The Saint Joseph's men's basketball team held its annual Media Day on November 2. Here's a look at what was said by coach Phil Martelli and the Hawks.
Phil Martelli:
Who will be in the mix this year?
"
Shavar, Fresh Kimble, Charlie Brown, Nick Robinson, Chris Clover, James Demery - all of those guys on the perimeter. Checco Oliva, Taylor Funk, Anthony Longpre . . . Lorenzo Edwards is banged up again. He was under consideration. Both of the big guys - Markell Lodge and Jai Williams - are still under consideration. We scrimmaged once against outside competition and we will scrimmage again on Saturday. On Tuesday, the players will be told [their roles] and we'll go over rotation. They have all improved, and now it's a matter of whether or not their game fits our needs at this point. Up until now, it's been all about them. Now it's all about us."

Experience that players picked up last year with increased minutes due to injuries:
"I've always been a big believer that experience in winning allows you to move forward. We had the season that we had, and there's no excuses for it. It's what we had. We had six games that we lost in the last minute-and-a-half or two minutes. We had games that we couldn't lose. Like, if you looked at the script, you'd say that we had to win that game, and we didn't win them. So, to that effect, they played minutes but that doesn't equate to a positive expectation for this year. You have always heard me say that better is better. To this group's credit, every one of them is a little bit better than they were at the end of last year."

What does it mean to have Fresh Kimble back as a captain for the second straight year?
"It speaks volumes about his teammates. Obviously Fresh got the honor of being elected captain two year in a row, but it's a player's decision. To me, being a captain is really simple. The captain can walk up to you and tell you that your lockerroom is a mess, or that's not how we act on campus, or we don't travel in a certain way. The captain has to take care of how we are representing this program and this university, and the players decided for the second year in a row that Fresh Kimble would be the guy that they would listen to. On the flip side, they can all approach me about individual things, whether it's about individual situation, emergency situations, whatever. The players deserve all the credit in the world for making the decision to have him as their captain."

Charlie Brown's progression in the offseason:
"Charlie has had a terrific offseason because he has done less. He is a guy that, if I let him stay here, he would stay in here hour upon hour upon hour. You have to be able to do less ad experience life as a Saint Joseph's student. You have to be a son. You have to be a friend. You can't just be labeled as a basketball player. What I asked him to do was to look more like a basketball player, which he does. He has put in time in the weight room. I wanted him to be a more committed defender, and he has been. And now what we're asking from him is health. And then the biggest thing for Charlie Brown is all of the noise. All of the noise must dissipate. He must be able to listen to one voice. Everyone wants to talk to him about being the next [to the NBA]. That's not how it works. He hasn't been told (until he reads your article) that 10 NBA teams have been through here this preseason. 10. But they talked to me about what's it going to be down the line. So those are the areas. He is a beautiful human being. He did something the other day that puts him on the top layer of the people I've ever coached. We had a scrimmage and the other team left 150 cups on the floor. One of the workers came out, and Charlie looked at the guy and asked if he was the one responsible to clean them up. The guy said that he was, and Charlie said, "Let me help you." There's no entitlement. That's a beautiful human being, and I only want the ultimate of successes for him."

What can you take away from last season?
"I can take away that we lost a lot of games and that we lost game that, by profile, we couldn't lose - Fordham here, Saint Louis there, George Mason here . . . I'm most responsible. We weren't good enough. We weren't good enough in the way we practiced. We weren't good enough in the way we lifted. We weren't good enough in the way we did our scouting report. We are not going to get caught in that situation, because who we had is who we had. We had to play the hand that we were dealt, no whining and no dropping our heads. But, there's definitely a hunger in all of us, starting last spring, to get it right.

What do the freshmen bring?
"I hate the word, but length. They're both long. They can really shoot, and they're welcomed to take that shot. They're welcomed to take three-pointers. They're both high IQ kids. They're both slow feet on defense. We need to grow a bigger ticker so they can become better rebounders. They're in the mix. next Saturday night at Toledo. Those guys are going to play in their first college game. They're not watching their first college game. I'm excited about them because their IQs are extraordinary for young players."

When do you know what you have with this team?
"We're going to have to grind this until we get to full health. If we're going to start the year with Shavar on limited minutes or not being able to practice back-to-back days, although that's not be the case . . . And with Charlie, the doctor's quote is "a few weeks" . . . I would say I don't have have any idea. We have to get to full health. Until then, we have to take all of these piece that we have, and we have to decide night by night which pace fits for each particular game, because the only thing we can be zeroed in on is Toledo right now. So, I won't know. It'll come to me. Two years ago, when we won the Atlantic 10 Championship, it was in the middle of the Villanova game here. We ended up not winning the game, but I knew. I said, "Ok, we're good. This will all work out." It will come to me. But, I wouldn't trade where we are with where we should be. We have some nice pieces."

Thoughts on heading to the Wooden Legacy tournament?
"I was looking upstairs when I was asked that question on the phone today, and I have a picture with John Wooden and an autograph with John Wooden . . . There was a program from that Wooden Award that Jameer won, and I just reflect on the fact that I'm just a gym/playground rat from Southwest Philadelphia and I had a chance to meet John Wooden, and it just doesn't make sense. And it makes me understand my place. So to go out there and play in a tournament with his name, and to play against the teams that are in that field, I'm delighted for the players. I'm a little bit disappointed for the players, also, because the atmosphere won't be outrageous, and I think this year in college basketball, we need an outrageous atmosphere at our games if we're going to get through this cloud of the scandal. We're going to have that opportunity, but we're going to be together on Thanksgiving and we're going to play three games in four days, and the only other time you do that is at the Atlantic 10 Tournament, so it'll be good preparation."

Pierfrancesco Oliva:
"I laugh because I love Checco, because I can't say anything to him without him responding to me, and I kind of like that. I like that give-and-take . . . Checco is a brilliant offensive mind. He has to work on putting the ball in the basket, and he just seems a little bit older. He's only a junior but he just has an older view of the game, and there's experience there. He started on an Atlantic 10 champion team, and he played 14 minutes in two NCAA games. So, he gets it. He is somewhat like a kid on Christmas, that he's back out here. He really gets bothered if someone asks him how he feels or if he wants to take a set off or anything like that. He's a really good basketball player, and it's going to help the two big young guys. They are going to learn that this is the way you can play as a multiple-skills forward."

Is there a hole?
"We can't rebound in lay-up lines. It's just the way it is. We are going to have to get a gang mentality, and I believe that we will get there, but our rebounding. And, there's a disparity in foot speed, so trying to figure out the right game plan defensively is going to take some work."

On being voted third in the A-10 this year...
"t doesn't mean anything to me. The years we've been first, it didn't change my motivation. I don't talk to the players about it. I don't know if they talk to their friends or family about it. It doesn't move the needle at all - never has. I think it's great for the league to have conversation, because it gets people talking about basketball, but for us as a program, we've been at the top and at the bottom and we've finished at the top and at the bottom. I would not label it as a success measure if at the end of the year we finished third. It wouldn't be us meeting expectations. It's not what we would be shooting for."

Shavar Newkirk:
"I don't know if he'll play against Toledo. Some of that's going to be what the medical people tell me and what Shavar tells me. My test was whether or not he could practice on Wednesday after practice on Tuesday. And he could. He's going to have to be very honest about where he fits and one of the beautiful things is that on Tuesday, he fell down. He hit the floor, and everybody in the gym sucked the air in, and he got up, and everybody breathed. And I said, "Great, we're on, so now I can bark at you about not going to the right position or the right angle or whatever it would be." I have never waivered in my plan to say that he'll play against Toledo because I was never told that he wouldn't. Unless I am told that he will not, then I'm full-speed ahead with the idea that we'll have him. I don't know what he'll look like, but he's a senior, he's an A-10 champion, and he has started in this league. He knows what this is about, so I'm anxious to see more. I have not been disappointed any day in the preseason with him."

Funk and Longpre and team chemistry:

"There's a beautiful thing in that the NCAA allows you to work with your players two hours a week in the summer. Taylor and Anthony have been here. They're nice kids and they're respectful. They understand that at a certain age, you're to follow and then when you get a little bit older, you can lead. I think they love the fact that they're here and that they play for Saint Joseph's, and I'm proud of the way that they represent their families. So, with chemistry, they've only added. They're good players, so that adds to the chemistry. They can play. They'll add to the mix here."

Lamarr Kimble:

Do you think this team needs a backcourt leader or is it better to share the wealth? 
“I think everybody is better when we share the wealth, there are no selfish guys on this team, sometimes we are a little too unselfish as a team, definitely would rather have selfless guys than selfish guys on the court. It goes from on and off the court, having a great brotherhood off the court leads to a great brotherhood on the court.”

Last year the offense struggled, but why will the offense be better this year?
One because everybody worked on their games in the summer to get better, you know, so everybody’s jump shots got better, everybody is stronger, everybody is more fit so I think that speaks by itself seeing the guys. And two, our chemistry after a whole year taking a year losing, coming back this year is definitely way different. We know everybody's strengths and weaknesses on the court. We're putting things together and trying to make a collaborative effort.

Shavar Newkirk:

How does it feel for you being back on the court playing ball again?
It put a smile on my face, Tuesday was the first day I got to get out there. My coordination was a little off, but I'll get it.

Your quickness is one of your assets, do you think you’ve lost any of it at all from your injury?
No, I haven’t its still there. I actually probably got a little quicker so that’s all it is, building it back up getting stronger than what I was before.

 

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