St. Joe's basketball season preview: Young Hawks putting faith in guard duo

St. Joe's basketball season preview: Young Hawks putting faith in guard duo

Throughout the magical 2015-16 season for Saint Joseph’s basketball, most of the big storylines centered around the soaring athleticism of DeAndre' Bembry and the remarkable improvement of Isaiah Miles.

But, in many ways, what made the Hawks tick was an effective platoon at point guard with Lamarr “Fresh" Kimble and Shavar Newkirk essentially playing equally, but almost never at the same time.

Now, as the Hawks prepare for life without Bembry, Miles and Aaron Brown — the only three players on last year’s team who scored in double figures — Kimble and Newkirk are going to be asked to not only play together in the same backcourt but also carry much of the scoring load on a very young St. Joe’s squad.

In fact, along with junior swingman James Demery, the two point guards are the only players who saw significant action during last year’s run to the Atlantic 10 championship and the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Luckily for the Hawks, the partnership they are working to develop seems to be a promising one — and a balanced one too.

“Fresh is a great leader,” said Demery, the Hawks’ top returning scorer. “He’s very vocal on the court, and off the court as well. Shavar’s more of a villain and Fresh is more of a hero, making sure everyone’s doing well. Shavar is more like, ‘You guys gotta pick that up.’ We gotta have that on the team — a negative and a positive but in a good way.”

Interestingly enough, Kimble’s positivity helped him be named one of the Hawks’ three captains along with seniors Javon Baumann and senior Brendan Casper, becoming the third sophomore in program history to achieve that honor.

For head coach Phil Martelli, who had another sophomore captain two seasons ago in Bembry, that distinction means a lot — not just for Kimble but for his teammates wanting to rally behind him.

“I salute his teammates for recognizing captain and leadership doesn’t come in one form,” Martelli said. “It doesn’t have to come from just seniors or just starters. I think for a Philadelphia kid to lead on the court, lead in the locker room, lead in the classroom, is extraordinary. It’s a testimony to the way he’s been raised. I think it sheds a positive image for us and for our program out in the community that with all the pressures you have as a Philadelphia kid at a Philadelphia school, you can achieve success.”

Kimble, a former Neumann-Goretti star, certainly has a lot of promise after a strong freshman season, which was capped by an 11-point outing vs. top-seeded Oregon in the Big Dance. And he may be joined in the starting lineup by another Philly kid who could be the star on Hawk Hill: 6-foot-7 freshman Charlie Brown.

On a team that needs an immediate offensive jolt, Brown could very well be the answer.

“Charlie Brown can score the ball and we’re a team that struggles to score,” Martelli said. “He can really shoot. He has unlimited range.”

Two other Philly natives, guard Chris Clover (Saint Joseph’s Prep) and forward Jai Williams (Philadelphia Electrical & Technical Charter), could also take a leap after waiting their turn on the bench last season. So could sophomore Markell Lodge, who Martelli said will “bring people out of their seat “ with his high-flying athletic ability.

But the Hawks will certainly be hurt by a season-ending knee injury to 6-foot-8 Italian forward Pierfrancesco Oliva, who emerged as a starter last season. How will Martelli plan his course of attack without Oliva, Miles and the graduated Papa Ndao, all players who were able to stretch the floor with their size and athleticism?

“I pray a lot more,” he said. “A lot more prayer.

“You’ll see we will play with a bigger player,” the longtime Hawks’ coach added. “And we’ll play with less reliance on long-range shooting. We’re really trying to get this team to drive the ball as much as we can.”

And whether or not, the Hawks have success in that regard will largely come down to how Kimble and Newkirk are able to run a very young team, starting with Saturday’s season opener vs. Toledo at Hagan Arena (7 p.m).

“It’s comforting to know the two primary ballhanders are the most vocal,” Martelli said. “When it gets tough Saturday night, it’s gonna be Shavar and Lamarr. I’ll be communicating to them and I expect them to communicate to their teammates.”

For what it’s worth, Kimble says he’s ready for the challenge, admitting he wasn’t surprised to be voted a captain even though he’s a sophomore and offering an encouraging account of his friendship with Newkirk, even though they playfully rib each other about their differences being from Philly and New York.

“It’s definitely good,” Kimble said. “We’re both brothers and we’re gonna try to do the best we can to lead the team. I believe in him and he believes in me — so that’s how it goes.”

Saint Joseph's at a glance

Head coach: Phil Martelli, 22nd year

Last year: 28-8, 13-5 (won Atlantic 10 championship, advanced to second round of NCAA Tournament)

Top returners: Jr. F James Demery, So. G Lamarr Kimble, Jr. G Shavar Newkirk

Key losses: F DeAndre' Bembry, F Isaiah Miles, G Aaron Brown

Impact newcomers: Fr. G Charlie Brown

Games to watch: Nov. 30 vs. Temple; Dec. 3 at Villanova; Dec. 14 at Princeton; Dec. 30 vs. George Washington; Jan. 21 vs. Penn (at Palestra); Jan. 31 vs. Davidson; Feb. 7 at Dayton; Feb. 18 at La Salle 

Best-case scenario: The young players grow throughout the season and St. Joe’s remains in the postseason/NIT conversation until March, all while building toward next year with everyone returning.

Worst-case scenario: The backcourt combo of Kimble and Newkirk doesn’t jell as well as hoped, shooting issues become too much to overcome, and the Hawks fall to the bottom of the Atlantic 10.

Temple-UConn observations: Despite valiant effort from Marchi, Owls lose 1st homecoming game since 2008

Temple-UConn observations: Despite valiant effort from Marchi, Owls lose 1st homecoming game since 2008


That’s why football is a week-to-week game. Forget about momentum.

Temple found that out the hard way. After coming alive in a big road win over East Carolina last week, the Owls were humbled when a fourth-quarter rally fell short Saturday in a 28-24 homecoming loss to Connecticut at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Owls had one final shot at the victory with a drive in the final minute, but a Logan Marchi heave to the end zone was broken up.

The loss dropped Temple back under .500 at 3-4 (1-3 American Athletic Conference). UConn moved to 2-5 (2-2) with the victory.

• Say what you want about Temple quarterback Marchi (and you surely will after this game), but the guy is a fighter. Whether things are going his way or not, he continues to try to search for his receivers and attempt to squeeze the ball into those windows on the field. He made it two consecutive games with 300-plus yards passing as he was 33 of 54 for 356 yards with one touchdown and one interception Saturday.

• The game marked Temple’s first homecoming loss in nearly a decade. TU hadn’t suffered a homecoming defeat since a 7-3 loss to Western Michigan on Sept. 27, 2008. On that day, former Eagles DB Jaiquawn Jarrett was beaten in coverage on a double move in the third quarter for the game’s lone touchdown. Coming into Saturday, the Owls had won eight straight homecoming matchups by an average margin of 19.3 points.

• There was a rare sighting for Temple at the Linc: a rushing touchdown from a tailback. In fact, there were two. David Hood, who became the first Owls tailback to score on a run this season in last week’s rout of East Carolina, punched it in from one yard out to open the scoring in the first quarter. Ryquell Armstead weaved his way into the end zone for a 10-yard TD on the first play of the fourth quarter.

• Delvon Randall is simply a playmaker. The Owls’ leading tackler, Randall added another five stops in Saturday’s win. The junior DB also made a beautiful play along the sideline in the first quarter when he undercut an out route for an interception. It marked Randall’s third straight game with a pick. The Owls only have four interceptions this season and Randall has three of them.

• My colleague Greg Paone touched on college football’s targeting rule a couple of weeks ago (see story)We agree on pretty much all of the nuts and bolts of the rule. I’m glad it’s in place to protect players from violent and unnecessary hits. However, the more I see it called each week — and it seems like there is at least one in every game now — the more I’m starting to dislike the implementation. Temple defensive lineman Sharif Finch was ejected for targeting on Saturday when he went high on Huskies quarterback Bryant Shirreffs on a third-quarter touchdown pass. Shirreffs sold the hit by jerking his head back as he fell to the ground, but it was definitely worthy of a penalty. Was it a late hit? Yes. A bone-headed hit? Absolutely. But one worthy of Temple losing a top defensive player for the remainder of the game? I don’t think so.

• Speaking of Shirreffs, it’s easy to see why the Huskies have the best passing offense in the AAC. He didn’t show it with yardage in this tilt (just 105), but he was able to connect on three touchdowns through the air. He also added 39 yards on the ground, including a key run up the middle late in the fourth quarter.

• The Owls simply aren’t a good enough team to overcome 12 penalties for 117 yards.

• Like any other major college football game around the country, Saturday’s matchup at the Linc had scouts from NFL teams listed to attend. Of course, the Eagles were listed for several scouts in their home stadium. While the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers were also among those expected to have representatives at the game, there was only one other team labeled for more than one scout besides the Eagles — the New York Giants. At 0-5, they can certainly use all the help they can get right now.

• Temple will look to rebound when the Owls travel to play their final non-conference opponent in Army at 12 p.m. next Saturday.

Temple eyes streak, Penn looks to dethrone Columbia, Villanova on the road

USA Today Images

Temple eyes streak, Penn looks to dethrone Columbia, Villanova on the road

Temple (3-3, 1-2 American) vs. UConn (1-4, 0-3 American)
Lincoln Financial Field, ESPNews
Noon Saturday

Last time out
Temple beat East Carolina, 34-10, last Saturday.

UConn lost to Memphis, 70-31, last Saturday.

Scouting report
Last week, quarterback Logan Marchi finally got on track with his first 300-yard game of the season against East Carolina. This week, the redshirt sophomore will face UConn, the team he initially committed to in high school under former coach Paul Pasqualoni. Marchi was then denied after a coaching change was made. The Huskies have the worst passing defense in the AAC, giving up 399.8 passing yards per game, and have allowed 19 touchdowns through the air in 2017. If Marchi can play well for a second week in a row, look for Temple’s offense to put up some points. 

Another matchup to look at is UConn’s passing attack against Temple’s defense. The Huskies’ boast the best passing offense in terms of yards in the AAC, averaging 325.8 yards per game, but have only scored nine touchdowns this year. Temple, on the other hand, allows the eighth-most passing yards in the conference (253 yards per game), but is ranked fourth in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 26 points per game. Connecticut must convert drives into touchdowns against this Owls defense if it wants to compete.

What it means
Temple’s hopes to reach the AAC championship game might not be realistic anymore but its bowl hopes are still alive. A win against UConn would put the Owls just two victories away from becoming bowl-eligible, which after their start would be good for Owl fans.

Series history
Temple holds the 12-5 series advantage over Connecticut, and is currently on a three-game win streak.

What’s next?
Temple travels to Army.

UConn hosts Tulsa. 

Penn (2-2, 0-1 Ivy) at Columbia (4-0, 1-0 Ivy)
Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium
1:30 p.m. Saturday

Last time out
Penn lost at Central Connecticut State, 42-21, Saturday.

Columbia defeated Marist, 41-17, Saturday.

Scouting report
Penn’s strength is its rushing attack. They rank second in the Ivy League averaging 204 yards per game on the ground. Karekin Brooks has 543 yards rushing and five touchdowns so far this season. Getting the ground game going will be key for the Quakers this week.

Columbia defense has been strong so far this season. The Lions rank second in the Ivy League in total defense only allowing 316 yards per game and are third in the Ivy in pass defense. The Lions allow 194.8 yards per game through the air.

Series history
This is the 96th meeting between the teams. The Quakers hold a 73-21-1 advantage and have won the last 19 editions.

What’s next?
Penn hosts Yale.

Columbia is at Dartmouth.

Villanova (4-2, 2-1 CAA) at James Madison (5-0, 2-0 CAA)
Bridgeforth Stadium
6 p.m. Saturday

Last time out

Villanova defeated Maine, 31-0, Saturday.

James Madison beat Delaware, 20-10, Saturday.

Scouting report
Villanova has allowed just 1.6 yards per carry and 52 rushing yards per game this season. The Wildcats boast a strong scoring defense as well, the best in the Colonial allowing only nine points per game.

James Madison boasts the second-best rushing offense in the CAA averaging 223 yards per game and is second in scoring defense. The Dukes allow just 10 points per game to opposing offenses. Look for this game to be defensive showdown.

Series history
This is the 26th meeting between the teams. James Madison leads the series 14-11 and won 20-7 last season.

What’s next?
Villanova hosts Elon next Saturday.

James Madison travels to William & Mary next Saturday.