Monday, October 25, 2010

Hofstra Fanfest Results in a Pleasant Surprise

Saturday was Hofstra's Fanfest which featured team scrimmages for both the women's and men's basketball teams.   There were inflatables for the kids to play with, free food from Outback Steakhouse, season ticket holders could pick up their tickets and of course there was basketball.

Only a couple hundred fans were in attendance to see new Hofstra Men's Coach Mo Cassara mingle with the crowd or watch, in an even nicer touch, Hofstra Women's Coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey introduced her entire team to the crowd.  But I think those in attendance had a good time.

Tieff and I got there during the women's vs men's drill challenges after spending a late afternoon at Cozymel's for strawberry margaritas and mexican food.  Had we realized that there would be Outback catering the event, we wouldn't have eaten at Cozy's.  But the Outback catering was not the only surprise on the day.  The other big surprise was about to take place.

The women's team took the court for two eight minute periods.   After eight minutes we were surprised.  After sixteen minutes, we were damn impressed.  The Hofstra Pride Women's team has a lot of  talent.  They are led by All Preseason First Team CAA Shante Evans who was second team All CAA as a freshman last season.  That's right, she's only a sophomore.  She averaged 13 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.

But here's the scary thought.  Though you could tell Evans is extremely talented, she was the fourth best player on the court on Saturday.  The best player on the court was junior point guard Candice Bellocchio, who is fluid and cat quick.  She averaged nearly 8 points and 5 assists per game in her sophomore season.   Bellocchio is extremely quick driving the paint, fearless and has a great touch on her passes to her teammates.

But for every point guard that can drive the lane, there has to be a deadly shooter the guard can kick out to for the open three.   The Pride Women's team seems to have that guard in junior Nicole Capurso.  Capurso averaged nearly ten points per game, led the team in threes with 58 and was eighth in the CAA in three point field goals per game with 1.7.   She buried several threes during the scrimmage and appears poised to improve on her statistics this year.

But the surprise for the women's team might be fellow junior Marie Malone, a 6 foot 2 forward who transferred from West Virginia two years ago.  She only averaged 4.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last season.  But she looked very solid, showed good post moves and showed a nice touch on her baskets, which she had several.

Coach Kilburn-Stevesky has done a very nice job going into her fifth season as head coach of the Pride.  Her first season, 2006-07, she led the Pride to their best Division I record ever, 26-8, a win over #17 Michigan State and taking Hofstra to the quarterfinals of the WNIT beating Seton Hall and South Carolina.   After struggling in her next season with a 5-25 team, her team has improved the past two seasons.

In 2008-09 the Pride improved to 16-14, then 20-14 last season, which included a first round win over Penn State in the WNIT.   Her overall record at Hofstra is 67-61 and the Pride, which only has two seniors on the team, are picked to finish fourth in a very competitive CAA.  Last season, James Madison made the Women's NCAA Tournament, while Delaware, VCU, Old Dominion and Hofstra all made the WNIT.

After the women's scrimmage completed, it was on to the men's scrimmage.  I can honestly say, that with few exceptions, it was hard to say how talented this men's team is.  But I had the same feeling last season during last year's Blue and White men's scrimmage and that team won 19 games.

I did say there were exceptions though.  First, Charles Jenkins is, well Charles Jenkins. The reigning CAA Player of the Year plays just as hard in a scrimmage as he does in a CAA Tournament game.  Jenkins though was trying his best to get others involved.  Greg Washington's outside jumper was in midseason form.   But while the senior veterans Jenkins and Washington look ready to go, there are others that Hofstra needs to count on.

Every time Brad Kelleher drained a three, I wanted to rip my hair out due to the NCAA's completely unfair rulings on his eligibility.   Kelleher has simply a beautiful shooting stroke and everyone will unfortunately have to wait eight games to see it.  Mike Moore showed some flashes of his scoring ability.  JUCO Dwan McMillan seems decent enough to be the starting point guard at least until Kelleher is eligible.

And of all the freshmen, curiously enough redshirt Paul Bilbo showed the most work ethic and aggressiveness (and he looks much trimmer than last season).  None of the other four freshmen really stood out and yes, senior guard/forward Nate Lester was there, but did not play due to his torn quad muscle.   Apparently in about a month or so, they will know whether Lester can play this year or not.  If Lester can play, he would give them much needed depth.

But one player stood out the most in the men's scrimmage.  And if you were at the Hofstra Men's Season Ticket Holder reception a few weeks ago, this should not have come as a surprise.  At the reception, Coach Cassara singled out sophomore forward David Imes as someone who really impressed him during the initial practices.

Well guess who was the best player for the men's team during the scrimmage?  Yup, Imes.  He showed an outside jumper, improved mobility and definitely a new aggressive streak to his game.  Now Imes showed in limited time last year that he's a hard worker.   He seems to have improved his all around game to match that hard work.  A starting lineup of Jenkins, Moore, McMillan, Washington and Imes could be pretty good.  Depth is a serious question though.

Yes it was only two scrimmages, but to Tieff and I, there was a lot to be impressed about, especially the women's team.  Their first game is Friday, November 12 at home versus nationally ranked Virginia.  Tieff and I know what we are doing that Friday night.  Why don't you join us at the Mack Arena for some quality women's basketball?   Then join us Saturday for the first men's game of the season as Hofstra is home vs. Farmingdale.  Hey, it will be a weekend full of Pride.

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