St. Joe's is returning from a 13-18 season and everything revolves around junior captain DeAndre Bembry. Finally receiving national recognition, Bembry was ranked the 22nd best player in all of college basketball recently by CBS Sports, in addition to other rankings. He is expected to be selected in next year's NBA draft so this is likely the last year Saint Joseph's will have to capitalize on having a superstar swingman. Bembry led the team with 38.6 minutes per game and that does not look to change as Phil Martelli has become well known for giving his stars loads of minutes. Martelli has worked for twenty years as a head coach in college basketball, all with Saint Joseph’s. With six tournament appearances and 375 career wins, coach Martelli is one of the most successful coaches in Philadelphia college basketball history.
vs. Drexel, November 13th, 2015
After a down year, the Hawks look to redeem themselves in the 2015-16 season. Beginning the year with a win, against a fellow City 6 team, would be a huge confidence booster. On the other hand, a loss against a less talented team would not be a good start. St. Joe’s needs to get ahead of steam before conference play and they need to capitalize off this opportunity at home.
vs. Villanova, December 1st, 2015
Saint Joseph’s has a chance to be a special team, but not if they can’t beat the best in the nation. Here is their chance: a nationally ranked powerhouse in their home gym. A win would be monumental. A loss wouldn't kill them, but it would be nice.
at Richmond, January 2nd, 2016
The team needs to start off conference play on the right note. A win on the road against a solid, middle of the pack Richmond team would be a good start.
Projected Starting Lineup and Stats
PG Shavar Newkirk (8 PPG, 3 APG)
SG Aaron Brown (9 PPG, 4.5 RPG)
SF DeAndre Bembry (15 PPG, 8 RPG)
PF Isaiah Miles (11 PPG, 5 RPG)
C Javon Baumann (4 PPG, 5 RPG)
6th: Papa Ndao (10 PPG, 5 RPG)
7th: James Demery (7 PPG, 4 RPG)
The point guard position is a case of not having any other natural point guards with experience on the roster. Newkirk is quick and has the trappings of a good passer (23% assist rate as a freshman) but his shooting (35% true shooting percentage) was amongst the worst in the NCAA. He must improve his shot or freshmen Kimble and Clover will happily take his spot. The West Virginia transfer, Aaron Brown, showed flashes of brilliance and athleticism after shaking off the rust during the 2014-15 season. He does everything well enough but no skill jumps out. He's the most intriguing player in the starting lineup for me. He’s a big, multi-dimensional guard who can handle pressure. Hopefully he can build off of a solid first year in Philly.
Bembry returns as the starting 3. He is the favorite to win A-10 Player of the Year on a middle-of-the-pack team. That's how good this guy plays. He will be their go-to guy and should look to follow up a fantastic sophomore campaign. Forward, Isaiah Miles is a player between positions. He's more suited for the small forward spot especially considering his affinity for three-pointers but he did an admirable job banging down low and was second on the team in rebounding with 5 per game. His outside shot is vital due to the dearth of shooting on this team. Baumann will be asked to anchor a fairly strong defensive team (115th in defensive rating nationally last year) down low. His 65% field-goal percentage should be taken advantage of more often this year if the shooters continue to struggle. He is a strong, bulky guy who can bang with the biggest of the A-10.
Papa Ndao and James Demery should be the first guys off the bench. Ndao returns after a year of injury, but is considered one of the best shooters on the team. As a long big man, he has no trouble shooting over defenders. He also can put the ball on the floor to work his way past defenders. He will be a good complement to Baumann and Jai Williams, who play more in the post. Demery brings athleticism to the table. If he can prove himself to be a strong defensive commodity and improve his shooting woes, he could see his minutes increase. Freshmen Lamarr "Fresh" Kimble, Chris Clover, and Pierfrancesco “Checco” Oliva could also see heavy minutes off the bench as the season progresses. Kimble will make an instant impact from game one, but Clover and Oliva may have more limited roles as the year begins.
While the three-point shooting looks dire, highly touted shooters Lamarr Kimble and Chris Clover, both of Philadelphia, headline the incoming freshmen. Due to the team's poor shooting, these young guards may be relied upon more heavily than the average freshmen on Martelli's bench. Ndao also returns after missing the year due to illness. In the 2013-14 season, Ndao shot 40% from deep in limited minutes and may be a vital sharpshooting sixth man that St. Joe's desperately lacked last season. Aaron Brown could help the team's cause by improving upon his 29% 3-point shot.
Down low, SJU has struggled since the departure of Ron Roberts and Halil Kanacevic two seasons ago. With the loss of Obi Romeo, Javon Baumann and Jai Williams will carry the bulk of the post presence for the Hawks. Baumann and Williams both posted respectable defensive ratings of 99.2 and 97.8, respectively, last year and their biggest contributions will continue to come on the defensive end. Williams, at 6'9", is the tallest Hawk who will receive extended minutes, while athletic tweener Markell Lodge (6'7", 210) will be expected to shoulder some of the rebounding load after redshirting his freshman season. Still, "do-it-all" DeAndre Bembry led the team with an 11.5% total rebounding percentage last year and looks to grab boards at a higher rate than most wings.
Expect the Hawks to also have a deep team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see many different combinations of players throughout contests. They can go as far as 12-13 deep. If coach Martelli can use that to his advantage, and keep opposing teams on their heels, St. Joe’s could be a sleeper to win the A-10. Rhode Island and George Washington, two teams who were in the NIT last season, return strong. The Rams bring in a plethora of new players and potential superstar in E.C. Mathews. George Washington, on the other hand, welcomes back loads of experience. Dayton should be strong as well. And finally, it is common understanding to never, ever count out VCU or Davidson. It won’t be easy to win the conference by any means, but the Hawks definitely have the talent to do so.
Last year, SJU shot a putrid 40% from the field as a team and that must improve if they expect to compete in a deep Atlantic 10. Rising sophomores Shavar Newkirk (28%) and James Demery (37%) will be expected to improve their shooting significantly. Only three players, Isaiah Miles (35%), Bembry (33%), and Chris Wilson (30%) shot 30% or higher from three and Wilson graduated.
Coaches and Player Comments
Coach Phil Martelli
“The team is very hard working and very willing to be coached. They have a tremendous spirit about them. They make you want to come and practice with them each and every day.”
“We would like to emulate Temple football.”
“There is no kid that you would want to root for more than [James Demery].”
“Their communication with each is very strong. You can't walk by the locker room without hearing laughter or conversation going on.”
“[Demery] is shooting it and thinking its going in. Last year he shot it and thought it wasn’t going in.”
“First and only goal is to get more wins. That’s the only thing on my mind and radar right now: get more wins.”
“I don’t feel like [my role] will change too much from last year. We have a couple older guys, but I feel like I have to lead some of the older guys as well. A lot of older guys still look up to me, even though they might be two or three years older than me.”
“[James Demery] is a little bit more patient. Last year he played a lot faster, like you would think a freshman would be… His jump shot looks a lot better. Him and [Shavar Newkirk] have really been working here all summer with me.”
“I feel like playing any position. You throw me out there at the five, I’ll be good.”
“Assistant coach [David] Duda is really good at improving jump shots. Shavar [Newkirk], James [Demery ], and I, all three of us have been working together all summer. We got repetition -- a lot of shots.”
Pierfrancesco “Checco” Oliva
“I feel like I am a good passer for a big man. You know, I’m the high low...I am a little faster [than the other big men], I can put the ball on the floor a little more.”
“I got to work on my shot to spread off the floor a little more.”
“I am trying to take the ball up on a fast break if I can.”
“Well, I’m a hardworker, I would consider myself a good rebounder and a guy that keeps everybody positive by communicating.”
“My freshman year from surgery I gained a lot of weight, I was like 300 pounds, so that year off gave me time to get into shape, get my mind right and my ankle right. That off year definitely helped me out a lot.”
“Since I’m a big guy, I kind of move slow off of angles, so me and my strength coaches worked a lot on my footwork and getting quicker.”
-Benjamin Simon & Chase Harrison
Photo: Benjamin Simon/The Empire
-Saint Joesph's loses to #25 Rhode Island in the Semifinal of the A-10 tournament