Hofstra is a new-look team this season

Hofstra University Men's Basketball Head Coach Mo Cassara

Hofstra University Men's Basketball Head Coach Mo Cassara speaks during basketball media day held at Mack Sports Complex. (Oct. 12, 2011) (Credit: James Escher)

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Hofstra basketball coach Mo Cassara poked some fun at himself as he addressed the media on the eve of practice for the 2011-2012 season.

"Last year, the first question I got was 'Who are you?' The second one was 'Are you really the coach?' The third one was 'Can I talk to Charles Jenkins?' "

After Hofstra went 20-7 in his first season, Cassara got a raise and a contract extension through 2015-16.

Jenkins has graduated and hopes to be with the Warriors if there is an NBA season. Also lost is shot-blocker Greg Washington.

"Anytime you lose the all-time leading scorer in the history of the school and the all-time leading shot blocker and two guys that were fifth-year seniors, really half of our team is new again," Cassara said. "I think the bar gets lowered immediately . . .

"We have to kind of reinvent ourselves right now, move toward what we feel can take us to the next level and that may not happen overnight. I think we're still continuing to build on what was a very successful year last year, but I would certainly say there is a lot of building for the future."

Cassara, who guided Hofstra to a 14-4 record in the Colonial Athletic Association, got the head coaching job in May 2010 after Tim Welsh's resignation following an arrest for drunken driving.

The new look this year starts largely with point guard Stevie Mejia, a transfer from Rhode Island. Mejia will not put up the points Jenkins did, but he has the savvy to run the offense. Guard Mike Moore could average in the high double figures. Forward David Imes is back and Nathaniel Lester returns to the frontcourt after missing last season with a torn left quad. Stephen Nwaukoni and junior college transfer Bryant Crowder will compete for the final forward spot. The bench has guards Dwan McMillan, Shemiye McLendon and freshman forward Moussa Kone.

Cassara called this group "a team that is going to work hard and get better as the season goes on. Last year was a new system, new staff and it took a while to adapt and I think we're going to see a little bit of that this year, certainly. There's no guy out there that we know can go and get us 25 points any night that he really wants to . . . Add a veteran point guard [Mejia] who has never played with these guys before. You're asking a guy like Mike Moore to go from being the second guy to the top guy. So there's a transition here for a lot of these players."

But, Cassara added optimistically, "I think the building blocks are in place."

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