After an outstanding first season as Hofstra men’s basketball coach, the 2011-12 campaign was a tough one for Mo Cassara. The Pride finished a disappointing 10-22 (3-15 in the Colonial Athletic Association.) Playing in the challenging CAA, and facing tough non-conference competition, the road didn’t look rosy as Hofstra began Cassara’s third season.
Things got off to an inauspicious start for the Pride. First, Cassara was forced to suspend Connecticut transfer Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Penn State transfer Taran Buie for the opening two games for violating team rules. Then last week, Shaquille Stokes, Jimmy Hall, Dallas Anglin, and Kentrell Washington were arrested for allegedly stealing laptop computers, iPads and other items from dorm rooms. The university suspended the four players for the team and from attending classes. Stokes and Hall were both starters.
Prior to the controversy, the optimistic Cassara was intrigued by his team. “I really believe this is going to the beginning of a great run,” Cassara said as he addressed the media in October. “We have new players, a lot of moving parts, and veterans taking on new roles. We have a good chance to be playing very good basketball toward the end of the season.”
The results in the early going haven’t been good for the Pride. The team’s record stands at 3-5 after a 73-47 home loss to Southern Methodist last Saturday. Graduate student Stevie Mejia had 11 points, three assists and three steals for Hofstra.
Mejia is one of the players that Cassara will rely heavily upon. The 5-foot-9 point guard averaged 6.0 points and 2.3 assists per game in 2011-12. Mejia, who played a pair of seasons at the University of Rhode Island prior to arriving at Hofstra, scored a career-high 22 points in a 103-100 overtime win over Marshall on Nov. 18. He also came up big with 14 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in a win over South Dakota State.
Stokes, who was averaging 10 points per game, scored 26 in the victory over Marshall. Hall scored 16 points and pulled down 14 rebounds to record his second double-double of the season. The win was the third straight for the Pride.
Senior forward David Imes is the most experienced player on the roster. Imes is the team’s top returning scorer and rebounder. The 6-7 forward averaged seven points and 5.4 rebounds per game as a junior. Senior guard Matt Grogan, who saw limited action during his first three years with the Pride, will likely see his minutes increase.
Another player who will need to step up for Hofstra is sophomore Moussa Kone. The 6-7 forward, who played in all 32 games last season, is averaging 6.4 points and 5.6 rebounds. Kone had 14 points and 16 boards, both career highs, in the Marshall win. Junior forward Stephen Nwaukoni started 21 games last season. Nwaukoni has been solid on the boards, averaging 6.7 rebounds a game.
Buie, who sat out last season after averaging 5.8 points per game as a freshman at Penn State, has been as good as advertised. The 6-2 guard is averaging 13.7 points per game. Buie came off the bench to score 22 points in 29 minutes in a 67-56 loss at the hands of Manhattan College.
Red-shirt freshman Jordan Allen, an athletic 6-foot-6 forward, will be expected to contribute after sitting out in 2011-12. Allen averaged 17 points and 11 rebounds per game as a high school senior at Long Island Lutheran.
The Pride welcomes Wright State to the Mack Sports Complex Dec. 15 at 2 p.m.