, as it was the site for a presidential debate; and former head coach Mo Cassara was forced to sleep in his office after being displaced by Hurricane Sandy. Unfortunately, the worst of it was yet to come. On November 30th, 2012, seven games into the season, four Hofstra players – Shaquille Stokes, Kentrell Washington, Jimmy Hall and Dallas Anglin – were arrested for stealing a variety of electronics and reselling them. All four players were immediately removed from the Pride’s roster. From a basketball standpoint, this was no small loss as Jimmy Hall was leading the team in both PPG (12.7) and RPG (9.4) upon his arrest. Shaquille Stokes was averaging 10 PPG and 2.6 APG.

The Pride, with their roster ravaged, were unable to overcome this adversity and finished their season last in the CAA winning just 4 games in conference. Taran Buie – a former high school standout who was once recruited by several big name programs – was unable to singlehandedly bear the offensive load finishing the season shooting a meager .310 from the field and .290 from behind the arc.

Key Losses

(The four players that were arrested are not included here as they did not complete the season)

Taran Buie (G): Taran Buie, who possesses phenomenal raw talent, produced some decent numbers in the ‘12-‘13 season finishing with a team high 12.4 PPG. Buie did not put up his scoring numbers in an efficient manner however, reflected in his low FG% (.310) and 3FG% (.290). To help put these numbers into perspective Buie attempted 74 more field goals than Hofstra’s second leading scorer, yet he converted on only 6 more attempts. Taran Buie also had a propensity to turn the ball over. His assist to turnover ratio for 2012-2013 was .53 – for every one assist Buie had, he added roughly 2 turnovers. Buie’s inefficiencies stemmed from trying to do too much, frequently forcing shots and dribbling into traffic. Buie departed after the season due to personal reasons.

Stevie Mejia (G): Stevie Mejia finished second on the team in scoring averaging 11.9 PPG. Mejia was a tenacious defender who had a team high 63 steals (2 SPG), landing him on the CAA All-Defensive Team. Due to Buie’s tendency towards questionable shot selection Mejia was tasked with spreading the ball around the floor. Mejia was an offensive cog for the Pride throughout the season leading Hofstra with 4.1 assists per game.

Key returnees:

Stephen Nwaukoni (F/C): Stephen Nwaukoni held down the paint for the Pride during the ’12-’13 season averaging 7.9 rebounds per game, a team high. Nwaukoni (6.8 PPG) is the top returning scorer from last year’s squad. Expect an uptick in minutes for the 6’8” big-man because he will have to shoulder a bigger load, especially in the beginning of the year since he is the lone senior on the team (there are two graduate students on the roster).

Moussa Kone (F/C): The 6’7” junior will likely play the power forward position alongside Nwaukoni who will be at center. Kone averaged 6.5 PPG shooting 51.5% from the floor and 4.4 RPG. Kone likely will not fill up the stat sheet every night but he did show flashes of potential including a career-high 20 points against Towson on March 2.

Outlook: This will certainly be a rebuilding project for new head coach Joe Mihalich – formerly of Niagara – who replaced Mo Cassara upon his firing. Mihalich has added three freshman and has 12 open offers out on current high school seniors, one of whom has verbally committed. Freshman Eliel Gonzalez had plenty of success in high school and garnered interest from George Mason, Florida Gulf Coast and Akron. He will likely see a lot of minutes this season alongside fellow freshman guard Chris Jenkins who has a solid long-range game. Jamall Robinson a 2-star recruit according to ESPN will also play a decent amount as a swingman. With Nwaukoni and Moussa Kone starting in the frontcourt, this team will fight their way through the season, as Mihalich continues to work hard recruiting new talent. Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley, transfers that followed Mihalich from Niagara, will sit out the 13-14 season due to NCAA regulations. However, they will both be immediate contributors next year demonstrated by their 16.5 PPG and 11.3 PPG averages in 12-13.

The outlook for the 2013-2014 season for Hofstra is bleak and they will probably finish last in the conference. The upside is that the team will see a large improvement next year and there should be fewer off-court issues for the team this season. The true nightmare of 2012-2013 is in the past.

Follow David Kroopnick on Twitter @Kroopnick