The breakthrough seems to be coming. The question is whether it will happen this season.
The Hofstra women’s basketball program had to be built from the ground up when head coach Danielle Santos Atkinson took over for the 2019-20 season. The Pride didn’t win a game in Colonial Athletic Association play that year, but finished in the middle of the standings last season at 8-12 overall and 5-7 in the conference. It then reached the semifinals of the CAA Tournament.
It appears poised to continue the ascent in 2021-22 with eight returning players including preseason all-conference pick JaKayla Brown, a 5-10 senior guard who averaged 16.3 points last season. In a preseason poll of CAA coaches, the Pride was seen to finish fifth after being tabbed tenth and ninth the previous two preseason polls.
Hofstra opens on Wednesday at Albany.
"With this year’s team you can see the growth, better confidence and improvement in all facets of the game," Brown said. "I feel like this is the first year that we have everything we need in terms of athleticism, size, speed, skill people [at every position]. This year we could really do something."
"I'm proud of the way this team has grown," Santos Atkinson said. "We have to continue to show that growth this season. I’ve always felt this is a program with championship potential and that is what we will continue to work toward."
In addition to Brown, starters Jaylen Hines, Jahsyni Knight and Jaala Henry are back after averaging an aggregate 37 of the Pride’s 60 points per game. Hofstra also will have Selma Marksic and Sorelle Ineza returning from seasons lost to injury.
"I see us as a veteran team now with some considerable firepower," Santos Atkinson said. "We play a good tempo and we have a good mix."
Brown thinks the experience of playing together is what will ultimately help the Pride rise.
"Everything will be about how we’re going to play together," she said. "On this team we’re going to need everybody to win, [no] single player to carry us. If we’re connected, playing off each other, feeding off each other — that’s how we're going to be successful."