Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Hofstra’s Cassara Moving Forward Despite Turnover; Seton Hall Signs Pair
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for Hofstra head coach Mo Cassara and his program.
On March 30, he lost his job as an assistant at Boston College when head coach Al Skinner was fired.
Cassara was supposed to come aboard Tim Welsh’s staff at Hofstra but was without a signed contract when Welsh was charged with a DWI and then forced to resign May 3.
Two days later, Cassara, who had been the No. 3 assistant under Skinner, was elevated to head coach at Hofstra, which finished 19-15, 10-8 in the Colonial Athletic Conference.
“The call came and the next 48 hours was a sprint,” Cassara said Friday. “I never pursued the job. They were excited about talking to me and once we all sat down in a room, from President [Stuart] Rabinowitz to [athletic director] Jack Hayes and his staff, we all got on the same page. It happened very quickly.”
Still, the adjustment period hasn’t been without issues.
The team’s second- and third-leading scorers decided to transfer after the coaching changes. First, 6-8 freshman forward Halil Kanacevic of Staten Island opted to leave for St. Joe’s. Then 5-9 guard Chaz Williams of Brooklyn announced he would leave as well. Those two combined to average 18.4 points and 11.6 rebounds last season.
“Chaz and Halil obviously had great years here for Coach [Tom] Pecora last year,” Cassara said. “They chose to head in a different direction and we’re moving forward from there. We’ve got a lot of talent on this team and we’ve got some depth.”
Two other players, Branden Frazier of Bishop Loughlin and former Lincoln guard Devon “Fatty” McMillan, were released from their Letters of Intent to Hofstra and chose to follow Pecora to Fordham. The New York Post reported the McMillan news Thursday.
The Pride still have star guard Charles Jenkins, the two-time defending Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association Player of the Year who averaged 20.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists last season.
Cassara and lead recruiter Steve DeMeo are pressing forward and have gotten commitments from three players: 6-8 forward Roland Brown of Christ the King; 6-8 forward Stephen Nwaukoni of Thomas Edison; and Shemiye McLendon, a 6-3 shooting guard who averaged 22 points a game at Vero Beach (Fla.) High before spending a prep year at IMG Academies in Bradenton.
“Shemiye is as good of a shot hunter as we have had down here,” IMG coach Dan Barto said. “His midrange game and crafty scoring is something of a lost art.
“Hofstra was a great fit because all of the staff has great experience developing high major talent. He loved the idea of competing against and playing with Jenkins.”
Speaking generally of his recruiting class, Cassara said: “We’re really excited about the three young men that have signed to come here in the fall and we’re still looking at some pieces.”
Cassara said he planned to add “one to potentially two more pieces to this puzzle and we’re still trying to sort through that right now.”
One of those players could be heavily sought after 6-2 point guard J.T. Thomas of IMG, who missed most of the year with a stress fracture.
He is considering Hofstra, LA-Lafayette, Toledo, Western Michigan, Charleston Southern, and North Texas “with high majors entering into the picture this week,” Barto said.
In terms of the non-conference schedule, Hofstra will compete in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic in San Juan along with North Carolina, Davidson, Minnesota, Nebraska, Vanderbilt, WesternKentucky and West Virginia.
“We got a heck of a tournament down there,” Cassara said. “We’re playing a bunch of local games. We’re playing Manhattan, we’re playing Iona. And obviously the CAA is a terrific league.”
SETON HALL SIGNS PAIRSeton Hall officially announcing the signings of forward Patrik Auda (Brno, Czech Republic) and Anali Okoloji (Brooklyn, N.Y.).
“We are very pleased to be able to sign a pair of talented front court players for next season,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “With Fuquan Edwin already signed, we believe the additions of Anali and Patrik fortify a strong recruiting class that will make an immediate impact.”
Auda comes to Seton Hall via Europe having played most recently at the Canarias Basketball Academy (CBA) in the Canary Islands, Spain and is a native of Brno, Czech Republic. He is the latest in a pipeline of Seton Hall players from overseas which include stars such as Arturas Karnisovas and Rimas Kaukenas.
The 6-foot-9, 225-pound left-hander is regarded as a good three-point shooter, but also possesses a strong physical inside game. ESPN.com ranks Auda as their #63 power forward. He was named to the National Prep School Invitational All-Tournament Team after averaging more than 17 points and nine rebounds per game.
“I’ve seen CBA in action first hand, and without a doubt, it’s one of the top basketball academies in Europe,” Willard said. “Getting a student-athlete from CBA means getting a well-coached, highly-disciplined player.”
Okoloji is regarded as a versatile big man with a strong work ethic. In his lone season at Impact Basketball Academy (Fla.), he averaged 25 points, 11 rebounds and six assists per game. The 6-foot-8, 220-pounder originated at Benjamin Banneker High School in Brooklyn before transferring to Impact.
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.