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
-Saint Joesph's loses to #25 Rhode Island in the Semifinal of the A-10 tournament