All eyes were focused on Charlie Jenkins last year when he received the Haggerty Award, going to the outstanding player in the tri-state area. The area did not go as far north as UConn, which is a little too far away from the met area.
While 6-3 Jenkins put up the numbers from the guard position, there was a player who was sitting out red shirting. This player, a 6-5 swingman is capable of playing either guard or forward.
His name is Nathaniel Lester, a product of Canarsie High School and who grew up in the basket ball neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Nathaniel’s father Lambert Lester originally came from Guyana where he played soccer and baseball.
“We talk a little bit,” said Nathaniel, who lives on campus at Hofstra during the college year. “He told me to put the ball in the basket, (meaning scorer).”
Lester played a lot of basketball here (at Hofstra), in his first three years,” said Head Coach Mo Cassara. “He is a guy highly recruited out of high school. Some kids benefit from a coaching change (who) could be tough on the players; he’s one of these kids who benefitted from a coaching change, a year off, and a year to grow up and a year to get better.”
As a freshman, he played in all 30 games and averaged 6.3 points a contest but committed 53 turnovers. As a sophomore his averaged jumped a little to 6.6 and 4.3 rebounds in 32 games, and as a junior he progressed to 8.0 ppg and 4.8 rebounds in 34 games.
Last season, he suffered an injury over he summer, rested, and watched the team in action. He missed playing with Jenkins who eventually was drafted by the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association.
“Now we have more of a well rounded team,” Lester said. “My role is to be a leader and use my running ability to help the team.”
Lester has to adjust to two different styles of play, for two years ago Tom Pecora coached the squad. He now seems to be adjusting very well.
Lester and his teammates feel great to play at the Davis S. Mack complex that seats 5045 people. The fans come out and pack the stands. It’s a good environment. Of course, this is when a team or the Pride is winning.
Lester played at Canarsie High under head coach Tom Allen, who, along with the coaches, prepared him very well for the college game. As a freshman they told him that he would be a guard in college.
“They told me to work on my outside shooting, dribbling and ball handling,” he said.
He has done what he was told.
“He has to go from being an in-between front court player to being able to handle the ball, and make some shots from the perimeter,” said Cassara.
Lester is one of two red shirt players from last year on the team. The other is guard Stevie Mejia. They join returning starters Mike Moore, a senior guard, and David Imes, a junior forward. And there are five newcomers to the Pride.
“The new players are high energy ones,” Lester added. “They are hungry and can help us.”
“The veteran presence means a lot,” the second year coach said. “Once we start to blend together as a team…we’ll be pretty good. Now we’re building a program in the post Charlie Jenkins era. It’ll be more of a top to bottom effort.”
Lester follows the pro game and can’t wait until the lockout is over and the season starts.
During the off season, he lifted weights, and did strength and conditioning work to get in shape for the upcoming season. Ted Gustus, a coach, himself on the high school level, a number of years ago, also prepared him for the next level.
“He helped me in shooting and ball handling,” Lester said.