To start with the basics, Hofstra is a private, nonsectarian school in Hempstead, Long Island (25 miles east of New York City). Enrollment is 10,870.
Its alumni include Francis Ford Coppola, former NBA player Craig “Speedy” Claxton and MMA fighter Chris Weidman.
Hofstra played host to presidential debates in 2008, 2012 and 2016.
Its campus is a registered arboretum (the tulips are said to be striking).
The Nassau Coliseum, where the NBA’s Nets and NHL’s Islanders used to play home games, is across Earle Ovington Boulevard from the Hofstra campus. That’s where Kentucky was supposed to play Hofstra on Sunday afternoon.
But the game was moved to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn because of delays in a renovation of the Nassau Coliseum.
“Folks with Nassau Coliseum contacted us,” Hofstra Coach Joe Mihalich said last week. “They said they were going to open with Kentucky. ‘Do you want to play them?’
“Well, they didn’t even have to finish the sentence. We’d want to do it.”
For Hofstra’s basketball team, it’s simply a longer drive toward lasting memories.
“When you talk about college basketball, one of the first programs out of your mouth is Kentucky,” Mihalich said. “And North Carolina and UCLA and Duke and Kansas. For our kids to have a chance to play against Kentucky in a great venue like the Barclays Center is one of those things they’ll be telling their kids and grandchildren about.
“That is an opportunity we’re going to embrace and cherish and value and do all we can to get the most out of it.”
Hofstra, which brings a 6-4 record into the game, boasts the nation’s leading rebounder in Rokas Gustys. His average of 13.5 rebounds includes 25 against South Dakota and 23 against Coppin State. That marked the seventh and eighth games in the last two seasons the native of Lithuania grabbed 20 or more rebounds.
When asked how to pronounce the player’s name (ROE-kuss goos-TEESE), Mihalich said, “We just call him Rock. That’s the easiest thing to remember, and the name kind of fits.”
Gustys, who is 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds, is a space-eating junior.
“He’s a beast,’ Mihalich said. “He’s just the strongest man alive. One time I said to him, ‘Just take a charge,’ and he kind of laughed at me as if to say, ‘It’s pretty hard to knock me over.’”
Gustys also brings a desire to rebounding.
“He’ll try to get 20,” the Hofstra coach said. “All of us coaches are hoping somebody will go and get 10. He wants to get 20.”
For the wrong reason, Gustys might be just as spectacular as a free-throw shooter. He’s made only seven of 38 free throws this season (18.4 percent).
Led by Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year Juan’ya Green, Hofstra won 24 games last season. But Green and two other starters are gone, leaving the basketball program with its own renovation.
Of Green, Mihalich said, “The last six or seven minutes of every game, we just gave him the ball and just had him take care of business. The next guy to do that is still not completely clear.”
Freshman guard Eli Pemberton (15.3 ppg) is Hofstra’s leading scorer.
Senior Brian Bernardi is Hofstra’s shooting guard (37.9 percent accuracy from three-point range). Mihalich recalled an administrator telling him via email about Bernardi. “Hey, I was on the treadmill real late,” the administrator wrote, “and I saw your best shooter still in the gym.”
To which, the Hofstra coach replied, “That’s why he’s our best shooter.”
Pemberton has made half his 46 three-point shots. Point guard Deron Powers has made 13 of 37 (35.1 percent).
UK fans with especially good memories might remember Powers. “He’s the answer to a trivia question,” Mihalich said. “Who is the only guy on our team who was on the court against Kentucky before?”
Powers played for Hampton against Kentucky in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. He made one of nine shots in the game.
“Real tough kid,” Mihalich said. “Size works against him (Power is 6 feet tall). It’ll work against him Sunday as well.”
Power scored 1,080 points in three seasons for Hampton. As Hofstra’s point guard, he has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio (44-29) even though he had six turnovers against both Manhattan and Columbia.
“The straw that stirs the drink, as they say,” Mihalich said of Powers. “And that’s our guy right there.”
Hofstra, which lost to St. Bonaventure, Vermont, Manhattan and Sacred Heart, will be playing for the first time in a non-conference regular-season game televised by ESPN. Mihalich is under no illusions about the challenge presented by No. 6 Kentucky.
“Kentucky’s stats are overwhelming,” Mihalich said. “All of them. The stats tell the story. You’re going to look long and hard to find a weakness.”
When asked what Kentucky stat made the biggest impression, Mihalich paused before citing the numbers that always mean the most.
“Uh, 95-65 point differential (actually, it’s 94.2-68.3),” he said. “That certainly jumps out at you.”
No. 6 Kentucky vs. Hofstra
When: 3 p.m.
Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Records: UK 8-1; Hofstra 6-4
Series: First meeting
Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1