March 4, 2005
By Brian W. Ferrie '98
There was no way to see this coming. Despite losing National Player of the Year Jameer Nelson, 1st-team All-Atlantic 10 selection Delonte West and 1st-team All Conference defensive team member Tyrone Barley from last year's team, the 2004-05 Saint Joseph's Hawks have clinched the Atlantic 10 East Division and the number-one overall seed in the A-10 Tournament thanks to a 13-2 conference record, with only today's home contest against Fordham remaining on the regular season slate.
There are certainly a number of reasons for this stunning accomplishment, including Dwayne Jones' defense and rebounding, Dwayne Lee's floor leadership, Chet Stachitas' all-around play and Phil Martelli's coaching. But one reason stands out above all others - senior sharpshooter Pat Carroll demonstrating to Hawk fans and the nation just how great he really is.
A terrific role player the last two seasons who specialized in knocking down open 3-pointers created by penetration from Nelson and West, the 6-5 forward has taken his game to another level this season, emerging as a sure-fire 1st-team All-Conference selection and frontrunner for A-10 Player of the Year. And all this despite missing a large chunk of preseason practice time and the first game of the season due to a dislocated shoulder.
"If I do get 1st team All-Conference or Conference Player of the Year, it would be a great honor," he said. "And I would definitely have to accept it on behalf of my teammates and coaches, because they are the reason for how I've played this season."
The numbers speak for themselves. Overall this season, Carroll is 3rd among conference players with 17.2 points per game, 4th in field goal percentage (43.9%) , 1st in 3-point accuracy (45.4%) and 1st in 3-pointers per game (3.72).
But impressive as those numbers are, they also reflect Carroll's early-season struggles when he was trying to mentally and physically get back on his game after sustaining the shoulder injury.
His statistics for the Atlantic 10 season, by which time the sweet-stroking lefty had found his rhythm, are truly mind-boggling. In 15 conference games, Carroll leads the A-10 in scoring (19.5 ppg), 3-point percentage (a sizzling 52.0%) and 3-pointers per game (4.4).
Along the way, he has quieted some critics, exceeded the expectations of supporters and in all honesty, even surprised himself a little.
"I guess I am a little surprised [by the numbers I've put up this season]," he said. "But the thing is, I really didn't know what to expect. I think that was also part of the reason for the team's slow start. [After losing Nelson, Barley and West], everyone was trying to find their role."
Certainly, there was concern on Hawk Hill when the team began the season 3-6 prior to the start of conference play against Fordham. But SJU's13-4 record since then has resulted in a 16-10 overall record and a season more successful than all but the most die-hard optimists could have expected.
For Carroll, being the headliner is certainly a new experience, even within his own house. Originally from Wexford, PA, about 10 miles north of Pittsburgh, Pat moved to the Philadelphia suburbs with his family prior to entering 7th grade. He later starred at Hatboro-Horsham High School, two years behind his older brother Matt, who gained recognition as one of the top high school sophomore basketball players in the country before Pat even arrived at the school. Matt was the two-time Pennsylvania state Player of the Year before achieving college stardom at the University of Notre Dame and then reaching the NBA, now with the Charlotte Bobcats.
Carroll played sparingly his first season on Hawk Hill (2001-02), when the team was dominated by fifth-year seniors Marvin O'Connor, Bill Phillips, Na'im Crenshaw and Damian Reid.
After playing sparingly his first season on Hawk Hill because of a senior-dominatedteam, Carroll exploded on the scene his sophomore year. Aside from earning a spot in the starting lineup, he demonstrated the signature skill that would mark his stellar career at SJU- stroking the three-pointer. For the season, he hit 76 out of 169 shots from the arc, leading the A-10 at 45 percent, and helping the Hawks to a 26-7 record and NCAA Tournament berth.
Last year, Carroll picked up right where he left off, starting all 32 games, averaging 10.1 points and shooting 46.2 percent overall from the field for the team which made SJU history with the udefeated regular season, Elite Eight berth and 30-2 record.
Then came this surprising season.
"I'm so happy with how this year has turned out," he said. "We struggled at first and had a lot of people doubting us, but we have totally turned it around."
That turnaround was punctuated by the team's resounding road victory Tuesday over George Washington, which had an 18-6 record and was widely considered to be the best team in the conference. Carroll was clutch in the victory, contributing 21 points and five 3-pointers.
"That was a huge win for us," Carroll said. "Especially to beat them on their homecourt. It will give us confidence going into the A-10 Tournament that we are the best team in the conference."
And winning that A-10 Tournament is the final goal of Carroll's prestigious career at Saint Joseph's, which has included becoming the school's all-time leader in 3-pointers made (252).
"Winning the conference tournament is one thing that nobody on this team has accomplished," he related. "And I would love for [fellow senior] John Bryant and I to end our careers with that A-10 ring."
The automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament that comes with winning the conference tourney is also an incentive, particularly because of the broken arm Bryant suffered as a result of a flagrant foul in the Temple game Feb. 22. The injury will require three to four weeks to heal and has jeopardized Bryant's ability to play in any more games before his career ends.
"John is one of my closest friends on the team," Carroll commented. "It would mean so much to me if we could make the NCAA Tournament again, and John could have the chance to suit up one more time there and play even just a few minutes."
As for Carroll, he has no specific individual goals the remainder of the season - it is all about the team.
"There are no personal goals for me as far as scoring or anything like that," he said. "All I want to do is win the A-10, get back to the NCAA Tournament, and lead my team as well as I can."
As for his post-college days, Carroll is strongly considering playing ball professionally. "I definitely am interested in a pro career," he said. "Whether it's in the United States or Europe, I would love to keep playing. I think I have a lot of years to work [on my game]."
And how about his NBA prospects?
"I'll worry about my chances with that when the time comes," he said with a laugh. For now, Carroll is totally focused on making the most out of his final days on the court as a Hawk.
"My four years at Saint Joseph's have just been an unbelievable experience," he concluded. "Better than I ever could have imagined."