By Anthony Barra, Special to The Chronicle
"Rebounding and defense wins you championships." This is one of the most clichéd phrases in the sport of basketball but you can't argue that it certainly holds merit.
Playing well in these two facets of the game can be difficult enough in a competitive league like the Colonial Athletic Association, now add in the fact that you lose your program's all time leading shot blocker and third best rebounder from last season and you've put yourself in the shoes of the Hofstra Pride.
With Greg Washington's graduation, Hofstra finds itself in need of a new leader in the post both on the glass and on the defensive end. The answer for the Pride may come in multiple forms rather than a single player.
"I think it's going to have be defense by committee," said Hofstra head coach Mo Cassara. "I think Nat [Lester], Dave [Imes] and Mike Moore are going to be a little undersized at times but we're going to have to rebound by committee and hopefully we can do that."
Hofstra's base defense is a 2-3 zone, which is designed to create a good team defense rather than highlighting one specific player on defense. The keys to running this system are communication and movement that should help Hofstra in the fact they don't have one standout post defender.
The rotation for Hofstra in the frontcourt will be interesting with question marks in terms of depth and personnel. Junior David Imes will start at center or power forward depending on what type of lineup Hofstra elects to use.
Imes is coming off a sophomore season in which he started 33 games while tallying 7.6 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game, but frequently may be the only true big on the court and will have to deal with the added attention.
"I really don't feel like there is going to be any pressure because that's what I'm known for, rebounding is my job," said Imes. "I just have to keep doing my job and I just might have to do it two times harder this year."
A pair of seniors in Mike Moore and Nathaniel Lester could also see significant time at the small and power forward position.
Moore, in his third year at Hofstra after transferring from Fordham, is the team's top scorer and despite being somewhat undersized for a power forward is the team's second leading rebounder from last year. Expect Moore to play his natural position of small forward and for Lester to be the primary starter at the power forward spot.
"Those categories that we struggled in last year, we'll be better with this year," said Moore. "In those categories, if you look at our team, we'll be better."
Lester is easily one of the five most athletic players in the CAA, but is coming off a massive quad injury that caused him to miss all of last season. If Lester is at 100 percent, he has the potential to be a matchup nightmare for opposing squads because he is strong enough to play forward but can run with point guards.
"We were one of the worst teams in the CAA in rebounding so that is something we really need to improve on," said Lester. "We have to show the younger guys and show them the way. We'll have to lead by example."
The question marks for the frontcourt come in terms of their depth players. Stephen Nwaukoni, a sophomore who saw action off the bench in 30 contests, has the athletic ability to dominate power forwards in the conference but needs to develop consistency in his game in order to be effective.
Bryant Crowder and Moussa Kone are two newcomers to the roster that could see action immediately. Crowder, a transfer from the College of Eastern Utah, has the size at 6'10, 220 lbs, to be effective but will need some game action to adjust to the Division I level.
Kone, a true freshman from the Bronx, has natural athletic ability and a high IQ but still seems raw in terms of technique. There is also the possibility of Kone being redshirted this year; Hofstra will have until the D-1 opener against LIU to decide.
"We're undersized big men," said Imes. "So I tell them to do their work early. If you're working on a bigger man get there early and do your work, that's what I emphasize to the new guys the most."
For a team that finished with the second worst rebounding margin in the CAA at -3.9 rpg, there certainly is plenty of room for improvement. The pieces are there for Hofstra to make big strides in the frontcourt it is a matter of getting the young depth players to mature this season.