Saint Joseph’s is on the heels of a magical season. Predicted to finish seventh in the Atlantic 10 in the preseason poll, the Hawks far outperformed their expectations this past year. After finishing the season fourth in the conference standings, the Hawks went on to win the Atlantic 10 championship and advance into the second round of the NCAA tournament.
This year, the Hawks are looking for the same kind of underdog story since it’s been announced that they’ve been voted to finish ninth in the preseason poll. Although without DeAndre’ Bembry, Isaiah Miles, Aaron Brown and Papa Ndao, it’s been a concern as to how the Hawks plan to replace so much production. However they plan to do it, so they’ll have to do it without Pierfrancesco Oliva. It was announced a few weeks ago that Oliva would be sidelined for the entire season with a knee injury. The freshman started 30 games last season and was expected to be a starter again this year, but now the lineup will be shaken up a bit.
St. Joe’s also named tri-captains for this season: Javon Baumann, Brendan Casper and Lamarr Kimble. Like every year, the captains were decided by a player vote and are a strong representation of the team.
Aaron Brown (G, Sr.), Isaiah Miles (F, Sr.), Skylar Scrivano (F, Sr.) DeAndre’ Bembry (F, Jr.), Papa Ndao (F, Gr.)
St. Joe’s lost Miles, Brown, Scrivano and Ndao, who are all out of eligibility, and Bembry, who was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks last summer. Miles, Bembry and Brown were the team’s three leading scorers last season, combining for close to 46 points per game. The four of them also combined for 117.9 minutes per game last year. It’s a hefty load that St. Joe’s is losing this offseason. Bembry, who averaged 17.4 points per game, 7.8 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game, was the MVP of the A-10, while Miles, who led the Hawks in scoring, won the A-10’s Most Improved Player and made second team All-Conference. Now playing in Iceland, Brown thrived in the Hawks’ starting lineup, averaging 10 points per game and shooting 45% from the field.
Charlie Brown (F, Fr.), Nick Robinson (G, Fr.), Gerald Blount (F, Fr.), Toliver Freeman (G, Fr.), Lorenzo Edwards (F, Fr.)
St. Joe’s will welcome five new freshmen to the team this season, including a walk-on, Toliver Freeman. Brown, the Hawks’ top recruit, is rated three stars on ESPN.com. Originally from Philadelphia, he played a fifth high school season at St. Thomas More in Connecticut in order to better prepare for the college level. The forward is a deadeye shooter with a silky jump shot. Robinson, Blount, and Edwards, all versatile players with athleticism, will round out the squad of newcomers that will inevitably play a significant role on this year’s squad due to a lack of upperclassman depth.
Projected Starting Lineup
G: Lamarr Kimble (Proj. Stats: 12 PPG, 6.5 APG)
Returning as the reigning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, Kimble will be playing the role as a captain in his sophomore campaign. After averaging less than twenty minutes a game last year, he can be confident in the fact he’ll see a drastic increase in playing time. The Philadelphia native should be on the early watch list for the All-Conference team and will almost certainly earn his first career start in the season opener.
G: Shavar Newkirk (Proj. Stats: 9.5 PPG, 5.5 APG)
Newkirk’s improvement from his freshman year to his sophomore year was impressive. He learned to play more under control and more intelligently. In the process, Newkirk evolved into one of the conference’s top point guards. After starting all 36 games for the Hawks last season, it would come as a shock if he wasn’t named a starter for the upcoming season. It’ll be interesting, though, to see how Coach Martelli decides to handle the playing times of Newkirk and Kimble.
F: James Demery (Proj Stats: 15 PPG, 6 RPG)
The number one flaw in Demery’s game has been his shooting ability, but after some work with the assistant coaches last year, fans saw some minor but noticeable improvements. His game progressed in various other areas as well and if the progressions continued as expected through this past offseason, then Demery may be ready to take over as one of the premier players in the conference. His ability to finish at the rim has already shown glimpses of his potential elite status. However, it is not a secret that his defense is what really stands out. When walk-on Toliver Freeman was asked who is the best defender on the team, he didn’t hesitate, calling Demery the team’s toughest defender to get by. His ability on the defensive end will be an unbelievably valuable asset for the Hawks this season. The loss of DeAndre’ Bembry leaves fans wondering who will assume the role of shut-down on-ball defender and Demery is ready to do just that.
F: Charlie Brown (Proj. Stats: 13 PPG, 5 RPG)
Charlie Brown could become just the fourth freshman to start the season opener for Martelli (Galloway, Bembry, Oliva). Standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing in at just 185 pounds, he is a bit of an undersized power forward, so the Hawks will have to make adjustments to their game style. Much of the talent for St. Joe’s is among the guards this year, so it’s not unlikely Martelli decides to run smaller lineups more often than not. Expect the Hawks to run and play an up-tempo style offense, which would fit Brown’s skillset perfectly.
F: Javon Baumann (Proj. Stats: 4.5 PPG, 9 RPG)
There’s not much size on this St. Joe’s squad, but Baumann will provide a presence on the interior and on the boards. The biggest question mark surrounding Baumann is his physical status and whether or not he’ll be in shape enough to keep up with the guard-dominated roster. There won’t be much pressure placed on him to score, but he’ll be assigned to play strong interior defense and rebound at a high rate in order to compensate for the otherwise undersized lineup.
Gerald Blount (F, Fr.), Brandon Casper (F, Sr.), Chris Clover (G, Soph.), Lorenzo Edwards (F, Fr.), Toliver Freeman (G, Fr.), Markell Lodge (F, So.), Nick Robinson (G, Fr.), Jai Williams (F, Jr.),
With a lack of size on the roster, Williams will play a crucial role off the bench, often replacing and perhaps sometimes teaming up with Baumann in the post. His 6-foot-9, 240 pound frame will take up space on the defensive interior and will help him bang down low on the offensive end of the court. He’ll also play a key role in keeping Baumann out of foul trouble.
Outside of those two, there is a real lack of size on the team. If the Hawks do play up-tempo, an athletic freak like Lodge could be useful and fit smoothly into the game plan. He hasn’t played much thus far in his collegiate career. However, on a team without any pre-declared superstars, this year could be an opportunity for Lodge to showcase his abilities.
Both Newkirk and Kimble stand at 6-foot-0, so Robinson could be useful as a 6-foot-6 point guard against bigger opponents. Since the Hawks will be lacking big men in the post, perhaps they could counterbalance that in the backcourt. A taller point guard would, at the very least, help with the rebound battles against opponents.
at Villanova (December 3, 2016)
After Philadelphia has been painted with giant blue and white V’s, there has never been a larger target on the Wildcats’ back for the Hawks. It doesn’t sit well when your city is parading around in your rivals’ colors and championship gear. This year’s Holy War will be intense.
vs. St. Bonaventure (February 22, 2017)
The Bonnies were the only team to beat the Hawks twice last season. St. Joe’s hasn’t beaten St. Bonaventure since they faced off in the 2014 Atlantic 10 semifinals. After losing five consecutive games to this team, St. Joe’s will host St. Bonaventure in late February in the first match of their two-game season series.
at Dayton (February 7, 2017)
St. Joe’s has just one game against Dayton, who is ranked number one in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll, this year. After a thrilling 82-79 win over the Flyers in the semifinals of last season’s A-10 tournament, the Hawks will travel to Dayton to play the conference favorites.
The Hawks have lost a load of production, but seemed to have done a decent job compensating with their incoming freshman class headlined by Charlie Brown. They will play a schedule that is maybe moderately strong, but certainly not too difficult. Their non-conference schedule isn’t much to brag about unless they can pull off an upset victory at Villanova. Otherwise, expect St. Joe’s to get off to a hot start prior to their Atlantic 10 season. Following that, they should be capable of managing to earn a decent enough conference record to finish with twenty wins.
“First of all, [the freshmen] fit. They’re good teammates on a group that that’s a priority with all of these guys - to be a good teammate and develop into a great teammate. We have a lot of opportunities here and so far they’ve measured up. They’ve measured up in the classroom, they’ve measured up socially and they’ve measured up on the court. Now we’ll see. Now, it’s no long about an individual, it’s about us. How do they fit in our plan and our work to make sure that we have a chance to beat Toledo. That’s the whole thing. That’s the only thing that matters here. It’s not about what people thought about them or didn’t think about them. It’s whether or not they can help us beat Toledo. And then at that point, they’re not freshmen. They’re basketball players.”
-Head Coach Phil Martelli
“We knew going into last year that we had a superstar. We watched a guy develop in front of our eyes. We had older guys. Papa Ndao was a sixth year player. Aaron Brown was a fifth year player. We don’t have that, so we have inexperience. We have a lot of competition and we have a lot of opportunity, so my thing to them is seize it. Seize the opportunity. I’m not giving anything to anybody, but they’re going to be able to seize what they all want, which is to play and to win. It’s about winning. Winning beats the alternative.”
-Head Coach Phil Martelli
“The goal is to end up in the same spot and further. It’s like that every year and so far we’re trying to get back and win another A-10 championship. The goal is never to lose or say that it’s a rebuilding year. We’re coming to win.”
"We're obviously disappointed for Checco, but he has the best in terms of medical care and rehab. His teammates and coaches will keep their arms wrapped around him as he goes through the day-to-day grind of not just getting back, but getting better. I anticipate that as we go on we’ll see a much better Checco."
-Phil Martelli via Philly.com
Photo: Sideline Photos, LLC
-Saint Joesph's loses to #25 Rhode Island in the Semifinal of the A-10 tournament