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CAA Preview: Hofstra Pride

Head Coach: Joe Mihalich (6th season)

Last Season: 19-12 (12-6, 3rd in CAA); lost to UNCW in CAA quarterfinals

Projected Finish: 3rd

Key Departures: C Rokas Gustys

Key Returnees: G Justin Wright-Foreman, G Eli Pemberton

by Justin Littman

After a single-season rebuild, the Hofstra Pride returned to CAA relevance last year. The Pride finished third in the CAA regular season standings, but once again faltered in the conference tournament. After a first round bye, Hofstra fell 93-88 to UNCW in the quarterfinals, bringing their season to an abrupt finish.

Though the season may not have ended how they wanted it, Hofstra returns star power from last year. Justin Wright-Foreman, a 6’2” guard who led the CAA in scoring last year (24.4 ppg), enters his senior season as the preseason nominee for CAA Player of the Year. Wright-Foreman topped 30 points in seven games last season, and any success with this team starts with his ability to perform.

Adding to the offensive firepower is 6’5” junior guard Eli Pemberton, who averaged nearly 16 points per game last season, and shot over 40% from three. The Pride will need to see consistency out of Pemberton, as he faltered when it mattered most last season. In Hofstra’s quarterfinal loss, Pemberton shot just 1-9, and finished with four points; his lowest scoring output of the season. With an additional year of experience, Pemberton and Wright-Foreman should become one of the most reliable duos in the CAA.

While there is no denying the top-level talent of the Pride, there are serious question marks surrounding the rest of the roster. Rokas Gustys was the only other player to average double-figures in scoring last season (10.5 ppg), and he was lost to graduation. What Hofstra will miss most about Gustys is his rebounding ability. He averaged at least 12 rebounds per game over each of the last three seasons.

There is not a clear solution on Hofstra’s roster from last season that will step in and fill that role. The Pride have two players joining the program as graduate transfers this season, who will likely have big roles from the outset. Jacquil Taylor is a 6’10” forward from Purdue, who played in 19 games last season. Dan Dwyer is the other transfer, a 6’8” forward from the University of Pennsylvania. They will be leaned on heavily to pull in rebounds and provide a presence in the paint.

The Pride have a few other players to keep an eye on this year, as they look for a third reliable option to lean on. Guards Jalen Ray and Desure Buie came on strong towards the end of last season, each scoring double digits in each of their last three games. They will look to maintain the momentum into this season. Also look for sharpshooting forward Matija Radovic, who played a limited role as a freshman last season, to be more involved in the offense this season.

Bottom Line: The pair of Justin Wright-Foreman and Eli Pemberton is as talented as any duo in the league, but the Pride still lack depth. Jalen Ray and Desure Buie have shown flashes, but have not been able to put it together for an entire season to this point. The loss of Gustys is painful, and it is unlikely that anyone on the roster will be able to replace that production. The Pride will still score, but they may struggle on the defensive end. Hofstra has the top-level talent to compete in the CAA, but they will need some serious growth if they want to compete among the best in the league this season.

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