NYC Metro Preview: #5 Hofstra
6. Hofstra (2006-07 Record: 22-10, 14-4 CAA)
Head coach: Tom Pecora
Returning Starters: 3- G Antoine Agudio (senior): 6-3, 190; F Zygis Sestokas (sophomore): 6-5, 200; F Mike Davis-Sabb (sophomore): 6-7, 240.
Well, after a three-year run of the “three-headed monster” of a backcourt, Loren Stokes and Carlos Rivera are out of eligibility. This leaves Antoine Agudio as the “lone ranger”, and the image of a gunslinger may be appropriate for the senior sharpshooter. Agudio, who’s the preseason pick to win CAA Player of the Year honors by some publications, averaged 20.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game in 2006-07. And with Stokes and Rivera now gone, Agudio’s scoring figures to increase in 2007-08. But just how good the Pride are this season will rest on the shoulders of the supporting cast, because if they can’t keep defenses honest things will be much tougher to come by for Agudio.
Accompanying Agudio in the backcourt will be junior Greg Johnson, a solid defender who gets a starting gig after two years coming off the bench. In addition to Johnson, a pair of newcomers stands to have a chance to earn playing time in the backcourt. Redshirt freshman Charles Jenkins, who goes 6-3. 220, has the size to allow Coach Pecora to go with a three-guard lineup that’s been a staple of Hofstra Basketball the past couple of seasons. Freshman Nathaniel Lester, one of the top guards in New York City last year, also possesses that kind of size at 6’4, 190. One of these three will have to help Agudio shoulder the scoring load this season if the Pride are to once again reach twenty wins.
In the frontcourt, Hofstra lost Chris Gadley (4.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg), who decided to transfer to Canisius after last season. But the combination of three returnees, a redshirt freshman and two junior college transfers can more than make up for that loss. Zygis Sestokas (6.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg), who was second in the CAA in three point percentage (44.4%), needs to up his scoring numbers this season. While he may be more comfortable at the small forward spot, the arrival of Jenkins and Lester could mean more time at the four for Sestokas. Mike Davis-Sabb (3.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg) is the team’s leading returning rebounder, and with the loss of Gadley must become more consistent this season.
As for the newcomers, redshirt freshman Greg Johnson (6-10, 200) has the height to make a difference inside. The strength could be provided by junior college transfers Darren Townes and Dane Johnson, both of whom stand to contribute in the paint immediately. After the guards showed themselves to be the more capable rebounders on the team last season, the frontcourt needs to step up with two of those three guards now graduated.
In regards to the schedule, things did not get off to a good start with the season-opening 61-47 loss at Holy Cross. Other non-conference games of note include trips to Fordham (December 5th) and Rhode Island (December 22nd), a home game against Charlotte (December 15th), and an appearance in the Aeropostale Holiday Festival (December 28th-29th). Hofstra, who won the event last season, open with Virginia Tech while St. John’s and Marist play on the other side of the four-team bracket. And the CAA looks to be tough once again, with an eighteen-game schedule that can be unforgiving if you’re not careful. Hofstra will also once again take part in the ESPNU BracketBusters event in late-February.
Well, not too many teams in the country have the task of replacing two-thirds of an explosive backcourt. But hey, that’s better than having to replace all three, right? Agudio being back on campus this season is a welcome sight, but just how good this team is will depend on the supporting cast. Hopefully the opener at Holy Cross, which saw Agudio score 28 of Hofstra’s 47 points, isn’t an indication of how this team will play on offense this year. The frontcourt will need to increase its production to make up for the backcourt losses, both in the scoring column as well as on the boards. The schedule won’t call for as much travel this season, which will be good for the development of this team. But it will have its challenges, the better to prepare Hofstra for CAA play. But I don’t think they’re going to compete for the conference title this season, even with Agudio’s explosive scoring ability. Expect them to finish anywhere from fourth to sixth in the CAA.