Anyone who watched Saint Joseph's basketball last year will tell you they were never a threat to light it up from the field. The Hawks were dead last in the Atlantic 10 in field-goal shooting percentage with 40% as a team. SJU also had six players who played significant minutes shoot less than 40% and four of those were under 38%. The team was not much better from 3-point range. They shot less than 30% from deep which ranked them twelfth in their conference. To make matters worse, SJU was also dead last in the conference in free-throw percentage.
It goes without saying that St. Joe's must improve their shooting. Incoming freshman guard Chris Clover should help if he's able to make a fairly smooth transition from high school. While billed as a shooter, Clover only shot 33% from 3-point range in his last two years. However, during the same time span, he made 48% of his shots from the field and 76% at the line. This helps to indicate his shooting stroke should be translatable to the next level and with some work, he could transform into a three-point threat.
Fellow freshman Lamarr Kimble also should provide hope for the St.Joe's faithful. He has been described as an "excellent passer and 3-point shooter" by The City of Basketball Love. Still, it is difficult to put pressure on two freshmen to contribute right away.
Papa Ndao, who missed last year for medical reasons, will also be back and he has shown an ability to hit consistently from three. As a junior, Ndao shot over 40% from deep, but he only shoots 35% for his career. His junior year may appear to be an outlier but even if that's true, Ndao immediately becomes one of the better long-range shooters on a team that lacks that skill.
While St. Joe's has reinforcements, it is difficult to rely on two unproven freshmen and a senior coming off a year-long medical issue to cure the team's shooting woes. In the end, some of the players who shot poorly last year such as Shavar Newkirk and James Demery must improve for SJU to challenge the top tier teams in the conference.
Photo courtesy of www.gettyimages.com
It is often said that the most crucial offseason for college basketball players is the one between freshman and sophomore years. If Saint Joseph's expects to improve and contend in 2015-16, point guard Shavar Newkirk and small forward James Demery will have to make major strides as sophomores. While Demery flashed signs of elite athleticism at times, he was largely inconsistent and only shot 37% from the field. His 56% free throw percentage was also disappointing for a small forward and may be a sign that his shot is fundamentally broken and in need of reconstruction. Defensively, Demery was much more consistent and showed a leaping ability that should lead him to become a solid rebounder and shot blocker even at 6'6". His 0.9 defensive win shares in 752 minutes (24 per game) provide hope that he can one day be a top all-around defender.
Shavar Newkirk had a largely forgettable freshman season that was "highlighted" by a 28% field goal percentage which included 19% from 3-point range. In addition, his player efficiency rating of 5.8 was second worst to teammate Evan Maschmeyer, which brings concern to the fans of St. Joe's. Newkirk's development is arguably more important than Demery's because St. Joe's loses starting point guard Chris Wilson to graduation and lacks depth at the position. Newkirk showed flashes of his ability to set up teammates as evidenced by his 2.3 assists (71 total) in 20 minutes per game as the backup point guard, which was third on the Hawks. However, he must improve his shot and decision-making if he is to be relied upon as the starting point guard. Added motivation to improve comes in the form of incoming freshman point guard LaMarr Kimble who ESPN rated as a 3-star prospect. Due to the lack of depth at the guard position it is crucial that Newkirk and/or Kimble prove they can run the offense efficiently and effectively.
Picture courtesy of SJUHawks.com
-LaMarr "Fresh" Kimble ruled out for the season with injury to his left foot.