Sept. 2, 2010
The Saint Joseph's men's basketball team has returned to campus for the start of the academic year and has begun individual workouts and conditioning for the upcoming season. The Hawks return six players and welcome six newcomers into the fold.
The Saint Joseph's men's basketball team will take to the court in 2010-11 with a new look and a youthful roster, which should provide plenty of excitement for Hawk fans. With the departure of a few reserve players, as well as starters Darrin Govens and Garrett Williamson to graduation, head coach Phil Martelli will retool with six returning players and a recruiting class that is one of the Hawks' most anticipated in recent years.
The Hawks had a down year in 2009-10, especially by the standards that Martelli has established for the program. But the coach has turned last year's results into motivation for the upcoming year and the returning Hawks have embraced the task, showing intensity and enthusiasm in the off-season workouts. And although three starters return - Idris Hilliard, Todd O'Brien and Justin Crosgile - Martelli expects strong competition amongst all six returning players and the newcomers.
"One of our strengths for this season is that we have been humbled. Another strength is that we have healthy competition at every position. We've also got an infusion of talent which is definitely a plus," said the coach, now in his 16th season. "But that talent will be inexperienced so we have to prevent that from becoming a weakness. And from a basketball point of view, and this is unusual for me to say this, we need dramatically improved guard play."
Leading the Hawks' returnees are frontcourt players Hilliard and O'Brien. Hilliard is SJU's top returning scorer with a 10.2 average and will be looked upon to provide leadership to the young group. "Idris, like all of them, needs to be a better player. That's not knocking him. But I know it gnaws away at him that we haven't made the post-season. My responsibility is to show him how to express that to his teammates in the proper way," Martelli said.
O'Brien, a 6-11 junior, was last year's leading rebounder with 6.3 boards per game in his first season with the Hawks and will be needed to increase those numbers. "Todd has a tremendous work ethic and an intense desire to please. He is a wonderful teammate. We need his physical presence on the backboard and in the lane defensively," stated Martelli.
Sophomore Carl Baptiste (2.1 ppg) saw action in 30 games and will challenge for time in the frontcourt. "Carl has the skill to be a multi-dimensional forward in the Atlantic 10. He had flashes as a freshman. The challenge is to slow him down so his abilities can shine. I'm expecting a huge jump from Carl this year," said Martelli.
Sophomore guards Crosgile and Carl Jones should be key players with a year of extensive playing time under their belts. Crosgile got a late start to the season because of pre-season hand surgery but made his debut in the sixth game. He worked his way into the starting lineup by the beginning of A-10 play and started the final 19 games at point guard, averaging 6.7 points.
"Justin clearly demonstrated the importance of the off-season. He didn't have a productive pre-season and then got hurt. So to me, this Fall is really like first off-season to improve. Looking ahead, I am intrigued by how he is going to use those minutes and that experience that he gained last year," said Martelli.
The flashier Jones was the team's fourth leading scorer with his 9.6 average and exhibited a knack for scoring from long-range. "Carl is another guy who came in thinking that college basketball is easy but after a dramatic impact in the first three games, he got knocked down in the next few. I've clearly seen a more humbled guy in the off-season workouts and being humbled is not a bad thing," said the coach. "In my mind, he and Justin have the most room to grow and I put my greatest expectations on both of them to do that."
Senior Charoy Bentley (2.3 ppg) will add depth and experience to the backcourt in his final season. "I always count on the seniors, and Charoy and Idris are going to have to come outside of themselves this year. They have a good example from a few years ago when Rob Ferguson did that and led his team to the (2008) NCAA Tournament. Charoy and Idris are going to have to become leaders in order for this to work," said the coach.
Saint Joseph's recruiting class was ranked 25th in the nation by MaxPreps. The talented newcomers include the Pennsylvania Player of the Year, Ronald Roberts (6-7, F) and Daryus Quarles (6-6, G/F) round out the athletic group of freshmen who are all expected to contribute immediately.
"We are upgrading our roster in terms of athletic ability, and that's all well and good, but people can't put too much on them. Aside from their athletic ability, the thing that jumps out to me about this class is that three of them (Aiken, Galloway, Swilling) won state championships, one played for a state title (Roberts) and the fifth (Quarles) would've won one had he been able to play last year for his high school," said Martelli.
"I am much more interested in the fact that their teams achieved success than their individual accolades. And now the goal is to get each of these individuals going in a positive direction immediately so that when they take the floor they're never using their college inexperience as any kind of excuse."
Aiken averaged 17 points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots for state champion Plymouth-Whitemarsh while earning All-State honors. Martelli said, "C.J. has basketball gifts that are extraordinary. He's a wonderful passer, he's a comfortable long-range shooter, and has unreal timing to block shots. C.J. plays almost without emotion - he doesn't have any highs and doesn't have any lows. Since he's going to be playing against men he's got to embrace the weight room and put on the right kind of weight. That will be a test for our strength and conditioning staff, and it's a test they must ace."
Galloway scored over 26 points for Christian Life Academy (La.) while earning District Player of the Year honors for the second time. A 6-3 guard, he was an All-State selection. " Langston is a basketball player who does a lot of things well. He's athletic and long and is a guy who I fully anticipate competing for rotation minutes," said the coach.
Swilling, also a football standout at Brother Martin High School, is a fellow Louisiana product and AAU teammate of Galloway's. The son of College Football Hall of Famer Pat Swilling, he averaged 18 points and helped his squad to the state title, while earning MVP honors of the championship. "Patrick does a little bit of everything on the court. I think the biggest characteristic that he brings as a basketball player is that he is a vision passer. He sees the play, makes the play and plays the game easily."
Quarles, from Paulsboro High School (N.J.) didn't play his senior season because of transfer rules, but had a stellar junior year at Life Center Academy. He averaged 15 points, seven rebounds and four blocks while receiving All-South Jersey second team honors. "Darius is long and lanky and is a sponge in terms of taking in information. He has an air of desperation about chasing greatness, one which is very comparable to what I saw in Delonte West. I don't really have a concern about him not playing in high school last year because he still played basketball and I think the acclimation to college will be quick for him," said Martelli.
Roberts was a late addition to the class but comes with just as many accolades. He averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds for St. Peter's Prep, which was ranked sixth in New Jersey, and also garnered All-State honors. Martelli stated, "Ron is another unique individual who has lots and lots of basketball skills. He will need to develop a forceful demeanor because he is such a good person. We're looking forward to working with him because there is so much to work with."
Also new to the program is transfer Halil Kanecevic, a 2010 CAA All-Rookie selection at Hofstra. The sophomore will have three years of eligibility beginning in 2011-12. The 6-8 forward posted 8.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game with the Pride, while recording double figures 12 times.
The athleticism of this group of first-year players has been noted by Martelli and he feels they will soon became favorites of the SJU faithful. "They will make athletic plays that will bring people out of their seats," he said.
The Hawks' youthful squad will take on a schedule that Martelli called "calm", without the high-level tournament that the Hawks had participated in the past two years (EA Sports Maui Invitational and Paradise Jam). The schedule is solid with Minnesota, Penn State, Siena, Villanova and Drexel, as well as the always-tough Atlantic 10 slate. Saint Joseph's will be the local team in the Philly Hoops Classic, where it will face Norfolk State at home, Fairfield on the road and Rutgers at The Palestra.
The challenge lies ahead for Saint Joseph's in 2010-11 , but Martelli is determined to bring the Hawks back to the level that is most associated with SJU basketball. "The goal here is to not recreate, but to re-establish who we are and where we stand in this city and this league," said the coach. "We cannot and will not be an afterthought."