There are many questions entering Phil Martelli’s 22nd year on Hawk Hill. Many people are skeptical on how the Hawks will replace first round NBA draft pick DeAndre’ Bembry and prolific scorer Isaiah Miles. It will be intriguing to see how the hawks fare after losing two of the best players to ever come through the program.
The 2015-16 season was a dreamy one for the Saint Joseph’s Hawks. Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year, and NBA first round draft pick, DeAndre’ Bembry led the Hawks to a 28 win season, an Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Championship, and a win over Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament. The Hawks finished with a record of 28 wins and 8 losses (13-5 conference). This was one of the best seasons of the 21 year Phil Martelli era; the best obviously being the 2003-04 season when they finished with a record of 30 wins and 2 losses and made it to the Elite Eight behind future NBA star Jameer Nelson. St. Joe’s had key wins over Big 5 rivals Temple and Drexel, ACC program Virginia Tech, VCU in the A-10 Championship, and Cincinnati in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Virginia Tech is not a power program in the ACC, but any win over any ACC team is good for any mid-major conference team. After a promising regular season, the A-10 champs lost in the Round of 32 to a very good Oregon team. It will be tough for the the 2016-17 squad to follow up those big wins.
The Hawks lost three key players from the previous squad: DeAndre’ Bembry (NBA Draft), Isaiah Miles (Graduation), and Aaron Brown (Graduation). All three averaged well over 10 points per game and combined to average over half of the team’s points per game. DeAndre’ Bembry and Isaiah Miles combined to form one of the best frontcourts in the A-10 and in the country. Both shot right around 50% from the field and they each averaged 8 rebounds per contest. The list of credentials for each player goes on and on. What I am trying to say is that, those three players, especially Bembry and Miles, are irreplaceable. No player can step right in and pick up exactly where they left off. The squad will need to find ways to produce at least some of what those players brought to the court, this season.
To cope with the losses of the aforementioned players, the Hawks will need big contributions from players that have remained somewhat in the background these past few years, and they will need fresh faces to step up as well. Most of the key returnees for St. Joe’s are guards so the squad will have to rely on their guard play this season. This is a change from the past few seasons when Bembry and Miles were the main focus of the team. Three returnees that will make big contributions are Sophomore guard Lamarr Kimble, Junior guard Shavar Newkirk, and Junior forward James Demery. Kimble averaged 6 points per game and shot 41% from the field during his freshman campaign. Along with these admirable numbers, he was named the Atlantic 10 Conference Freshman of the Year. His numbers will increase along with his role on the team. As a sophomore, point guard Shavar Newkirk averaged 8 points per contest and shot 38% from the field. Both admirable numbers for a player that was seen as a nice compliment to the dominant frontcourt that Saint Joseph’s displayed. Newkirk’s first two years on the squad were relatively easy. He did not have to shoulder that much of a load, and there was no real pressure on him as an individual to perform. These next two years on Hawk Hill will be much different. Just like Kimble, Newkirk’s numbers will increase and his role will be expanded. Look for him to be the quarterback of this offense. He is the next NBA prospect to come out of St. Joe’s. Aspects of his game are similar to that of Kyrie Irving. He has quick feet, great handles, and deceptive speed. When he is let loose he is must see TV. Coach Martelli will not completely let him loose, but regardless, he will have a solid year. These past few years he has been in the shadow of Bembry and Miles but not anymore. Look for this year will be his coming out party. The third and final notable returnees is James Demery. He is a walking highlight reel. He has a combination of a great vertical and power that is rare among mid-major conference players. He was a solid role player his freshman year, and he was able to improve on that during his sophomore campaign. Demery averaged just over 8 points per game and shot 50% from the floor. Just like Newkirk, Demery has been in the shadow of Bembry and Miles these past few years, but that is no longer the case. He will become an x-factor for Saint Joseph’s as the season progresses. A player like him is very tough to guard because he has the capability to hurt you in so many ways. As you might be expecting; his numbers will go up this season. Last season he played around 20 minutes per game. Expect that to go up close to around the 32-33 minute mark. These three players will make a fabulous trio for St. Joe’s this season. The A-10 will have its hands full trying to stop these three beasts. Also, expect Javon Baumann to step up for the Hawks. With the loss of Bembry and Miles, the Hawks will need him to play a big role in the post.
Graduate student Javon Baumann, senior Brendan Casper, and sophomore Lamarr Kimble were voted on by their teammates to be team captains for the 2016-17 season. I believe that Lamarr Kimble will emerge as the leader for this team. It is very unlikely for an underclassmen to be voted to the position of team captain. His teammates obviously think very highly of him.
Pierfrancesco Oliva has been sidelined for season with knee injury. He will be a real loss for the Hawks at the small forward position given his height and his scoring ability. He was a consistent force on the 3-point line and had the ability to drive to the hoop. Javon Baumann and James Demery will be key contributors in his replacement.
St. Joe’s will have a record of 8 wins and 10 losses in conference play this year. Their toughest opponent will be the defending national champion Villanova Wildcats. This year will be a rebuilding year for Coach Phil Martelli. If St. Joe’s can be in the middle of the pack in the Atlantic-10 then the season will be a success. It is never too early to look ahead to the 2017-18 season. Saint Joseph’s has two verbal commits from the 2017 class in Taylor Funk and Anthony Longpre. Both are 6’9” forwards/centers that can stroke it from deep, play in the post, and drive to the basket. This season will be a building block for the 2017-18 season where the Hawks will return to prominence in the A-10. There is a lot of potential on Hawk Hill.