The Hofstra men’s basketball team essentially started its season on Aug. 20, and by Sept. 3, the Pride had a 4-0 record, sweeping four exhibition games during a late-summer trip to Canada.
It was a big confidence- booster in preparation for the regular season, in which Hofstra was picked to finish fourth in the preseason Colonial Athletic Association poll.
Justin Wright-Foreman, who had a breakout season in 2016-17, averaged 23.3 points on the trip. He said it was a great bonding experience. “We had a head start,’’ he said. “Teams that didn’t go, they missed out on chemistry. That’s the one thing we have this year.’’
Wright-Foreman, a 6-4 junior guard, went from a bench player to the team’s leading scorer (18.1 points, 3.6 rebounds) and could emerge as a candidate for conference player of the year.
“If I were to say to you when we recruited him, I think by the time he’s a junior he’d be a first-team guy, I’d be lying,’’ fifth-year coach Joe Mihalich (69-64 career record) said. “I didn’t know how good he would be. He’s a pillar of strength in there. He’s somebody you can build your team around. He can score the basketball like no other.’’
The exhibition tour, Mihalich said, gave him an opportunity to see graduate forward Joel Angus III and freshman Matija Radovic of Serbia, both of whom should have prominent roles. “We practiced eight days, got on the bus, drove up to Montreal,’’ Mihalich said. “Great city. The weather was beautiful. They were good teams. They weren’t the College of Charleston [the CAA favorite], but they were good teams.’’
Hofstra is expecting a big senior year from 6-9 Rokas Gustys (9.2 points, 12.1 rebounds per game). He was slowed by nagging groin injuries last season. “First of all, I’m trying to be a leader,’’ Gustys said. “I can be better than I was in my sophomore year. My goal is still the same: Be the No. 1 rebounder in the country. That was my goal since I was in my sophomore year [when he was second]. Last year was tough battling injuries, not playing well in the conference play.’’
Gustys is likely to get some pro offers. “It’s my last year, so I have to get the best out of it,’’ he said. “Whoever is watching you has already watched you since your freshman year. It’s not going to change anything overnight. They know everything about you.’’
Sophomore guard Eli Pemberton (12.8) has a lock on the third starting spot. “Three positions seem pretty solid,’’ Mihalich said. Angus likely will make the starting lineup in the frontcourt, with Desure Buie and Indian Hills CC (Iowa) transfer Kenny Wormley vying for the remaining guard spot.
Mihalich’s 2015-16 team won 24 games and the conference regular-season title. The 2014-15 team won 20 games and made it to the conference semifinals, where the Pride lost in double overtime to William & Mary. This team could be somewhere between those two.
“I think we’ve got a chance to be a solid team by the end of the year,’’ Mihalich said. “Maybe we can compete and win the CAA championship. That’s the goal.’’
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Desure Buie I Jr. G
Big question is his ability to return from significant injury. Played in only eight games last season before surgery to repair torn ACL and meniscus in left leg. Played in all 34 games as a freshman.
Joel Angus III I Grad. F
Former Boys and Girls High School star. Played at Southeast Missouri State where he was the team’s second-leading scorer (10.5) and rebounder (5.9) in the 2015-16 season. Played in only one game last season before requiring hip surgery. Post player is good at rebounding and putbacks.
Matija Radovic IFr. F Averaged 10.8 points and 3.3 rebounds on Canadian trip. Played on five Serbian national championship teams from 2012-16. Named best defensive player on the Serbian under-18 national championship team.
(all times )
10 Army, 7
13 Kennesaw State, 7
16 vs. Dayton at Charleston, S.C., 7:30
17 vs. Clemson or Ohio at Charleston, S.C., TBA
19 at Charleston Classic, TBA
25 at Siena, 2
30 Molloy, 7
6 at Monmouth, 7
9 at Rider, 7
12 at Stony Brook, 7
20 Manhattan, 7
22 Villanova (at Nassau Coliseum), 8:30
30 at William & Mary, 4
2 at Northeastern, 7
5 James Madison, 7
7 Elon, 4
11 at Towson, 7
13 at Drexel 4
18 Delaware, 7
20 at Charleston, 4
25 Northeastern, 7
27 at Delaware, 7
1 UNCW, 7
3 Charleston, 7
8 at Elon, 7
10 at UNCW, 7
15 William & Mary, 7
17 Drexel, 4
22 at James Madison, 7
24 Towson, 4