By Max Sass, Sports Editor
Preseason All-American center Cole Aldrich of Kansas basketball started his season with 11 points and 8 rebounds. That same game, in his first career collegiate game, Hofstra freshman forward Halil Kanacevic recorded 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Kanacevic is not Aldrich, a likely first round pick and All-American, but facing the number one team in the land and recording his first of many double-doubles, Kanacevic went from an uncertain recruit to a source of giddiness and hope for the Hofstra faithful.
"I feel like I can compete with anyone," said Kanacevic. "I feel like if you are on the same court you are meant to be there." That is not to say Kanacevic was not nervous to a much-heralded Jayhawks team. "We could have played against the College of Staten Island and I would have been nervous," he said. "I checked into the [scorers] table and I did not even know what to do."
Kanacevic followed up that impressive performance when the Pride traveled to Connecticut to face the then top–15 ranked Huskies. Kanacevic helped fuel a Pride rally (up nine points with nine minutes to go) with 8 points and 10 rebounds.
Kanacevic was happy with his performance against Connecticut but not with the team's result, a 76-67 loss. "Most of us [on the team] are like ‘we should have beat UConn,'" said Kanacevic. He did add that, "my confidence is high after that game" thanks to his impressive performance.
Kanacevic, a six-foot eight-inch tall forward from Curtis High School in Staten Island, NY was happy to stay home and play for a New York school. "Nothing really big drew me away," he said, "so I thought I played in New York my whole life, so why leave?"
Despite averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds per game when he led Curtis to a New York City Public School Athletic League Class A championship as a senior, Kanacevic was not heavily recruited by any of the BCS conference schools. "I think there are a lot of kids out there that are under-recruited," said Kanacevic, "am I one of them? I do not know."
The toughest adjustment for Kanacevic has been, "probably the speed and strength." Kanacevic, who along with fellow freshman Chaz Williams came out of a New York City high school, feels that those roots have helped him adjust. New York teaches him to "always be competitive. Just compete all the time." Kanacevic added, "You come in with a mindset that is like you are always competing."
Hofstra fans with questions coming into the season about the Pride's inside presence have been thanking their lucky rabbit tails that Kanacevic was not heavily recruited and wanted to stay home in New York. The freshman is fourth on the team in scoring (8.3 points per game) and leads all forwards in scoring. Kanacevic is also the team's leading rebounder (7.4 rebounds per game) more than a full rebound per game ahead of the next player (junior forward Greg Washington, 6.1 rpg).
Even though he has made an immediate impact as just a true freshman, Kanacevic knows there is much to improve upon. "I am shooting the ball poorly right now," he said, "not even going to lie. I am in a funk you could say." Kanacevic was touted as an inside-outside big man coming out of high school, but has shot less than 17 percent from long distance this season. He is also struggling around the hoop (38 percent from the field) and from the free throw line (63 percent).
There have been many encouraging signs for the young forward and some not so encouraging signs, but every Pride fan is happy Kanacevic will be around for the next three years. Kanacevic is looking forward to the future as well. "I am looking forward to next year," he said.