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St. Joseph’s Looks to Exceed Average Preseason Poll Expectations

St Joseph's v VCU


The Hawks of St. Joseph’s University return four of five starters this season. They have the generally accepted best player in the Atlantic-10 in junior forward DeAndre Bembry, and have a nice supporting cast that should improve on its 13-18 season a year ago. Head coach Phil Martelli is pretty much ho-hum when it comes to rule changes this year, pre-season polls, and the state of the game.

A lot of talk revolves around Bembry, who averaged 17.7 points last year. But Martelli sees a player who needs to go beyond that if the Hawks are to go to the NCAA’s.

“I would be more delighted if he was Defensive Player of the Year in the league than Player of the Year. Embry is going to start, outside of that let’s see what happens,” Martelli joked.

The support columns come from Isiah Miles, a senior forward who finished second in team scoring at 10.7 a game. “He is a perfect example. He averaged ten points a game last year and is a leading three point shooter,” Martelli pointed out. “For him to step forward I would rather not see 12, 4, 6, 10, 4, but more like 14, 14, 14 every night.”

It’s the younger players, a sophomore and a freshmen that have the understanding to give St. Joseph’s the depth to win in a very balanced league. “Shavelle (Newkirk) and “Fresh” (Lamarr) Kimble are both playing well, doing good things, running their teams. They both will be in the rotation,” Martelli confirmed.

Kimble is one those freshmen that has impressed Martelli with his smart play and winning history. “He’s got a winner’s heart and a point guards mind,” Martelli gushed. “He has a high basketball IQ. He doesn’t think or play like an 18 year old. He just has to tighten his body, improve his shooting touch, and in terms of being a proverbial coach on the floor, he’s one of those.”

The rule changes have gotten a lot of feedback from coaches in the Atlantic-10, especially the new 24 second shot clock. Martelli has his opinions. “Anything that will help the game to be engaging to the eye, I’m all in,” Martelli explained. “We don’t agree with the shot clock only because it’s not our game. I like chocolate ice cream and Archie likes vanilla, to each it’s own.”

As far as those who cite that experience will improve St. Joe’s alone, Phil laughs at the notion.

“We lost 18 times, so we’re experienced losers and that’s not good enough,” Martelli scoffed. “This is a really deep league. The bottom keeps moving up. The middle gets deeper, and that has to put some stress on the top.”

Martelli already joked about coaches who pick winners only to see Davidson, picked twelfth last year, win the league. Martelli has his ideas about what it takes.

“The way to get to the NCAA Tournament is to be really one of the best teams, forget league, forget location,” Phil explained. “It’s a big jump to go from an NIT team to an NCAA team. You don’t get there through someone’s prediction in October in some magazine written in August.”

The state of the Atlantic-10, now celebrating its 40th anniversary, will be predicated on making a product that appeals to the everyday fan. “I am not a college football fan, but they were cool when games were 17-15, but when they started scoring 50, 60 points, they got juice. We got to get more juice in our game,” Martelli exclaimed.

The Atlantic-10 defensive wars, in which lower scoring games is a concern on the bottom line are being addressed. But will the rule changes matter? Martelli feels close defense and more traveling calls should be watched closer. But in the end its the fan that switches channels from one to the other that must be pacified.

“At the end of the day, people who love sports will stop and watch that game thats pleasing to the eye.”


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