By RJ Cherpak - SPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE
Syracuse University had something to say about Hofstra basketball this season, detailing their potential for a successful season. Syracuse.com stated in an article a few weeks ago, “[The Hofstra basketball team] could make it back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since Jay Wright’s days on the sideline in Hempstead.”
One may scratch their head when reading this, wondering how this may become a reality for the Pride this season, especially seeing how they are coming off a 10-win season in which they finished with a 5-11 conference record.
The high expectations surrounding this upcoming season have to do with an assortment of transfers and freshman that second-year head coach Joe Mihalich has brought with him to Hempstead. These players include Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley.
Hofstra guards, Dion Nesmith and Juan’ya Green received a lot of attention heading into this season, and deservingly so. Green was a preseason first team all-CAA selection who averaged 17.1 points per game before he transferred from Niagara. Dion Nesmith averaged 13.3 points per game last season, and placed on the third team all-CAA selection.
However, Ameen Tanksley is another player you should keep your eye on. Tanksley is another Niagara transfer who averaged 11.3 points per game as a sophomore and ranked third highest on his team at Niagara.
I was fortunate enough to sit down with Tanksley after practice last week to find out a little bit more about the transfer who could potentially be a key contributor for this upcoming season.
Tanksley started playing basketball at the age of 5 and lists his older brother – who was playing high school basketball at the time – as his inspiration to start playing. He realized that he had the potential to play at the Division I level in ninth grade when he had his growth spurt and colleges started to recruit him. These colleges included Virginia Commonwealth University, Old Dominion, Niagara and St. Johns. In the end he chose Niagara because the head coach at the time, Joe Mihalich, made him feel like he was at home.
Tanksely says the most memorable moment of his high school basketball career was playing against Kyrie Irving and seeing him go off for 56 points after just previously returning from the McDonald’s All American game.
“The way he kept his composure, he was doing pro things in high school, he was splitting double teams, using one dribble pull-ups,” said Tanksley when talking about what made Irving a special player.
“Growing up in Philly, you learn toughness at a young age,” said Tanksley when describing how his Philadelphia upbringing influenced his style of play. He mentioned that he learned how to play with kids who were older than him at a young age and that he always played with a chip on his shoulder.
He models his playing style after Houston Rockets’ shooting guard James Harden as he admires his three-point shooting abilities – Tanksley and Harden are both left-handed – and his ability to get to the line on a frequent basis during games. Tanksley says that he tries to make it a habit of getting to the free throw line around 10 times a game.
He said head coach Joe Mihalich’s departure to Hofstra played a major role in his decision to transfer, as he felt more comfortable playing under Mihalich. Tanksley also likes the environment at Hofstra, more so than he did at Niagara. He said it’s livelier, with many activities to take himself out of his stress zone and to take his mind off of basketball, which comes in handy if he has a sub-par performance on the court.
“I think it starts with the first game, and going to NC State should be a good test to see where our talent is at,” Tanksley said.
In his predictions for the season, he placed emphasis on taking it one game at a time and mentioned how important it was to win the first game of the season.
Despite a below-average season last year, there’s a lot to be excited about heading into this years campaign, and transfer Ameen Tanksley is going to play a major part in making this season a success for the Pride.