Hofstra poised to battle for CAA title


Despite losing its top scorer off last year’s regular season conference championship that pulled off an upset win in the National Invitational Tournament, Hofstra men’s basketball has brought back plenty of firepower to make another run at postseason magic.

Aaron Estrada, who won Conference Player of the Year honors his two seasons in Hempstead, transferred to SEC power Alabama for his final year of college eligibility after earning his undergraduate degree at Hofstra. Graduate student guard Tyler Thomas has carried the baton from Estrada, and was leading the nation in scoring at 25 points per game in early December.

“He’s our hardest worker and puts in the time it takes to be a great player,” said third-year Pride head coach Speedy Claxton, a former NBA point guard who as a collegiate player led Hofstra to a conference title and NCAA Tournament in 2000. “We knew that he was ready for this moment.”

Thomas, who transferred to Hofstra from Sacred Heart prior to last season, scored 40 points to go along with eight rebounds in a 97-92 overtime win against High Point on Nov. 22 in the championship game of the Gulf Coast Showcase. He followed that up with 25 points in an 82-63 route against South Florida at home on Nov. 30. 

The 6-foot-3 Thomas earned All-Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) First Team honors after ranking second on the Pride in scoring during Hofstra’s run last season to a regular season league championship followed by a first round NIT victory at Big Ten foe Rutgers 

Junior guard Darlinstone Dubar has also added a big spark on offense averaging 17.7 points over the first nine games. The All-CAA Preseason Honorable Mention Team selection tallied a career high 30 points in a dominant 102-68 win against Buffalo on Nov. 20.

The offense is quarterbacked by junior point guard Juan Carlos, who has upped his scoring output this season with 18 points in the High Point win and double figures in six other games. He recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists in the South Florida triumph. 

“He’s a leader and gets everybody involved,” said Claxton of Carlos. “They all look to him on and off the court for leadership.” 

Claxton added plenty of new talent this season including some size inside in 6-10 graduate student Jacco Fritz, who  arrived on Long Island after playing 99 games at Canisius College. The Netherlands big man registered 14 points in an 85-76 victory against Wright State on Nov. 2. 

The Pride’s roster includes two players with local ties in freshman Jayden Henriquez, an East Meadow High School graduate, and sophomore Aiden Best, a Hempsterad native and former standout at Lawrence Woodmere Academy. 

To prepare his team for what he hopes will be a lengthy postseason run that culminates in the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001, Claxton pieced together a challenging non-conference schedule that included a road trip to Duke on Dec. 12. Hofstra will also face St. John’s for the first time since the 2009-10 season on Dec. 30 with a noon battle at UBS Arena in Elmont. 

“We like playing in these environments,” said Claxton, who guided Hofstra to an upset win at 24th-ranked Arkansas in December 2021. “It brings out the best in them.”

The Pride open CAA play Jan. 4 at home against defending CAA champion College of Charleston, who Hofstra knocked off in the teams’ lone regular season meeting last year when the Cougars were ranked 18th in the nation. The home conference schedule is also highlighted by a Feb. 1 meeting with Long Island rival Stony Brook.