Posted: Wednesday November 15, 2006 2:47PM; Updated: Wednesday November 15, 2006 2:47PM
By Luke Winn, SI.com
THE REAL-WORLD ARCHITECTURAL EQUIVALENT TO HOFSTRA
We asked Scott Schiamberg, a senior associate at HOK Sport, which designed such venues as Camden Yards and the new stadiums for the Yankees and Mets, to match up the Pride's profile with a prominent, real-world architectural project:
Yancey Chapel (Sawyerville, Ala.) Architect: Samuel Mockbee/Rural Studio Year: 1995
Mockbee's Rural Studio project was the architecture of the mid- and low-majors: Working with his students at Auburn, he went into impoverished communities in the South and built beautiful structures out of overlooked material -- anything from car tires covered in concrete (which make up part of this chapel), to carpet squares, to hay bales. His motto was, "everyone, rich or poor, deserves a shelter for the soul." Hofstra found a group of undervalued guards, who were either too skinny or too small for big-time D-I teams, and fit them into a harmonious unit in one of the nation's lesser conferences. Mockbee built structures so beautiful and ingenious that you wouldn't know they're made of tires -- and he did it on no budget. He believed that a lack of big-budget materials was not an excuse for being able to do great architecture.
Agudio, meanwhile, was a New York product who could shoot well, but stayed under the radar because he lived outside of the five boroughs, in Huntington Station, just 30 minutes away from Hofstra on Long Island. The Pride convinced him to stay home, and banked on the fact that he would blossom into a multi-talented guard.
Rivera was a two-star, Puerto Rican point guard who won a state title as a high school senior in Miami. When Hofstra assistant Van Macon scouted Rivera, he saw a tough kid "who played like a New York City guard," and the Pride were sold. Rivera had 117 assists and just 60 turnovers in 2005-06.
BUILDING LOCATIONS: Pecora has a three-pronged approach: his 2006-07 roster consists of 10 New Yorkers, three Lithuanians and two Puerto Ricans.
The coach, who was raised in Queens Village, uses his New York connections to scour the state for diamonds in the rough. Pecora had old neighborhood connections with both Stokes' high school coach in Buffalo, Fajri Ansari, and his prep school coach at St. Thomas More, Jere Quinn. Pecora says he often calls Puerto Rico (the home of Rivera and junior Jorge Lebron) "the sixth borough," because of its large transplant community in New York. The presence of friends and relatives nearby, he says, often makes Puerto Rican recruits more willing to look at Hofstra.
Pecora targets Lithuania (the home of forwards Zygis Sestokas, Arminas Urbutis and Mantas Leonavicius) with a purpose: "We recruit Eastern Europe to find skilled big players," he said. "We play four out, one in on offense, and our second forward has to be very skilled. We've had great success with Lithuanian players who are 6-6 to 6-8, who can face up, put the ball on the ground and make three-pointers.
We had three on our roster last year; we joke that when we get to four, we'll have to play the Lithuanian national anthem as well."
DESIGN QUIRKS: The Pride was one of the nation's better offensive teams last season, ranking 37th in the nation in efficiency with 1.118 points per possession. What's surprising is that, even with its perimeter-oriented offense, Hofstra scored 55.0 percent of its points from inside the arc. One of the reasons: Of the three guards, only Agudio, at 42.1 percent, is a stellar three-point shooter. Stokes (35.1 percent) and Rivera (32.0) lag well behind.
WHY IT COULD BE FINAL-FOUR FUNCTIONAL: It's highly improbable that a CAA team could reach college hoops' final weekend two years in a row. But the Pride have the guards, and the seasoning, to make a run. By the time the dance begins, Agudio will be 22, Stokes will be 23 and Rivera will be 24. Those geezers could easily outfox some powerhouse school's band of 19-year-old phenoms.