VCU 66, HOFSTRA 62
HOFSTRA SEASON RECORDS: 14-8, 6-5 CAA
PLACE IN CAA STANDINGS: tied for 5th
JENKINS SEASON AVERAGES: 18.0 pts, 4.9 reb, 3.5 ast, 3.6 to
Hofstra's second meeting with VCU was in many ways a humbling education for Charles Jenkins, and in others, a sort of possible crystal (basket) ball toward the future of exactly what the talented, yet still raw, sophomore captain hopes to become.
Before touching on the game itself, let's look at what this day symbolized in Hofstra Basketball history and how Jenkins may some day tie into that...
The day started with an emotional tribute to the man who most regard as the best all-around player (at the very least, the best guard) ever to wear a Hofstra basketball uniform, when Craig "Speedy" Claxton's number 10 was retired prior to tip-off.
I have to say here, I was pretty disappointed in the pre-game ceremony, but I didn't realize it until Speedy had said it at halftime of Saturday's game. He said, "I was hoping for a video tribute." I hadn't thought about it, but he was absolutely right! Hofstra had done it before, for other occasions. And, here's arguably the best player, at least the most popular player, in the history of the program, and no video tribute? No highlight reel showing the many great moments in Speedy's career? Just a simple 4-minute ceremony at halfcourt with Claxton receiving a framed number 10 jersey followed by his number being unveiled from the rafters? I hate to say it, because it was still a good day, but pretty weak for the player that meant so much to Hofstra Basketball.
In any case, after more than a couple decades of wallowing in relative basketball anonymity following the successful late 1970's, Hofstra basketball WAS put back on the map by Claxton, the former Christ The King and Hempstead product, who led Hofstra to its first NCAA tournament berth in 23 years, in 2000. That was Speedy's senior season, the second straight year that he was the America East Player Of The Year, and the first of two seasons that Hofstra Basketball had gained media attention like never before -- sellouts, with the loudest, most packed house you'll ever see or hear at The Mack Sports Complex on Hofstra's campus, in Hempstead; both that senior year for Speedy and the following year, after Speedy's departure, with WFAN's Mike And The Maddog calling the 2000 and 2001 America East championships courtside; scalpers (yes, scalpers, at Hofstra basketball games, if you can believe that!); and delirious fans storming the court (I was one of them), shown celebrating in true March Madness style, live on ESPN, after conference tournament title wins over then-despised rival Delaware, each of those two years. Claxton is currently Hofstra's sixth all-time leading scorer with 2,015 career points, and he still holds Hofstra career records with 660 assists and 288 steals.
So, especially off of those highs, what I'm about to say next, might be misconstrued as Hofstra Basketball blasphemy among Claxton’s fans, and as such, I hope it's not taken the wrong way. In fact, to prove his high level of ability for any player who has worn the Hofstra blue and gold, I'll add the preface that Speedy has the NBA
first-round draft pick status and key role in earning a ring in a decisive NBA Finals Game 6 with the San Antonio Spurs; and has posted fairly decent numbers in a nine-year NBA career thus far, despite missing more games than he's played in, due to a variety of injuries, And, I did write this piece praising Speedy earlier this week, right here at The Queens Ledger Online: (http://queensledger.com/pages/full_story?page_label=news_sports&id=1899670-Athlete-of-the-Week&widget=push&article-Athlete-of-the-Week =&instance=lead_story_left_column&open=&).
But, I always wonder if Speedy might not have accomplished quite as much in the tougher CAA, or if the other recent great Hofstra guards, Loren Stokes, or Hofstra's all-time leading scorer Antoine Agudio, might have accomplished the same as Speedy, had they played in the weaker America East, as Speedy did. Or even, if Jenkins, would be able to, as well. After all, (not that scoring is everything, but) Stokes was also Hofstra's best player in his time, and passed Speedy on the all-time Hofstra scoring list; Agudio has since passed Stokes to become Hofstra's current all-time scoring leader; and Jenkins, already a CAA Rookie Of The Year, has remained on pace in his sophomore season to break Agudio's Hofstra career scoring mark (and that's with a deeper three-point line as of this year).
The point is, they've all passed the torch: from Speedy to Stokes, to Agudio, and now, to Jenkins. But, something has to be said for the level of competition among the last three versus what Speedy faced, while Speedy still remains arguably Hofstra's best player ever. That says something for Jenkins, for both his success that he's already achieved in a still young college career, and for his struggles along the way. Some of those struggles might not have been as evident or as frequent if he were playing in Speedy's old conference. Bottom line, that Speedy type of potential may be there for Jenkins, because against tougher competition, despite some growing pains, Jenkins has already shown similar ability to Speedy in many instances, to possibly make the short list of one of the Hofstra's best players ever, by the time his college career is done; to the point where maybe his number 22 is hanging in The Mack rafters along with Speedy's number 10.
And, that relates directly to what happened against VCU on Saturday, and the CAA's best player, VCU guard Eric Maynor. Just as Jenkins is on track to be a Hofstra great, but still has work to do to attain Speedy's level, Saturday's contest was all about the better, more experienced senior giving an education to similarly skillful, yet not-quite-there-yet sophomore, Jenkins.
Jenkins is right up there, second in scoring in the CAA, right behind Maynor. But, Maynor is simply the senior at that next level, like Speedy, with NBA first-round skills and athleticism, and the type of polished game that Jenkins hopes to possess within the next year or two.
Despite shooting poorly (just 3 of 13 from the field) Jenkins held his own against Maynor in the opening half. Hofstra actually led the game handily, 28-16, after a jumper by Jenkins with 5:25 left in the first half, before VCU closed to within 36-29 at the break. Both Jenkins and Maynor shot poorly from the field (Jenkins: 3-13, Maynor: 2-8), but they each got to the line and were perfect from there (Jenkins: 4-4, Maynor: 7-7). At the half, Maynor, last year's CAA Player Of The Year, and this year's good bet to win another) had outscored Jenkins only 12-11, as the next closest scorer on either side had just 4 points.
In the second half, an exhausted Jenkins, who expended so much energy guarding Maynor that he didn't have his legs offensively in the second half, allowed Maynor to take the game over in the second half. Maynor made 7 of his 10 second-half shots, scoring 21 of his-game 33 points (which was half of VCU's 66 points for the game). Meanwhile, Jenkins was stripped a few times by the quick hands of Maynor, and despite going 10 of 12 at the free throw line on the day to finish with a team-high 22 points, was harassed by Maynor into an abysmal 5-for-23 shooting day.
Jenkins and Hofstra hung in as best they could, but in the end it was simply too much Eric Maynor, who finished just two points shy of his career-best 35 points. That was typified on one particular stretch in the final minutes... with the score tied 58-58, Maynor missed his only free throw of the game (in 13 attempts), but sank the second, to put VCU up for good, 59-58, with 3:26 left in the game; he then stole the ball from Hofstra guard Tony Dennison, and converted a layup to put the Rams up 61-58 with 3:09 remaining. Maynor then blocked a forced Jenkins shot in the lane, picked up the loose ball, went the other way, and milked some clock. Then, with Jenkins draped all over him, and the shotr clock dwindling, Maynor calmly, from about 25 feet, drilled a left-wing three-pointer with Jenkins' hand right in his face. They call Maynor "The Dagger" in Richmond. That shot was the dagger, as it gave the Rams some final breathing room at 64-58 with 1:42 left. Hofstra never got closer than the final 66-62 margin the rest of the way. Although, I will say that the Pride got the ball back with :22 left, down only by that same 66-62 score, still very much alive, and it was very disappointing to see the number of people walking out of the building at that point. That's where if Hofstra isn't winning on a regular basis, the home crowd really doesn't help them, and it's pretty sad. Aside from the student section, the fans at Hofstra basketball games really only stand and make noise when free t-shirts are given away. Such is college basketball on Long Island. Sigh. The crowd could have affected the outcome of this big game in the CAA standings a lot more down the stretch, and then, who knows? Still though, it was about Maynor just putting his team on his back.
Jenkins had a good look with about :17 left but missed a right-wing three. He muscled his way into the lane for a very strong offensive rebound, but missed inside with about :07 left, and that was it.
The loss was a letdown for the Pride, which came in flying with 4 straight CAA wins following a rough 2-4 start in the conference. A fifth straight win (including one over the pre-season conference favorite and two-time defending CAA regular season champion), and a nice 7-4 CAA record would have been very nice, but in the end, it
wasn't meant to be, and the difference was Maynor already demonstrating the type of showing what Jenkins hopes to ultimately do himself. That's not to say that Jenkins hasn't had games like that himself, bailing Hofstra out against other teams over his first two seasons. Just not against the best in the CAA, and not against the caliber of a player like Maynor. Time will tell if Jenkins will get to that point (I think surrounded be the right pieces in his final two years at Hofstra, he can). One of those pieces will be arriving next year, with Bishop Ford's highly ranked point Chaz Williams, coming to Hempstead, freeing up Jenkins to worry less about running an offense, and doing what he does best -- slashing, penetrating, shooting mid-range jumpers, and scoring. Speedy offered to help Williams pick a new number upon William’s arrival at Hofstra, saying "He can't wear number 10 now. I'll help him find a new number, maybe fifty-five or something." Jenkins does that have time -- and talent -- on his side to become one of the best ever at Hofstra and in the CAA. But, this round, on a day when Jenkins could perhaps see the future through both Maynor's game and the honoring of Speedy, the senior teacher Maynor showed the sophomore student what he still has to learn to get there.