2020–21 CAA Preview: Hofstra Pride

Last Season: 26–8 (14–4, first place CAA); CAA Conference Champions

Head Coach: Joe Mihalich (eighth season)

Note: Mihalich has been on medical leave since August and it is unknown when he will return. Associate Head Coach Mike Farrelly, in his eighth season with the Pride, is serving as interim head coach.

Preseason Poll Projected Finish: First

Departures — ppg/rpg/apg (fg% / 3fg% / ft%)

  • G Desure Buie — 18/4/6 (45/42/85)
  • G Eli Pemberton — 18/6/2 (45/38/85)
  • G Jermaine Miranda — played 45 mins
  • F Hal Hughes — played 60 mins
  • G Connor Klementowicz — played 19 mins

Additions

  • G Shawndarus Cowart (13/7/7 at Pensacola State College)
  • G/F David Green (18/9 at Ocoee High School)
  • G Zion Bethea (18/8/4 at Immaculate Conception)
  • G Vukasin Masic (21/6/6 at Hoosac High School)
  • G Cole Eiber (18 ppg at Western New England University)

By Justin Diament

The Pride ended the 2019–20 season on top, earning the number one seed in the CAA tournament and defeating Drexel, Delaware, and Northeastern to earn their first-ever CAA title. After the Pride avenged a CAA tournament finals loss to the Huskies the season prior and earned their first March Madness bid since 2001, the pandemic cut their dreams short.

This year the Pride will be without two players who keyed that championship season: senior guards Desure Buie and Eli Pemberton. Buie, who was honored as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after contributing a team-high 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists in the title game, led the Pride in points and assists during the regular season. Pemberton, who joined Buie on the all-tournament team after contributing 19 points and seven rebounds of his own in the championship game, was second on the team in scoring, playmaking, and rebounding.

Fortunately for the Pride, there is a lot to like about their returners. Jalen Ray, who joined Buie and Pemberton on the all-tournament team last year and was a preseason All-CAA honorable mention, notched 12 points per game last year while shooting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc and adding over a steal per game. Coburn, a preseason All-CAA honorable mention alongside Ray, likewise averaged double figures and nearly 40% from downtown last season. If Hofstra wants to live up to its number-one preseason rank, Ray and Coburn must justify the hype.

However, the biggest returning star for the Pride is senior forward and preseason first teamer Isaac Kante. The 6’7” Kante, the lone big man in last year’s four-guard starting lineup, led the team in rebounding with eight boards per contest. He added 11 points a night as well on a CAA-best 66 percent shooting clip. Kante is expected to take over as the focal point for the Pride in Buie and Pemberton’s stead.

Among Hofstra’s additions, one player to watch is junior guard Shawndarius Cowart, who was named to the All-Panhandle Conference First Team at Pensacola State last year after contributing a well-rounded 13 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and two steals per game. The Pride could use his defensive prowess and playmaking to offset their departures. 

Bottom Line: With defending CAA champion Hostra receiving preseason number one rank despite the departure of their two top scorers, in the words of Joe Mihalich, ‘it’s time to prove ‘em right.’ Senior backcourt mates Coburn and Ray provide an experienced duo that can fill the gap left by Buie and Pemberton, while Kante provides a strong scoring and rebounding presence in the middle. If this trio takes a step forward and newcomers like Cowart provide a boost, there’s no shortage of reasons to believe that the Pride can repeat as CAA champs.

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