By John Otano
While watching the Yankees celebrate their 27th world championship last week, two realizations came to mind that made me both sick and upset: upset for having to wait another three long months before the boys of summer return and sad because basketball season is expected to be a long, slow moving train wreck in the form of the New York Knicks.
The state of New York Knicks basketball has driven New York fans to apathy. Knicks fans just don’t care anymore. They don’t even have the willingness to start up a “Fire Walsh” or “Fire D’Antoni” chant.
That is not an easy feat to accomplish in a city that is home to some of the most passionate sports fans in the world. LeBron James suggested that all Knicks fans should go to sleep and wake up July 1, 2010 when all the juicy free-agents hit the market and that’s exactly what Knicks fans should do. In the meantime, it’s time for New York fans to ditch the Knicks and follow Long Island’s own Hofstra’s Men’s Basketball Team.
For starters, Hofstra possesses the superstar player that is missing in action for the Knicks. Junior Guard Charles Jenkins is establishing himself as one of the best players to ever set foot on the hardwood at Hofstra University. Jenkins is only the second player in school history to reach 1,000 points and is currently on pace to break Antonie Aguido’s all-time scoring record at Hofstra. Last year, Jenkins received the Haggerty award which recognizes the best basketball player in the New York Metropolitan Area, making him only the second sophomore to win it since former NBA and St. John’s alum Chris Mullin won the award in 1983. Last season, Jenkins led Hofstra to an impressive 21-10 record, which marks the 4th consecutive 20 win season for Hofstra. The 6’3” guard is the only returning player in the country that averaged 19 points, four rebounds and four assists a game last season. Besides the returning players from last year, Hofstra will feature a young team that has 6 freshmen and 1 junior college transfer to go along with Jenkins.
Hofstra stumbled out of the gate Friday night, getting blown out 101-61, by preseason AP and ESPN/USA Today No. 1 ranked team, Kansas, Friday on the road in the opening game of the 2009-2010 campaign. Team leader Jenkins said through his video blog that he is, “not even thinking about Kansas. The most important thing is letting them know how hard they have to work to be successful at this level.”
The Pride kept the game close as possible in the first half but the overall depth and talent of Kansas soon overwhelmed them. Jenkins poured in 23 points for the Pride, scoring 18 points in the second half. Freshman Halil Kanacevic scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds coming off the bench in his collegiate debut.
Although Kansas simply outclassed Hofstra on this night, the game could serve as a great learning experience for the younger players on Hofstra as they got a taste of what it’s like to play against the country’s best players. Following the road game against Kansas, Hofstra will compete in the annual NIT Season Tip-Off against Ivy League opponent Yale on Monday, November 16th and, either Big East powerhouse UConn or Colgate if the Pride should make it to the title game on Tuesday, November 17th.
The Colonial Athletic Association preseason polls has Hofstra finishing 6th for the 2009-2010 campaign behind last year’s league champion Virginal Commonwealth and rival Old Dominion, which is boasting a roster that includes all five starters from last year. Hofstra will need to rely on returning players, guards Cornelius Vines, Nathaniel Lester and forwards, Greg Washington and Miklos Szabo in order to surprise teams in what is considered a deep conference. The CAA features Cinderella teams like George Mason that have traded in their Nikes for glass slippers come March Madness and Hofstra looks to follow in their slipper steps this season.
Playing teams like Yale, Kansas and a possible date with UConn will practically dictate how Hofstra will fare once they enter in CAA action. If they are able to make a game of it tonight against Kansas and defeat Yale in the NIT Season Tip-Off turnoff, they may be able to make some unexpected noise in the CCA. Hofstra pulled together some big wins last year against teams like Manhattan, University of New Hampshire and was able to defeat Old Dominion in the regular season despite being eliminated by Old Dominion in the Quarterfinals of last year’s CAA tournament.
January will prove to be the make or break point of the season for the Pride. In a span of a week, they will take on George Mason in Virginia on January 4th, a team that handled the Pride with ease last season, getting blown out to the tune of 78-54. Following George Mason, Hofstra heads home to Hempstead on January 6th to take on Towson University before traveling to Virginal again to face conference rival Old Dominion on Saturday, January 9th. If Hofstra is able to sneak two wins in Virginal that week and take care of business at home, that will establish early on in the season whether Hofstra will be a threat for the CAA crown this year or not.
However this team may play this season, it will certainly be better than any product the Knicks will disgrace the Garden with. Luckily, the Knicks aren’t the only act in town as MSG will be home to the Jimmy V Tournament and the Aeropostale Holiday Festival that will feature the Pride playing against Big East in-city rival, St. Johns this year
There is nothing quite like it in sports when basketball is played with the same intensity these college kids come out with every night they hit the floor. That’s not to say that Hofstra can beat the Knicks but you bet your 27th World Series Yankee shirt that Hofstra will play harder than all the Knicks games combined this season.
This college basketball team doesn’t play for money, doesn’t have management that undermines a fan base for profit and certainly doesn’t have a team that forgot how to play defense. No matter what the outcome may be when they take on Kansas, you can rest assured that they will give a hell of a lot more effort than the Knicks would if they were playing, let’s say, the Los Angeles Lakers. When watching Hofstra play you will find that they play for everything the Knicks don’t play for. As their name so aptly puts it, Hofstra’s Men’s Basketball plays for Pride.
Throw out that Knicks schedule and follow the Pride as they try to take the CAA by storm this season.