Dec. 19, 2007
By Jeremy S. Fallis
"We're like a family."
The sentiments shared by the three Hawk newcomers - Idris Hilliard, Charoy Bentley, and CJ Brown - are all the same. Their roles and paths to the Saint Joseph's basketball team, on the other hand, are all different.
"The coaches really cared about me as a player and as a person," said Hilliard, a 6-6 forward from Roselle, NJ. "I always want to play for someone like that."
Bentley, a 5-11 guard from Bridgeport, CT, echoed Hilliard's sentiments.
"It's a great program, great school and a great coaching staff," he added.
Brown was not recruited out of high school to play college ball, persevered to achieve his goal. Though not earning a walk-on spot his freshman year, he honed his skills in the summer to make the team in the fall.
"Coming to St. Joe's, I never thought I'd actually be part of basketball as a Hawk," Brown said. "Now that I'm actually here on the team, I'm hoping we can do something special."
Hilliard was a highly-sought recruit out of The Hun School in Princeton, NJ, but unfamiliar with the city of Philadelphia or the fanaticism of the supporters at SJU. Nevertheless the fan support wasn't the toughest transition Hilliard had to deal with.
"The biggest surprise was the size and strength of everyone," Hilliard said. "I'm used to being the most athletic person on the court at all times. So I came here and there is a 6-10 kid like Ahmad [Nivins] who is just as athletic or more athletic than me."
The surprises for freshmen aren't always the same. For Hilliard, Hun is a boarding school, so he was used to being away from home and adjusting to a new place. For Bentley, the school aspect of college affected him the most.
"The biggest adjustment was getting used to the school work and time alone as well as time management," Bentley said. At the same time, Bentley he has appreciated the time away.
"I like being on my own, me and my roommate are real cool."
For all newcomers, the transition to college athletics can't be done alone. Advice from coaches only goes so far, but the real-life experiences from the upperclassmen and the ensuing advice they give pay the biggest dividends. In all three newcomers' cases, this has been more than true because at Saint Joseph's, it is a collective effort to get the new guys situated.
"Don't let coach see that you're tired."
"Don't give up."
That was the sound advice Brown received from senior co-captain Rob Ferguson and sophomore Garrett Williamson. Leading up to joining the team, Brown had to not only go through an initial tryout, but subsequent practices before he was officially a member.
"[The practices] were tough, it was intense," said Brown. "It was more mental than I ever expected."
At the same time, Brown, a 5-11 sophomore from Newark, DE, isn't forgetting what got him here and to enjoy college at the same time.
"Right now, I'm just going along for the ride and having fun and being myself," Brown added.
So far the ride has been enjoyable and surprising to say the least for Brown, but the freshmen's newcomers differed from the sophomore's.
For Hilliard, his playing time was limited by an ankle injury sustained in practice a couple days before. Bentley received six minutes against Fairleigh Dickinson while Brown had to wait just 39 minutes to officially enter a game.
"I wasn't that nervous surprisingly," Brown said about his first appearance against FDU. "I was just waiting for coach to call my number."
Ultimately, the newcomers are all waiting for their numbers to be called. Their paths to Saint Joseph's were different, but they brought Hilliard, Bentley and Brown to Hawk Hill, sharing the dream of putting on the Saint Joseph's uniform, playing in front of a packed Fieldhouse and if all goes well, an Atlantic 10 Championship and a NCAA Tournament berth.