Tag: Colonial Athletic Association

Joe Mihalich
Associated Press

Hofstra’s rise close to being complete

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HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) Joe Mihalich didn’t show up on Hofstra’s campus three years ago riding a white horse. He did arrive and turn around a basketball program saddled with off-the-court issues that left the roster depleted and the image in tatters.

The Pride finished 7-25 in 2012-13 and four players were arrested on burglary charges stemming from dormitory room break-ins.

This season, the attitude is as far as it can get from that year. The Pride are picked as the preseason favorite to win the Colonial Athletic Conference.

Mihalich gives the credit to his staff and the players. He didn’t know if the third season would be the one that saw such expectations.

“I don’t know if you ever put a number on it but I knew we could turn it around because this is a great place with great leadership,” Mihalich said Thursday at the team’s media day. “Everything was in place to turn it around and I wouldn’t have come (from Niagara) if it wasn’t. I believe Hofstra can be a special place for basketball.”

The optimism for this season comes from the three leading scorers returning off a team that went 20-14 and played in the CBI. All three, however, are guards, giving the Pride one of the better backcourts in the nation.

“It’s humbling,” senior guard Juan’ya Green said of the attention the backcourt has received. “It just tells us how hard we worked and we pushed each other to be the best we could.”

Green is the point guard. He averaged 6.5 assists last season and will again be the director of the offense.

“My teammates trust me and Coach Mihalich trusts me and he knows I’ll pick out the right play at the right time,” Green said.

The 3-point specialist is junior Brian Bernardi, who made 95 3-pointers last season, shooting 40.4 percent from beyond the arc.

“My whole life I’ve always been able to shoot the 3,” he said, standing just behind the 3-point line for an interview. “I practice and prepare and I shoot every day. I made four 3s at the Nets’ arena when I was in sixth grade so I knew I was supposed to be a shooter.”

The third member of the backcourt is 6-foot-5 senior Ameen Tanksley, the team’s true swingman who helps with the rebounding. He averaged 16.2 points and 5.5 rebounds last season while making 74 3s.

“There’s no pressure for one player to be the big scorer,” Bernardi said. “We share the ball and that makes it hard for our opponent.”

Mihalich knows everyone points to his backcourt and that could cause problems if the Pride were to face a team with size up front.

“One of our challenges is to figure out a way to defend really big frontcourts but they have to defend us too,” Mihalich said. “That’s the great cat and mouse game of basketball. We’re small and quick. You’re big and strong let’s see who wins.”

The Hofstra players all break into big smiles when this season’s schedule is brought up. There is a trip to the Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam in November and a game against Appalachian State on Dec. 6, at Madison Square Garden. It will be the Pride’s first appearance at the Garden in six years.

“It’s been one of my dreams to play in Madison Square Garden,” Bernardi said. “And the Virgin Islands, that’s just great.”

Mihalich is looking at a different part of the schedule – the CAA Tournament with an NCAA Tournament bid on the line.

“It’s all about three days in March,” he said.

WATCH LIVE: Drexel hosts College of Charleston on NBCSN

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Saturday afternoon’s contest between Drexel and College of Charleston features two teams looking to make a move up the Colonial Athletic Association standings. Both the host Dragons and Cougars have struggled for consistency this season but will play each other for the first of two scheduled contests.

Drexel (4-14, 2-5) will be led by high-scoring and productive guard Damion Lee. The 6-foot-6 junior rarely leaves the floor and is averaging 20.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game for the Dragons. College of Charleston (6-14, 1-6) relies on more of a balanced approach to get it done and the Cougars are led by sophomore guards Canyon Barry and Joe Chealey.

You can see the game at 12:00 p.m. on NBCSN. It will also be streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra.

A healthy Damion Lee key for Drexel in the CAA in 2014-2015

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source: AP

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

Drexel, a team picked in the preseason to finish second in the Colonial Athletic Association, had pounced on the No. 4 ranked team in the nation, looking to make an early-season statement inside the World Most’s Famous Arena on the eve of Thanksgiving.

Arizona rallied from a 19-point, first-half deficit to defeat Drexel, 66-62, to advance to the championship game of NIT Season Tip-Off.

The Dragons lost more than just a heartbreaking contest to a team that later went on to be one-win shy of the Final Four. They also lost star swingman Damion Lee to a torn ACL, which required season-ending surgery. The 6-foot-7 Lee was a preseason first-team pick after a sophomore campaign where he finished third in the CAA in scoring at 17.1 points per game.

“He was probably one of the four or five top players in the league,” Drexel head coach Bruiser Flint told NBCSports.com last month. “It really hurts you. It took away one of the weapons we had. The thing is, you played games with him and then you have to adjust without him right away.”

Drexel, led by the high-scoring duo of Chris Fouch and Frantz Massenat, got through the next four games, two of which came in triple overtime. However, the Dragons broke even in conference play (8-8), going 1-5 against the three teams to finish ahead of them — Delaware, Towson and Williams & Mary.

It’s been 11 months since the injury occurred, but Lee has been back on the floor this fall without limitations. The redshirt junior wing will be the key to a successful campaign for Drexel in a league filled with uncertainty.

“When I was looking at some of the rosters after the season was over, I noticed that the league is wide-opened,” Lee told NBCSports.com. “Northeastern brings back all of its roster. William & Mary have two really good players and Hofstra will be better. But I still think the league is wide-open. There is no clear-cut favorite.”

In order those three teams — Northeastern, William & Mary and Hofstra — were slotted ahead of Drexel in the CAA preseason coaches poll, and despite a shift in order was, were the top three in the predicted finish in College Basketball Talk‘s CAA preview.

MORE: CAA Preview: Is this the year for William & Mary, or will new teams emerge?

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William & Mary is fueled by last season’s near-miss in the conference title game, and brings back Marcus Thornton, the only returning first-team all-CAA pick from a season ago. Northeastern has a healthy Quincy Ford in addition to the majority of last season’s rotation and Hofstra is depending on several transfers to make an immediate impact on a program that has only won 27 games over the last three seasons.

Drexel enters the season without Fouch and Massenat. However, there teams in a similar position as Drexel, such as reigning CAA champion Delaware losing four double-digit scorers and Towson, which graduated two-time CAA Player of the Year Jerrelle Tenimon along with the team’s three other top scorers. Regardless of the roster changes, each team possesses the tools necessary to be a surprise team in the CAA, and with a healthy Lee, surrounded by a developing set of underclassmen, it could be the Dragons.

“I know that we’re going to be looked over because teams will think we lost six players from the previous year that we won’t be that good,” Lee added. “From my standpoint, I just want to lead this team to any wins that we can get. I’m pretty confident that we’ll be a sleeper this year and we’ll sneak up on some teams.”

In August, just before Drexel’s trip to China, an update on Lee’s recovery mentioned that he was still not scrimmaging. While it appeared as an ominous sign, it was merely a precautionary measure.

“The doctor said there was no need to chance it,” Flint said. “He practiced a lot, though.”

Lee made the trip to China with the team, and while on the bench was able to observe his teammates, both returnees and newcomers, in what turned out to be a promising trip for the new-look Dragons.

Eleven different players on the Drexel roster started at least one game during the 2013-2014 season. Of those players, junior Tavon Allen and sophomore Rodney Williams, a CAA all-Rookie Team selection, made the most starts. Those two will take on bigger roles this season, as will fellow sophomore big man Mohamed Bah. Sammy Mojica and Rashann London, two freshmen to the perimeter showed upside in China while first-year forwards Tyshawn Miles and Austin Williams provide athleticism and depth to the frontline.

“Our freshmen were thrown right into the fire [last season],”  Flint said. “We lost two starters during the season and still had a winning record. I think people forget that. If those guys can do what I think they can do then I think we’re going to be fine.

“I think everyone in the league thinks they have a chance. They’re are a lot of question marks even with the better teams. I think a lot of teams are saying, ‘Hey if we put it all together, we could make a run in this conference.’”

Like many teams in the CAA, that will be the question, but Drexel has the luxury of having an all-CAA caliber player to help find that answer.