Last season was a difficult one for Hofstra’s women’s basketball program in terms of wins and losses, but there’s plenty of reasons for second-year head coach Danielle Santos Atkinson to be optimistic about the future.
The Pride was unable to beat any of its Colonial Athletic Association rivals in 2019-20 and finished 3-27 overall while being outscored by an average of 15.6 points per game. Its victories came against Hartford, Morgan State and Campbell.
“There were a lot of factors going into my first season and our eyes were set on a bigger picture,” said Santos Atkinson, a former Hofstra assistant who returned to campus last season to become the 12th head coach in program history. “We saw a lot of individual development and laid the foundation,” she added. “This season we’re looking to be much more aggressive at both ends of the floor. We want to play faster on offense and pressure the ball and generate more turnovers on defense.”
The effort to close the gap on the rest of the CAA will be led by two full-time returning starters and one part-time returning starter, all of whom Atkinson is counting on to take their games to another level, along with a talented group of newcomers.
Jaylen Hines started all 30 games in 2019-20 and led the team in scoring (11.6 ppg), rebounding (8.8 rpg) and steals while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor (139-for-281) to rank third in the conference. A 5-foot-10 redshirt junior forward, she poured in a career-high 30 points against Charleston and is a “walking double-double,” Santos Atkinson said.
“Jaylen is our most proven player and she’s returned with a lot more confidence,” Santos Atkinson said. “She worked on her game and her body big time during the quarantine. She has great touch around the rim and a positive demeanor that makes her a leader.”
Sophomore Sorelle Ineza started all but two games last season at point guard and chipped in 8 points per game with a team-leading 32 minutes per game and 85 assists. From Quebec, Canada, Ineza was named to the CAA All-Rookie Team. “We put an awful lot on Sorelle’s shoulders last season,” Santos Atkinson said. “Being a freshman point guard is tough. Her game evolved over the season and now we’ll look to move her off the ball and give her more opportunities to shoot.”
A couple of candidates to run the point are Rosi Nicholson, a junior coming off a strong season for Santa Fe Community College in Florida, and Jaysyni Knight, a junior transfer from the University of Pittsburgh who may not be eligible to play until next season pending a waiver decision on the NCAA’s transfer policy.
Another former Pitt Panther, 6-foot-3 redshirt junior forward Jaala Henry, practiced with the Pride all of last season while sitting out under the transfer rule. “She knows our system and is ready to contribute major minutes,” Santos Atkinson said. “She’s versatile with good shooting range and rebounding ability.”
Hofstra’s third returnee with starting experience is junior guard JaKayla Brown, who averaged 6 points per game over 24 appearances, including a dozen starts. “JaKayla’s worked hard during the offseason and is an improved shooter who’ll help us at both ends.”
Santos Atkinson believes the Pride will be a deeper squad than last season — and needs to be. “We want to play faster so we need fresh legs off the bench,” she noted.
The Pride is scheduled to open the campaign with a non-conference game at Siena on Nov. 25. The CAA slate will once again include 18 games, but due to Covid-19 the format has been adjusted to limit travel and help ensure the health and safety of student‐athletes, coaches and staff. In lieu of a traditional, home‐and‐home round robin schedule, teams will play against the same opponent at the same site on consecutive days, primarily weekends.
“On paper, the conference is just as strong as last season,” Santos Atkinson said. “We’re focused on the little things and what’s going to make us competitive every single game.”
The CAA regular season will tip off Friday, Jan. 1, and conclude on Sunday, Feb. 28. Games impacted by the pandemic could be made up at various alternate dates. Hofstra opens CAA action against William & Mary.
As of now, fans are not expected to be permitted to attend games. “No fans is something we’ll have to get used to,” Santos Atkinson said. “When it’s game time, we just have to get locked in.”