- The Washington Times - Friday, February 9, 2007

Loren Stokes still isn’t sure what happened.

The Hofstra guard knew play had stopped and all of a sudden he had been attacked. George Mason’s Tony Skinn sucker-punched him below the belt in the semifinals of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament last March, leaving Stokes in excruciating pain inside Richmond Coliseum.

“I don’t remember much,” said Stokes, who faces the Patriots for the first time since last season’s incident when the Pride visits George Mason in a game televised on ESPN. “After that, I had a bad stomachache for a while. I really don’t know what happened.”

Skinn was suspended for the first game of last year’s NCAA tournament because of the assault. The Patriots’ former point guard, who graduated last spring and currently is playing overseas, sent an e-mail to Stokes apologizing for the incident. The Pride star accepted Skinn’s apology and chalked it up to something “that just happened in the heat of the moment.”

This season Stokes has proved he is completely past the altercation. The 6-foot-3 senior was named the league’s preseason player of the year and, so far, has averaged 21.5 points a game — second in the CAA and 11th in the country through Thursday. The Buffalo native went over 2,000 points earlier this season and could end up as Hofstra’s all-time career scoring leader if he continues the pace.

“I always thought that in-between game is what makes him special. He doesn’t have to get to the rim to hurt you,” said Drexel coach Bruiser Flint, who watched Stokes score 29 points in the Pride’s overtime loss to the Dragons two days ago. “He has those great little floaters. He gets in the lane and makes shots. He’s pretty good in transition and because of his athleticism he can get at the rim.”

The game was Stokes’ ninth consecutive 20-point performance, moving him into fourth on the Pride’s all-time list — past current Atlanta Hawks guard Speedy Claxton. His 2,028 points also place him seventh all-time in the CAA. David Robinson is the league’s all-time leading scorer, amassing 2,669 points at Navy from 1983 to 1987.

Stokes has succeeded with extreme efficiency as well, shooting 48.5 percent from the field — sixth in the CAA. Inside the 3-point line, Stokes is hitting 51.3 percent of his shots.

“Sometimes the most highly touted players you bring in don’t turn out to be great players and the sleepers do,” Hofstra coach Tom Pecora said. “Loren was recruited by a couple of Atlantic 10 schools and ourselves, but not the big boys because of his physical appearance. Now, he has a special place here.”

Alongside junior teammate Atoine Agudio, Stokes anchors the highest-scoring backcourt in the country. Agudio averages 20.3 points a game.

But Stokes is more than a scorer. He also leads the Pride with his 6.0 rebounds and averages 3.0 assists. He is a main reason Hofstra (18-7, 11-3 CAA) is in a position to make the NCAA tournament after seeing its bubble burst last season. The Pride won 24 games in the regular season last year and beat eventual at-large team George Mason twice late in the season but ultimately were relegated to the NIT.

“We all thought we were going to get in,” said Stokes, who shook off the low blow and scored 26 in the CAA championship game, a 78-67 loss to UNC Wilmington. “It was disappointing.”

Stokes chose Hofstra largely because of Pecora’s up-tempo style. While he received scattered interest from schools in the Big East, Stokes knew he was not a primary recruit. Eventually, he decided on the Pride over Atlantic 10 programs Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure.

“Here, they were letting the guards run and make things happen,” said Stokes, the first player in Hofstra history to amass 1,500 points, 600 rebounds and 300 assists. “I could do what the team needs. It has been great. It’s a great accomplishment for me to be doing what I am.

“It lets me know I am a great player like the rest of those who played here and did great things.”

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