As the minutes crawled by Friday, Charles Jenkins and Greg Washington found themselves in the unusual position of knowing exactly where they wanted to be and entirely unsure of what awaited them once they arrived at the Hofstra Arena gym. The senior leaders of the Flying Dutchmen were finally, after the most bizarre offseason anyone could have imagined—east of Philadelphia or north of Wilmington, anyway—ready to hit the court, but they’d be rookies on their last first day of practice, just like everybody else, under new coach Mo Cassara.
Finally, Jenkins and Washington decided to just show up a few hours early for the 5 p.m. practice, figuring that once they were in their uniforms, everything else would take care of itself.
“Put my uniform on at 3 o’clock, left my room at 2 o’clock,” Jenkins said after practice. “I kept pacing. There’s only so much you can do when you’re anxious to get on the court. Sleep, go on the computer, watch TV. Time was going by slow so I decided to just come in and wait.”
“I was here at 3 o’clock, I walked in and Charles is already in there—he’s dressed and he’s ready to go,” Washington said.
And while this is not the senior season either Jenkins nor Washington imagined, the two players—who began bonding as redshirt freshmen in 2006-07 and have since grown to become best friends—were encouraged by their first practice under Cassara as well as by the roles they will be asked to fill under Cassara and his staff.
“It’s a lot more teaching than the last few years—we had a veteran team where we’d experienced what we went through our freshman year, so we had guys who had been here already and were used to the system,” Jenkins said. “This is a brand-new system, a brand-new coaching staff and new players. And me, being one of the leaders, I still don’t know all the plays myself. So it’s a learning experience for everybody.”
“I think every last one in here—from the head coach to the strength coach through the players—everybody’s anxious,” Washington said. “We’re anxious to get out here, to see this group we have, and today was a learning day. We’re ready to go and get ready for [the exhibition against] Molloy [Nov. 7].”
Washington said he and other veterans reminded the five newcomers to always ask the coaching staff if they were uncertain about something. It was advice the seniors took as well: Jenkins asked for clarification a few times but seemed to grow more comfortable as the practice went on.
“As much as Coach Mo wants to do his job as coach, he still wants to be there for us as players, so he will want to listen to us,” Washington said. “I told Charles the other night I like the fact that we, the veterans, are doing some of the coaching too. The coaches will give us freedom to say ‘Do you have anything to add?’ As a captain, I think that’s the great thing. You don’t see that kind of trust in the captains with a lot of the other teams.”
As odd as the uncertainty was Friday for Jenkins and Washington, it certainly beat the uncertainty of April and May, when the multiple defections absorbed by the program left them reeling and wondering if it was a good idea to spend their senior season at Hofstra. The familiarity of the basketball court was an enticing carrot dangling in front of them the last few months, and, on Friday, a reminder that last season was finally, officially in the rear-view mirror.
“It’s been on my mind since school started, because me and Greg, we always think if we do something that we did our freshman year, we’ll always say ‘Damn, this is our last time that we’re going to do this,’” Jenkins said. “So it’s kind of been on my mind all year.
“The thing is it’s about time that we start playing some basketball. A lot went on with all the coaching changes and transfers. It’s good to finally step on the court and not have to worry about any of that.”