Mo Cassara addresses player arrests

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Hofstra men's basketball coach Mo Cassara is "heartbroken" over the arrests of four of his players on burglary charges earlier this week.

"There's nobody that feels worse, that has slept less, that is more devastated about this than me," said Cassara, following Hofstra's 73-47 loss to SMU on Saturday, in his first public comments about the scandal.

Sophomore Shaquille Stokes and freshmen Jimmy Hall, Dallas Anglin and Kentrell Washington were charged in six burglaries that took place between Oct. 4 and Nov. 5. These incidents took place in Hofstra dormitories, and included the theft of laptop computers, cell phones and cash.

All four players pled not guilty at their arraignments on Friday. They have been suspended from the team and the university, pending the outcome of the case.

Neither Cassara nor Hofstra athletic director Jeff Hathaway would comment on the suspended players, citing the ongoing police investigation.

"This is a very disappointing situation," said Hathaway, who took over as athletic director in May, after filling the same role at UConn for eight years. "All of us -- people that have been here 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, to people like me who have been here (seven) months -- we have deep pride, and we work every day to do the best that we can to move this athletic program (forward) and to make it something that the university and the university extended community is proud of."

This isn't the first sign of trouble regarding the Hofstra program this year. Sophomore guard Taran Buie (the team's leading scorer) and junior forward Jamal Coombs-McDaniel were suspended for the first two games of the season, for unspecified violations of team rules.

Those two players also have checkered pasts, prior to their arrivals at Hofstra. Coombs-McDaniel, who transferred from UConn, was arrested back in April 2011 and charged with marijuana possession. Buie, who transferred from Penn State, also served a suspension there for an undisclosed violation of team rules. He was also cited for disorderly conduct by State College police, stemming from a scuffle at an off-campus apartment building.

When asked if he has to re-evaluate his recruiting strategy in the wake of these incidents, Cassara said, "I think that we as a staff, myself, we take every opportunity to evaluate every kid, know their families, their parents, their AAU coaches, their high school coaches, and we do that to the best of our ability. It's part of what we work very hard at."

"Mo and I and other coaches have met on numerous occasions, and we've had conversations about what our expectations are for a Hofstra student-athlete, and that we're gonna do everything we can do to find out that we are bringing the very best people to this campus to wear Hofstra on their chest," said Hathaway. "And I think, from what I've seen in my time here, that our basketball staff has done that."

This is a crippling blow to the Hofstra basketball program. All four suspended players were playing significant minutes, and two -- Hall and Stokes -- were starters, and the team's second- and fourth-leading scorers respectively.

And all four players were in their first year in the program. Stokes, a Harlem native who starred at Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, transferred after spending his freshman year at the University of Hawaii. His grandmother back home was sick, so the NCAA granted him a hardship waiver, enabling him to play immediately.

Cassara is now down to nine scholarship players on the roster, plus three walk-ons. He expects to add a couple more walk-ons in the coming days.

"The plan has to adjust a little bit," Cassara said. "We certainly don't have as many bodies as we had hoped we'd have right now. (But) we have some talented guys."

Hofstra, which fell to 3-5 after the loss to SMU, was picked to finish seventh in the Colonial Athletic Association this season, with the four suspended players on the roster. The Pride went 21-12 in Cassara's first year on the job in 2010-11, led by star guard Charles Jenkins, now with the NBA's Golden State Warriors. But last season Hofstra dropped to 10-22, 3-15 in the CAA.

"Our guys are resilient. My staff is resilient. And most importantly, I'm resilient," Cassara said. "And we're gonna just keep working as hard as we can."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.