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NCAA grants Hofstra point guard Shaquille Stokes immediate eligibility

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After winning just ten games last season, things were expected to get better for Mo Cassara’s Hofstra Pride due to the addition of transfers such as Taran Buie, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Daquan Brown alongside starting point guard Steve Mejia.

And the Pride got a bit deeper in the backcourt on Wednesday as the NCAA granted point guard Shaquille Stokes’ request for a hardship waiver, making him eligible to play immediately.

Stokes, a Harlem native who played his freshman season at Hawaii, decided to return to his home state at the end of last season due to his grandmother’s illness.

“He actually talked about leaving several times earlier in the season, but we talked it through,” Hawaii head coach Gib Anrold said to Warrior Insider back in April. “But this time … he’s close to his grandmother, who helped raise him, and she got sick and took a turn for the worse last week.

“He actually wanted to leave right away, but we told him he needs to finish school if he wants to keep playing, whether it’s here or back home, so that’s what he’s going to do.”

As a result of the NCAA’s ruling Stokes will have three years of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2012-13 campaign.

“The ability to be closer to my family in the New York area and help care for them was of the utmost concern,” Stokes said in a statement released by the school.

“I want to thank the NCAA and Hofstra for their assistance with my situation. I look forward to getting my Hofstra degree and having a successful basketball career.”

Stokes started 12 of the 30 games (20.1 minutes/game) he played in at Hawaii last season, averaging 8.4 points and 2.2 assists per game.

Hofstra was picked to finish seventh in the CAA preseason poll, just one season after finishing alone in 11th place with a 3-15 conference record. Adding Stokes to the backcourt rotation (Brown isn’t eligible until the end of the semester) gives the Pride even more depth in that area, something they sorely lacked in 2011-12.

Could this be enough to propel the Pride into the conversation in the middle of the CAA pack with teams such as Northeastern and James Madison? Hofstra fans hope that’s the case.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.