At Hofstra, a lot has been placed at the feet of a pair of first-year players this season. Senior transfer Deron Powers and freshman Eli Pemberton have been designated to fill the respective roles of point guard Juan’ya Green and swingman Ameen Tanksley, the stars of last season’s 24-win team. Neither has performed to the level of their predecessors yet, but each has shown glimpses that he could.
If that happens, Hofstra could do better than the sixth-place finish predicted by Colonial Athletic Association coaches in the preseason poll.
The Pride took care of business Friday in the final game of its appearance in the Gulf Coast Showcase, easily dispatching Division III Medaille, 89-56, before a sparse crowd at Mack Sports Complex.
A game like this is no true measuring stick, but Hofstra seems to be addressing the defensive lapses that hurt early. The Pride gave up an average of 83.8 points in its first four games.
Powers, who transferred from Hampton, had 11 points and five assists. Pemberton, who leads the team in scoring at 13.0 points per game, had eight points, six assists and four rebounds. With those two looking for the open man, Hof stra (4-3) had 22 assists on 31 baskets. It was Powers’ third five-assist game and Pemberton doubled his assists for the season.
“I have such great respect for these guys and maybe unfairly thought we wouldn’t miss a beat,” coach Joe Mihalich said of Powers and Pemberton. “But as is suggested, Deron has to step in and be the next Juan’ya Green; it’s going to take him a couple games, and I think we’re on our way now. Eli has to be Ameen Tanksley, and I think he’s on his way, too. We are going through that right now. You hope that during the season, you’re not going to miss those guys as much, but man, those guys were so good that it’s going to take a few games.”
Justin Wright-Foreman came off the bench and scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half. Brian Bernardi had 17 points, Ty Greer added 13 points and Rokas Gustys — the nation’s top rebounder entering play — had eight points and 14 rebounds.
Mike Hollenbeck had 17 points for the Mavericks (1-3), who are from Buffalo.
Hofstra snagged the lead with an early 12-0 run on four straight three-point shots. The Pride led 41-27 at the half, and a 20-5 second-half surge put it away.
Powers was on the team but sat out last season because of NCAA transfer rules. He believes that in that time, he got a chance to see what stepping into Green’s shoes would be like.
“Last year, sitting out, I got a chance to learn the system and players. Coming in, I feel like I gained their respect,” he said. “As we go down the stretch, it’s going to get a lot better.”
Pemberton already has had three 20-point games and now has shown he can do the things Tanksley did. It’s just a matter of doing them all in every game.
“I have a lot to learn,” Pemberton said. “We have a bunch of juniors and seniors, so I am learning from them.”