Here is a trivia question that would win you a bar bet near Hofstra, presuming there are any bars left: Which senior member of the Flying Dutchmen basketball team has shot 69 percent from the field or better in each of the last two seasons?
If you said Rokas Gustys, well, we wouldn’t blame you. But the answer is Hunter Sabety, the backup to the once-in-a-generation big man who is producing some pretty impressive numbers and penning a pretty unique story himself.
As the second-stringer to Hofstra’s most prolific center of the Division I era, Sabety, who will be honored along with Gustys and Joel Angus III during Senior Day festivities prior to this afternoon’s game against Towson, doesn’t have enough attempts from the field to qualify for Hofstra’s single-season or all-time leader boards.
But among players who have averaged at least two field goal attempts per game in the Defiantly Dutch Era (1993-present), no one has ever shot as effectively as Sabety, who shot a program-best 69 percent (49-of-71) last season and is at 70.6 percent (48-of-68) entering today’s game.
“It’s fun, because our big guy (and) their big guy (are) playing 30, 35 minutes a game, they’re tired,” Sabety said this week. “I come in, they think they’re getting a break from Rok and I come in, I’m sprinting up and down the court and now he’s even more tired (and) they’ve got to sit out a little bit. So I think it[s fun. Get some dunks, get some blocks, get some fast break layups.”
Indeed, Sabety has been Hofstra’s “Microwave,” its big man version of Vinnie Johnson (Google it, kids). Sabety is averaging just nine minutes a game, fewer than any other scholarship player, but he’s averaging 3.5 points and 2.6 rebounds in the limited duty while collecting 22 blocks, second-most behind freshman Stafford Trueheart.
Sabety had perhaps the biggest rebound of the season Jan. 11, when he wrestled the ball away from Towson’s Justin Gorham to begin a sequence that ended with Jalen Ray’s game-winning buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
Last Saturday against Drexel, Sabety blocked a shot by Tramaine Isabell to begin a fast break that ended with Eli Pemberton drawing a foul and sinking one of two shots. After the whistle, Sabety wagged his right pointer finger, a la Dikembe Mutombo.
“His big plays are really loud,” Joe Mihalich said.
Without Gustys on the roster, the volume would be amplified on a more regular basis — as Sabety proved during Gustys’ four-game absence last Jan. 28 through Feb. 9, during which he averaged 10.0 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
“I just feel bad that Hunter plays the same position as Rok,” Mihalich said. “Timing’s everything. Any other time, any other situation, any other scenario, Hunter’s not coming off the floor.”
Sabety was on his way to becoming that guy at Division III Tufts, where he averaged 14.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game his first two seasons. But the Oceanside native decided to transfer to a Division I school and picked Hofstra after playing pick-up games with team members in the summer of 2015. He is the first player to transfer from a non-Division I four-year school since at least 1993.
“I loved everything about Tufts, it was great academically, athletically,” Sabety said of the Boston school, which accepts about 15 percent of high school applicants. “Now I want to challenge myself athletically, while I still can.”
Sabety fared pretty well on the academic side of things at Hofstra — he graduated in December 2016 with a 3.41 GPA and a degree in psychology and entered this semester with a 3.63 GPA while pursuing his master’s degree in finance — while indicating he may not be done searching for athletic challenges.
“Definitely going to test the waters, see if I can go play overseas,” Sabety said. “Think about pursuing a career athletically while my body can still hold up, try to fee it out, get that opportunity, get that experience.”
His head coach, for one, has little doubt Sabety would get more playing time as a pro than he did at Hofstra.
“He can do it, he can do it,” Mihalich said. “There’s no doubt he can have a nice career playing overseas and blocking shots and dunking and all that stuff.”