Hofstra freshman Jamall Robinson picked a good time to have a career-high with 22 points in an 82-71 win over James Madison Saturday night at the Mack Sports Complex. The win was a high point in a difficult season when coach Joe Mihalich came from Niagara to succeed Mo Cassara in a program with few assets.
Recruiting season began late for Mihalich, but he landed the 6-5 Robinson, who started all 31 games and averaged 9.6 points. Against the Dukes, Robinson took some of the scoring load off grad students Zeke Upshaw and Dion Nesmith, who provided the bulk of the scoring all season.
Robinson had some shaky moments in the second half when he missed three straight foul shots, but he responded in the clutch by knocking down his next seven in a row. “It felt great,” Robinson said. “Dion was in foul trouble, and coach challenged me to play more point guard.”
Mihalich acknowledged consistent scoring has been a problem for the Pride (9-22, 5-11 CAA). “Scoring has been our Achilles heel, but we’re getting some confidence now,” Mihalich said. “And it’s more than Zeke and Dion. As a staff, we said before the game that we needed Jamall to step up. We felt he had a good matchup, and he did.”
Of course, the Pride still has the CAA tournament, which starts Friday night in Baltimore with a game against UNC-Wilmington. But then, the real transition can begin. Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley, a pair of top-notch Philly guards who transferred from Niagara when Mihalich got the job, will become eligible for the next two seasons. Robinson can grow with them as can returners Jordan Allen, Darren Payen and Moussa Kone.
Reflecting on his first season at Hofstra, Robinson said, “I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s been great. Defensively, I’m getting a lot better. Offensively, I work as hard as I can. My teammates get on me for being tentative.”
Robinson was anything but tentative against JMU. He has established himself as a solid building block for a brighter future.
If the Pride can play as cohesively and with as much energy as they did at the end of a nine-win season, then, it says Mihalich must be doing something right.