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Brian Bernardi works overtime to be a leader at Hofstra

Hofstra guard Brian Bernardi runs a drill during

Hofstra guard Brian Bernardi runs a drill during men's basketball practice at Hofstra University on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Brian Bernardi’s address might as well be the Hofstra Basketball Practice Facility. Before and after class, after games, for hours on end, the Hofstra senior guard has made it his sanctuary. A new season is beginning, but for Bernardi, it is merely a continuation.

“It was always my getaway, the basketball court,’’ Bernardi said as the Pride prepared for Friday’s season opener at home against Coppin State. “I know a lot of people say that, but it really is. If you’re ever feeling down, the gym is always there. You get shots, a little workout and you feel better. Growing up, I felt like if I wasn’t in the gym all the time, I wouldn’t make it to the next level. When I grew up, I wasn’t necessarily the most talented person on the court all the time, but I think the work ethic that I put into the game developed my skills so much that they rose above everyone else’s.’’

He started his regimen as a youngster on Staten Island. “I would have class, eat, go back to the gym,’’ he said. “Go back for more shots before practice. We would have practice, I’d probably shoot a little bit after practice.’’ He eventually brought his lunch to the gym to save time from going home.

Last season, after scoring 23 points against Appalachian State at Madison Square Garden, Bernardi was back in Hofstra’s gym after the game.

Bernardi averaged 12.3 points last season and 11.6 in 2014-15. He hopes to step it up this season. He wants to help the Pride get in position for another shot at the NCAA Tournament after last season’s overtime loss to UNCW in the CAA Tournament championship game. “We have a winning culture,’’ he said. “The coaches expect to win and I expect to win. Everyone of my teammates expect to win.’’

For Bernardi, it’s all about the preparation. “Whenever somebody asks me about Brian Bernardi, I look at my watch and I say, ‘Well, he’s probably in the gym right now,’ ” coach Joe Mihalich said. “It might be 8 o’clock in the morning, 11 o’clock at night, but he’s probably in the gym. I mean this in a healthy way: He’s addicted to working out, addicted to getting his shots up. We’ll have a hard practice and he’s grabbing a coach and doing another 300 jump shots.’’

Mihalich’s 500 Club requires each player to make 500 jump shots during a week of practice. “He does that in a day,’’ the coach said of Bernardi.

The three-point field goal is Bernardi’s specialty. His 182 treys rank fifth in program history behind Antoine Agudio (357).

Bernardi, who transferred from SMU (and then-coach Larry Brown) after his freshman year because he wanted to be closer to home, wants to be the team leader. Mihalich told him: “You don’t have to change anything at all. You’re already the leader of the team.’’

Hofstra was picked to finish sixth in the CAA preseason poll, but Bernardi and his supporting cast disagree. Forward Rokas Gustys, second in the nation in rebounding last season, returns for his junior year. He will be backed up by Hunter Sabety and 6-10 Andre Walker. Junior college transfer forward Ty Greer also will get minutes in the frontcourt. Hofstra is loaded with guards: Deron Powers, Desure Buie, Justin Wright-Foreman, Jamall Robinson and freshman Eli Pemberton. Mihalich would not reveal his starting five until the game against Coppin State.

The Pride’s big non-conference game comes against Kentucky on Dec. 11 at Barclays Center. “Whenever you can play in an NBA arena, it’s always just a dream,’’ Bernardi said.

The Kentucky game starts at 3 p.m. That likely means Bernardi will be back in the gym that evening.


All times p.m. unless noted

Nov. 11 Coppin State, 7

Nov. 15 at Sacred Heart, 7

Nov. 18 at Manhattan, 7

Nov. 21 Bradley 1:30 (at Estero, Fla.)

Nov. 22 vs. TBD (Estero, Fla.)

Nov. 23 vs, TBD (Estero, Fla.).

Nov. 25 TBA, 4

Nov. 29 at Columbia, 7

Dec. 3 at Florida Atlantic, 7

Dec. 6 St. Bonaventure, 7

Dec. 11 Kentucky (at Barclays), 3

Dec. 13 Stony Brook, 7

Dec. 22 Siena, 7

Dec. 31 at Delaware, 2

Jan. 2 William & Mary, 4

Jan. 5 James Madison, 7

Jan. 7 at Charleston, 4

Jan. 12 at Elon, 7

Jan. 14 at UNCW, 7

Jan. 19 Towson, 7

Jan. 21 Northeastern, 4

Jan. 26 at Drexel, 7

Jan. 28 Elon, 4

Feb. 2 Delaware 7

Feb. 4 Drexel, 7

Feb. 9 at Towson, 7

Feb. 11 at Northeastern, 7

Feb. 16 Charleston, 7

Feb. 18 UNCW, 4

Feb. 23 at William & Mary, 7

Feb. 25 at James Madison, noon

Three to watch

Rokas Gustys, Jr. F: At 6-9, averaged 13.5 points and 13.0 rebounds, second in the nation behind Evansville center (and fellow Latvian) Egidijus Mockevicius. Had 22 double-doubles last season. Set a CAA championship record with 23 rebounds vs. UNCW. First-team all-CAA.

Deron Powers, Sr. G: The transfer from Hampton University sat out last season but will have a prominent role on this team at point guard. In three seasons at Hampton, he averaged 11.3 points and 4.1 assists. Played in Hampton’s victory over Manhattan in the 2014-15 NCAA Tournament.

Eli Pemberton: Fr. G: A four-time all-Connecticut selection, Pemberton scored more than 2,000 points in his high school career. Averaged 26 points as junior and 21 in his senior year. At 6-4, he also will be used as a swing player. Avid ping pong player.


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