By Kyle Kandetzki – Assistant Sports Editor This is “The Scouting Report”, an online feature from The Hofstra Chronicle where we go in-depth on the Pride’s upcoming opponent. Stats and insight will be provided to help Hofstra fans know what to expect with each coming matchup.
For the first time this season, the Hofstra Pride men’s basketball team will need to dig themselves out of a hole following back-to-back losses to Columbia and La Salle. Coach Mihalich’s team will travel to Brooklyn’s 17,000-seat Barclays Center to play the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds. The ‘neutral’ site game will be Hofstra’s second-to-last non-conference game before starting the New Year vs. CAA opponents.
THE BASIC INFORMATION: LIU-Brooklyn is part of a handful of Long Island University branches, but is one of the two major campuses along with LIU Post. The school was founded in 1926, and currently has 11,000+ students. The Blackbirds play in the Northeastern Conference, which includes past Pride opponent Wagner, and Hofstra’s next foe, Central Connecticut. LIU-Brooklyn’s campus is just a five-minute subway ride from the Barclays Center.
HISTORY: This decade has by far seen LIU-Brooklyn’s biggest successes, as they made the NCAA Tournament in three consecutive years from 2011-2013, though never made it past the first round. They also have three more appearances in 1981, 1984, and 1997.
LAST YEAR: Last season broke LIU-Brooklyn’s reign over the NEC after struggling the entire season to a 4-12 conference record, and a second-to-last place finish.
THIS YEAR: It’s been an interesting year for the Blackbirds, who opened the season at 0-6, but have since won four games in a row to bring their current record to 4-6. Their losses included a 13-point St. John’s defeat, a 19-point loss to former Hofstra opponent Stony Brook, as well as falling to Temple, New Hampshire, and Lehigh.
Their wins haven’t been at any impressive opponents, but it has been a good response from the team to string together these wins. They’ve beaten UMaine, NJIT (I would consider their Michigan win a bit of a fluke), FIU, and New Hampshire.
THE COACH: The coach is Jack Perri who is in his third year at the helm. This is Perri’s first DI head coaching gig, after being an assistant and associate coach with LIU-Brooklyn from 2005-2012, and a head coach for DIII Rhode Island College for one season.
LOSSES: The Blackbirds lost their number 1 and 3 scorers: EJ Reed and Jason Brickman. 6’6” forward Reed scored 12.3 PPG, and also led the team in boards with 5.6. Point guard Jason Brickman was particularly impressive, as he not only had 11.3 PPG, but he lead the entire nation in assists, with 10 per game, two more than the second best in DI basketball.
CURRENT ROSTER: The leader of this LIU-Brooklyn team has been a freshman: 6-foot guard from Iceland, Elvar Fridriksson. Fridriksson is the only player on the team to average double figures in points with 11.9. He may not live up to Brickman’s ridiculous standard in passing, but he still leads the team with 4.4 assists per game. Fridriksson is a consistent shooter, with a 46 FG%, as well as hitting 40% of his 3-pointers, but is not quite explosive (yet); he has never eclipsed 19 points in any game this year.
Joining him in the starting backcourt is senior Bronx native Gerrell Martin, and fellow Icelandic freshman Martin Hermannsson. Both average 9.7 PPG, but aren’t very prolific in shooting consistency, as they are 36 and 37% from the field respectively. Neither player spends as much time on the court as Fridriksson, though (33 MPG), as they combine to spend about 55 minutes on the floor on this guard-heavy team.
The top forward on the team is 6’6” senior Landon Atterberry, who also puts up 9.7 PPG, while leading the team with 6.4 rebounds per game. The other starting big man is Nura Zanna, who is a freshman standing at 6’7”. He puts up 7.4 PPG, while almost leading the team in blocks, but he only has .6 per game. Zanna is a poor free-throw shooter at 55%.
WEAKNESSES: Looking back to the starting roster, the Blackbirds have no explosive star, though Fridriksson may be made out as one. They have a starting five of players that combine to put up a bit under 50 PPG on average, which is not too impressive.
The big issue is this team’s bench. They have five players to use as reserves, with only one that is a true big man (6’8” Chris Carter), but he only plays 1 minute per game, so he isn’t even an option. When looking at other choices when their forwards need a break, their tallest guard is 6’6” guard Trevin Woods, but he also doesn’t play much (9 minutes in their last game). The Blackbirds did have one other forward (who only plays about 11 minutes per game, either way) in 6’8” Glenn Fiedanga, but he has missed the teams past two games.
The three other guards that occupy a bench spot don’t aid this team greatly either. 6’3” guard Joel Hernandez serves as a sixth-man, coming off the bench with 24 MPG, and 7.9 PPG, but has the worst shooting percentage of any consistent contributor on the squad at 35%. Hernandez is the only player of the bench to average more than 18 minutes per game, but semi-consistent presence Iverson Fleming is also not a great shooter at 38%.
This team is also extremely undersized, with none of their consistent-playing guards standing over 6’3”, and no player over 6’7”.
THE MATCHUP: Size and strong frontcourt play has hurt Hofstra badly this season, and this team is Hofstra’s chance to get a break from it. Though Atterberry is a threat, Moussa Kone will have a two-inch height advantage on him, giving Kone a chance to possibly have a breakout performance that the team will hope for in CAA play. Andre Walker’s role has been severely limited since Kone’s return and Malik Nichols’ emergence at forward, but it might be worth giving him more playtime to tower over this entire team at 6’11”.
For another game, Hofstra will be facing a team with a not-so great offense, as LIU-Brooklyn sits at 220th in the nation with 65.5 PPG, and a team 39% field goal percentage. But this time, the opponent’s defense won’t be there to startle Hofstra, as LIU has consistently surrendered 70-80 points to weaker offenses. This combo of mediocre play on both ends of the ball should allow Hofstra to handle the Blackbirds easily, even if the Pride don’t solve their defensive woes this time around.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: This game will be a very exciting experience for Hofstra to get to play at a professional venue like the Barclays Center. But what will be interesting to see is how many LIU-Brooklyn fans travel to the game, and how much of a home game it will be like for them. I would expect the venue + a short distance from campus could equal a few hundred LIU-Brooklyn fans packing a section or two and making noise.
Rumblings within the organization point to Rokas Gustys’ return coming soon, and hopefully in time for CAA play. The return of the supplementary big man will be exciting for this team, and I think the team should opt to get him in at least one non-conference game, if possible. I would love to see Gustys back ASAP, but he might not be needed for this game anyway.
It has been a bit of a struggle for the Pride’s leader Juan’ya Green these past two games. Though he has still scored 34 points total, he has shot just 9-for-33 combined, about 27%. I’ve said time and time again that Green has explosive qualities, but he also has been liable to take ill-advised shots several times in a single game. I wouldn’t expect this lull to last much longer, but it has certainly been alarming.
Green and the team’s entire goal for this game will need to be to play better defense. Though there has been a lower offensive efficiency as of late, the team is still scoring 70+ points consistently, and is not the problem. The problem is surrendering 80+ points to teams with below average offenses. LIU-Brooklyn’s offense is several steps below Columbia and La Salle’s, but Hofstra can’t let the Blackbirds get easy baskets in order to make this game close.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS Pride Green (17.8 PPG, 4-for-14 in last game) Nichols (Last 4 games: 9.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG) Bernardi (13.2 PPG, 2-for-7 v. La Salle) Tanksley (18.7 PPG, 6 RPG, Last 3 games: 63% FG) Kone (8 pts and 18 mins v. La Salle, 6 pts and 5 more mins than first game)
Blackbirds Fridriksson (11.9 PPG, 4.4 APG) Hermannsson (9.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG) Martin (9.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG) Zanna (7.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG) Atterberry (9.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG)
NEXT UP: vs. Central Connecticut 12/31