By Max Sass, Assistant Sports Editor
2008 – 09 Record: 21 – 11 (11 – 7 in CAA), 5th in CAA
2008 – 09 CAA Tournament: Lost in second round to Old Dominion 52 – 51 after defeating UNC Wilmington 79 – 66 in first round
Coach: Tom Pecora
Pecora, the 10th head coach in Hofstra men's basketball history is beginning his ninth season leading the Pride and his 16th overall with the program. Pecora has led the Pride to four 20-win seasons out of the last five. Honored twice as the regions Coach of the Year (2006 and 2009) by Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association, Pecora has led the Pride to the postseason NIT tournament on three occasions. Pecora, an Adelphi graduate who has not strayed far from home to lead the Pride, is currently fourth on the Hofstra coaching list with 136 wins entering the season, right at the heels of Frank Reilly, who recorded 146 victories from 1947 to 1955 and Paul Lynner, who had 152 wins from 1962 to 1972.
Star Player: Charles Jenkins, Junior, Guard
Jenkins, last season's Haggerty Award Winner as the best player in the New York/ Metropolitan area is returning after his sophomore season in which he averaged 19.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Jenkins finished 2007- 08 as CAA Rookie of the Year and last season (2008 – 09) as a first team All – CAA selection. The Queens, NY native was voted CAA Preseason C0 – Player of the Year along with Old Dominion forward Gerald Lee. Jenkins is on pace to take Antoine Agudio's spot as Hofstra's all time leading scorer by the time he graduates. The junior, who Pecora describes as, "our hardest worker, whether it be in practice or at night shooting [or] coming into work extra in the weight room" is the only returning player in the nation who averaged 19 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds per game last year.
X – Factor: Miklos Szabo, Senior, Center
By Pecora's estimation, Szabo is one player whose performance will affect the season significantly. "We need him to go out every night and really rebound the ball and be able to play 30 solid minutes for us," said Pecora of his center. After transferring from Broward Community College in Florida, the 6 foot 9 inch Hungarian immediately made his impact in the paint, pulling down 11 rebounds in his first ever game with the Pride and eventually grabbing a career high 17 boards against Massachusetts. Szabo averaged 17 minutes per game last year for the Pride, but will need to double that to make up for the losses of big men Dane Johnson, Darren Townes and Arminas Urbutis.
Impact Freshman: Chaz Williams, Guard
Williams, a 5 foot 9 inch guard who Pecora described as a "one man fast break", will play major minutes as a freshman. Along with big man Halil Kanasevic and guard Yves Jules, the Pride's impressive freshman class will have to play major minutes after Hofstra lost 8 members of last season's team. Williams should impact games immediately, especially with his speed Pecora feels. "The most impressive thing is that he has 20 assists and only five turnovers after four games," Pecora said regarding the 18-year-old Williams. Williams averaged 32 points per game as a senior at Bishop Ford High School in Brooklyn.
Quote It: "His ability to do so much on the court, fill up a box score and at the same time, be a great leader to his teammates on the floor and off the floor."
- Head Coach Tom Pecora on why Jenkins is the heart and soul of the team
Four Key Matchups:
Saturday, January 9th at Old Dominion University
The Pride will travel to Norfolk, Virginia for their only matchup of the season against CAA favorite Old Dominion and CAA Co- Preseason Player of the Year Gerald Lee. The Pride only get once chance at ODU, so they must make the most of it early in the season. Hofstra will want revenge against the team that knocked them out of the CAA Tournament last year in a heartbreaking 52 – 51 loss. The Monarchs will certainly not be easy though, as they are coached by well respected Blaine Taylor and return all 5 starters from last year's 25 win team. This game could be an early measuring stick in conference play for the Pride to see how they matchup with the CAA's elites.
Tuesday, January 12th vs Virginia Commonwealth University
Just three days after traveling to take on ODU, the Pride return home to face defending conference champion Virginia Commonwealth. Despite the loss of CAA Player of the Year and NBA first round pick Eric Maynor, the Rams remain formidable behind four returning starters, including CAA Defensive Player of the Year Larry Sanders. Over a span of two weeks, the Pride play four of the CAA's best teams (ODU, VCU, GMU and Drexel) and how the Pride respond against VCU after what will be a difficult and taxing game against ODU three earlier, could give Hofstra a ton of momentum or kill their momentum. The first of three games for Hofstra on ESPNU, the match up with VCU will be a huge momentum swing, either for or against the Pride.
Wednesday, February 3rd at James Madison
The Pride may finally get a rest after the hellacious two-week stretch they will endure in January with games against Delaware and UNC Wilmington. Those two games are followed by what should be a difficult game against James Madison. The game against the Dukes marks the beginning of the stretch run towards the CAA Tournament. Hofstra must be able to get themselves ready after two weaker opponents to face JMU's star sophomores Julius Wells and Devon Moore. A win to start February would do the Pride a lot of good before hosting Northeastern and Drexel in the following week.
Tuesday, February 23rd at Northeastern
The Pride's travel to Boston, Massachusetts to face Matt Janning and the Northeastern Huskies in their next to last CAA game. The Huskies were upset early in the CAA Tournament by Towson last year and seem poised for a deep run this year. Built similarly to Hofstra, around a dynamic star guard, Northeastern and Hofstra should be jockeying all year, neck and neck for seeding position in the tournament. With both teams fighting for a bye in the first round, this late season matchup could vault the Pride to the very top of the conference and secure them a potential late, season – defining victory that would give the team tons of momentum heading into the tournament.