Sixty percent of the players on Hofstra’s roster began their college basketball careers elsewhere, which coach Joe Mihalich doesn’t view as good or bad — simply the way of the world.
“Transfers are such a common thing any more,” Mihalich said Tuesday at CAA men's basketball media day in Baltimore. “It’s not just Hofstra. There’s other teams in our league taking transfers, too. Everybody in the country’s taking transfers. Louisville’s taking transfers. The bottom line is that a lot of kids make mistakes. They go to the wrong school, and there is a right school. A lot of times it’s a place like Hofstra.”
Transfers Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley, who began their careers with Mihalich at Niagara, are the cornerstones of a team picked to win the CAA. Green, a 6-3 senior guard and the Preseason Player of the Year, and Tanksley, a 6-5 senior forward, are close friends from Philadelphia and the highest-scoring returning duo on any team in the conference.
“They’ve been really good,” Mihalich said. “They’ve been what you hope. They’ve been locked in, they’ve been focused. I sat down with them before we started practice and said, look, there’s nothing I’m going to say you haven’t heard for four years. You carry on, you’ve got to be mature about things. It’s a pleasure to be with those guys every day.”
The Pride, which went 20-14 last season, will count on several other transfers: junior Brian Bernardi and senior Malik Nichols are in their second season at Hofstra after transferring from SMU and South Plains (Texas) Junior College, respectively; forward Denton Koon, a graduate transfer from Princeton; and 6-10 Ibrahim Djambo, who has one semester of eligibility remaining after transferring from Clemson.
Hofstra has had a graduate transfer in each of Mihalich’s first three years. Zeke Upshaw led the CAA in scoring two years ago, and Dion Nesmith was a two-year fixture after graduating from Monmouth.
“In the perfect world,” Mihalich said, “you get three really good freshmen every year, and then you have three freshmen, three sophomores, three juniors and three seniors. They’re all really good, and you keep that cycle going. That’s laughable to think that’s going to happen. Sometimes it’s a transfer. Sometimes it’s a graduate student. It’s playing by the rules. I’m not apologizing for it. Everybody’s doing it. These are good kids and we’re providing a great opportunity for them.”
With that, here are five things to watch this season in the CAA:
Like the rest of men’s hoops, a shortened shot clock and a supposed emphasis on reducing the level of physical play. The shot clock goes from 35 to 30 seconds, while game officials are charged with protecting dribblers, permitting cutters to move without being pinballed all over the court, and cutting down on the rugby scrums in the post. “I believe that nationally, the shorter shot clock is impacting everybody’s preparation and strategy,” James Madison coach Matt Brady said. “I would say the vast majority of programs at the Division I level are preparing to play ¾-court or full-court defense, in order to make the shot clock even shorter.” As for reducing the level of physical play, W&M’s Tony Shaver said, “I’m not convinced it’ll happen, because it’s been a major point of emphasis in other years, too, so we’ll see how it’s called and we’ll adjust.”
Mark Adams' take: Elon's Elijah Bryant (14.2 points per game) seemed like a great guy to build around as the CAA Rookie of the Year but he transferred to BYU in June. ...
Most rosters. The league’s 10 teams return 74% of their starters from last season (37 of 50), and 17 of the top 25 scorers are back. James Madison returns all five starters, as well as several key reserves, from a team that tied for the regular season title. Defending tournament champ Northeastern, William &Mary, Hofstra, Drexel, Delaware, College of Charleston and Towson return four starters. “It’s really important that we improve,” W&M head coach Tony Shaver said, “because this league is much better than it was a year ago.”
Mark Adams' take: William & Mary, James Madison, Hofstra and Northeastern all could win this thing. Dare I say potential two-bid league for the NCAA Tournament …
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Nobody fills a stat line and impacts a game in more ways than William & Mary’s Terry Tarpey. The 6-5 senior led the conference in rebounding (8.4) and steals (1.8), and was second in blocked shots (1.3) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.0). The reigning CAA Defensive Player of the Year was the only player in the country to average 10 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 blocked shot and 1 steal per game. He recorded the first triple-double in program history last season in a win versus James Madison, with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
Mark Adams' take: Hofstra's Juan’ya Greenhas started every game (100) of his productive career, averaging 17.5 points, 6.5 assists and 3.8 rebounds. I love his ability to pass and make everyone else better. Green’s next stop may be the NBA — he is that good. ... Terry Tarpey is adominant defender who has one last chance to make the NCAA Tournament. It’s time to make basketball history in historic Williamsburg!
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Hofstra’s duo of Green and Tanksley are arguably the best 1-2 punch in the conference. They combined to average 34 points per game. Green led the conference in assists (6.5), and the versatile Tanksley is a 40-percent 3-point shooter. Northeastern’s duo of David Walker and Quincy Ford are exceptional. The 6-6 Walker is the Huskies’ leading returning scorer (13.4), while the 6-8 Ford, last year’s tournament MVP, has flashed a potential pro skill set since he arrived. JMU guard Ron Curry, who seems to have been in Harrisonburg for six or seven years, is a polished and mature presence for one of the league favorites.
Mark Adams' take: Ron Curry, who led the CAA with 46.5% on 3-pointers last season in conference games, is one reason why the Dukes are so hard to guard. ... Tavon Allen, a 6-7 senior, needs 157 points to become 35th player with 1,000 points at Drexel. ... UNC Wilmington's Craig Ponder is a 6-1 senior who just keeps getting better and better (11.6 points per game last season, up from 4.4 in 2013-14). ... Kory Holden returns from an All-Rookie campaign in which he scored 360 points, the second most by a Delaware freshman.
GAMES TO WATCH
Nov. 13, Elon at Charlotte; Jan. 2, Northeastern at UNCW; Jan. 9, Hofstra at Elon; Jan. 16, W&M at UNCW; Jan. 23, UNCW at Drexel; Jan. 30, Hofstra at Drexel; Feb. 6, Towson at Elon; Feb. 20, UNCW at College of Charleston; Feb. 27, College of Charleston at Hofstra.
Mark Adams' take: It's basketball season!
Vote: Who is your choice to win the CAA?
Above: ASN's Monica McNutt explains the five things we learned at CAA media day.
On the cover: Hofstra's Juan’ya Green received first-team All-CAA honors after averaging 17.1 points and 6.5 assists last season. (Courtesy of CAA Sports)