Hofstra freshman Elo Edeferioka never met Shante Evans, the best women's basketball player in program history, but the 6-3 forward from Nigeria has set the bar high for her own career.
"I really admire her," Edeferioka said of the former All-American. "I heard a lot about her. Hopefully I'll be better than her someday."
Edeferioka -- whose first name is pronounced "Alo'' -- has a giant mountain to climb to reach the rarefied air of Evans, but she is ambitious. She started playing the sport in 2006 in Warri, about seven hours from Lagos. "I'm tall. Everybody was like, 'You should play basketball,' '' she said. "They said I can get a lot of opportunities through basketball."
Edeferioka, who was discovered by an AAU coach, has eight siblings, including brothers who are 6-7 and 6-8. The family and their friends helped with fundraising so she could afford to fly to the United States in 2011. "When I got the visa to get to the U.S., we didn't have the money to get the tickets,'' she said. "I was nervous and I cried for a couple of days: 'How am I going to do this alone?' I was scared."
She quickly became acclimated. "I saw the Statue of Liberty. It was beautiful," she said.
Evans, who averaged 16.6 points and 10.6 rebounds in her four seasons at Hofstra, is now playing professionally in Bulgaria. Edeferioka averaged 9.0 points and 11.1 rebounds last season at Life Academy (N.J).
"She doesn't do the things Shante could do," coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey said of Edeferioka. "But she definitely could be a pretty good ballplayer."
Although the coach wants Edeferioka to become more of a scorer, defense could be her forte. "She rebounds offensively and defensively really well and can block shots," Kilburn-Steveskey said. "There's not too many rebounds she doesn't get her hands on. That's why when she gets unleashed, it's going to be crazy. We just have to get her more moves."
Edeferioka likely will compete for time with 6-foot sophomore Ruth Sherrill. Dee Thomas-Palmer also is in the mix. "I care more about the rebounding," Edeferioka. "When I was in high school, I said, 'Nobody's going to outrebound me. I'm going to have the highest rebounds.' I don't care much about scoring . . .
"Right now Coach K is trying to get me to score more. We are working on that." With Evans and Candace Bond graduated, Kilburn-Steveskey is looking for scoring from all positions. "You have people that can chip in 9, 10, 15," she said.
Point guard Andreana Thomas, who led the Colonial Athletic Association in assists (6.6), and forward Anma Onyeuku (9.4 points, 5.6 rebounds) are the top returning players. Kilburn-Stevesky said of Thomas, "She needs to get those assists and also look for that shot. She can score. She's that floor general."
Hofstra also can expect offense from guard Annie Payton (8.5), who led the team with 41 three-point field goals. Kilburn-Steveskey thinks guard Asia Jackson (4.8) can increase her numbers and guard Alexis Carter will be looked at for increased production. Fellow sophomore Syndi Epps could see some additional court time. Guards Kelly Loftus and Krystal Luciano are promising freshmen.