st. joe's hawks

St. Joe's eyes collective step forward after injury-plagued 2016-17

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St. Joe's eyes collective step forward after injury-plagued 2016-17

Just 18 months ago, Saint Joseph’s was only a possession away from pulling even with No. 1 seed Oregon in the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

The following season, the Hawks won only 11 games, 17 less than the season prior that resulted in an Atlantic 10 championship and an NCAA Tournament berth.

The difference in success has a lot to do with the fact that St. Joe’s simply didn’t have the bodies to compete on a nightly basis.

Five Hawks missed at least seven games because of injury in 2016-17. That includes key cogs such as senior guard Shavar Newkirk (19 games, torn left ACL), senior forward James Demery (10 games, stress fracture in left foot) and junior guard Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble (seven games, left foot fracture).

In addition, forward Lorenzo Edwards missed all but one game because of shoulder surgery, while forward Pierfrancesco “Checco” Oliva missed the entire season after having knee surgery.

The Hawks have healed and now return their top-six scorers from a season ago, plus four guys that played at least 14 minutes in that tournament loss to Oregon. However, while a full roster is certainly a benefit, head coach Phil Martelli assured that merely having healthy players won’t turn around the team’s fortunes.

“We are returning starters from an 11-win season, so it isn’t that important,” Martelli said. “The way I have described this — when you have the year we had, you can get stripes. You can have a guy that gets a 20-point game, but it’s just a stripe. You only get a tattoo when your team wins. We have guys that understand that.

“I like the pieces that we have, but the pieces have to fit to where there is role acceptance. Who plays well with whom and when you are told what you get, will you maximize your 12 or 16 minutes on the floor?”

The roles for the backcourt tandem of Kimble and Newkirk are pretty clear.

While Newkirk continues to work his way back from ACL surgery by doing agility and stamina drills with the training staff, Kimble has returned in what he hopes is an even better version of himself.

“I definitely learned that I needed to improve my game,” said Kimble, who finished second on the team behind Newkirk with 15.5 points per game. “This summer, I got in the gym and slimmed down about 10 pounds and I feel like I am a step quicker and a step stronger.

“Last season was very humbling for us. Hopefully, we will be able to change things around and everyone will come in with a new mindset this year. You always need that balance between veterans and the young guys to keep everyone on a straight path.”

Martelli has been impressed with Kimble’s improvement as a basketball player and a leader.

“Lamarr has matured in the way he is going about his practice but making sure his team is organized and set,” Martelli said. “He is attentive to detail and I am a big fan of him as a leader, human being and as a player.”

Much like Kimble and Newkirk, Demery saw a big jump in scoring in 2016-17 before being sidelined. He posted 14.5 points per game and was the Hawks’ leading rebounder with 6.5 a night.

Despite the personal numbers, Demery is ready to move on from what he called a “down year.”

“We are not trying to repeat 2016-17 this season,” Demery said. “We have strong team chemistry and the young guys look up to myself and 'Fresh' because we have been in the ring and know what it takes to win an A-10 title.”

When prompted about what it will take for St. Joe’s to return to form, Martelli was direct that everything must be about the group and not individuals.

"We need to rebound and grasp the idea of role acceptance,” Martelli said. “We need to grow in the idea that we have to respect the 'we' and forget about the 'me.'"

St. Joe's full non-conference schedule released for 2017-18 season

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USA Today Images

St. Joe's full non-conference schedule released for 2017-18 season

St. Joe's is headed to the West Coast for Thanksgiving.

The Hawks will, for the first time, participate in the Wooden Legacy at Cal State Fullerton from Nov. 23-26. They open the tournament against Washington State and then play either Harvard or Saint Mary's the next day. Cal State Fullerton, Georgia, Sacramento State and San Diego State are the other teams in the tourney.

On Dec. 2, St. Joe's hosts Villanova, a week before visiting Temple.

Phil Martelli's team also travels to Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut to face St. John's on Dec. 20.

Here's a look at Saint Joseph's full non-conference schedule, released Thursday:

Nov. 11: at Toledo

Nov. 18: Princeton

Nov. 23: vs. Washington State*

Nov. 24: vs. Harvard/Saint Mary's*

Nov. 26: TBA*

Nov. 29: Bucknell

Dec. 2: Villanova

Dec. 9: at Temple

Dec. 17: Maine

Dec. 20: vs. St. John's (in Connecticut)

Jan. 27: at Penn (Palestra)

*Wooden Legacy tournament in California

City 6 Scouting reports: No. 2 Villanova, Temple and St. Joe's in action

City 6 Scouting reports: No. 2 Villanova, Temple and St. Joe's in action

Three City 6 schools will hit the floor in some conference games Wednesday night. Let’s take a look at the matchups.

No. 2 Villanova (26-2, 13-2 Big East) vs. No. 22 Butler (21-6, 10-5 Big East)
9 p.m. at the Pavilion on FOX Sports 1

Last time out
Jalen Brunson and Kris Jenkins each had 22 points and shot a combined 15 of 17 from the field, as the Wildcats steamrolled Seton Hall, 92-70, on Saturday (see story).

Josh Hart chipped in 19 points, four rebounds, one assist and a steal. Brunson shot a perfect 7 for 7 from the field and racked up a double-double with 10 assists. Villanova got off on a 15-4 run early in the second half to build on a 42-31 lead entering halftime.

Thanks to four players scoring in double figures, Butler beat DePaul, 82-66, at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Sunday. 

Butler trailed by five with just under five minutes to go in the first half, but the Bulldogs finished the frame on a 14-0 run, giving them a 36-27 lead entering halftime.

Nate Fowler led the Bulldogs in points with 15 off the bench on 7-of-9 shooting.

Scouting report
The Wildcats will return home on a seven-game winning streak after three straight road games.

Brunson has been red hot for Villanova on that streak. The sophomore guard has scored at least 15 points in five of the past seven games. He’s also shooting the ball at a 54 percent clip during that stretch.

Although Donte DiVincenzo didn’t have his best outings scoring-wise in the past two games against DePaul and Seton Hall, he’s been a huge help for Wildcats off the bench this season. Over the past seven games, DiVincenzo has had three games in which he’s scored more than 15 points.

Butler enters this game shooting 56 percent or better in back-to-back games. With Villanova possibly missing Darryl Reynolds for a fourth straight game, the Bulldogs could use the 6-10, 250-pound Fowler to take advantage of a smaller ‘Cats lineup.

Despite averaging 5.5 points per game, Fowler scored 15 on Sunday and 19 against Providence on Feb. 11.

What it means
If Villanova wins, it will clinch the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament outright.

With a victory, Butler could solidify itself as the No. 2 seed in the Big East Tournament. Creighton is a half-game back of the Bulldogs in the conference standings.

Series history
This is the ninth time Villanova and Butler will play each other. Villanova leads the all-time series, 7-1. Butler’s only win over ‘Nova came on Jan. 4 in a 66-58 decision.

What’s next?
Villanova will host No. 23 Creighton Saturday at 3 p.m.

Butler will travel to Cincinnati to play Xavier at the Cintas Center.

Temple (14-14, 5-10 AAC) vs. UCF (17-10, 8-7 AAC)
7 p.m. at the Liacouras Center on ESPNU 

Last time out
Temple led UConn by as many as 10 midway through the second half Sunday, but fell, 64-63, at the Liacouras Center thanks to a layup by Jalen Adams with 2.9 seconds left in the game (see story)

Daniel Dingle had a team-high 17 points for Temple while freshmen Damion Moore and Alani Moore II combined for 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting.

UCF on Saturday knocked off East Carolina, 61-58, after going on an 11-2 run late in the second half at the Minges Coliseum.

Nick Banyard led the way for UCF with his second double-double of the season, scoring 18 points and hauling in 11 rebounds.

Scouting report
Temple coach Fran Dunphy has gone with a different starting lineup in the past three games. Moore and Quinton Rose have replaced Ernest Aflakpui and Moore II in the starting lineup. Temple is 1-2 in that stretch, but the Owls have seen some flashes of talent out of their young group of players.

Against UConn, Moore looked comfortable in the offense and scored 11 points on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting. Rose is averaging 12.7 points, four rebounds and three assists per game in his three starts this season. 

Obi Enechionyia’s minutes have decreased over those past three games even though he’s started all of them. Enechionyia, who averages 32.3 minutes per game, played 29 minutes against Memphis, 21 against East Carolina and 19 against UConn. He’s also shot the ball only 4 of 14 from the field with a combined 18 points in those three games.

Defense has been the staple of UCF's team this season. The Knights are second in scoring defense in the AAC, allowing opponents 60.8 points per game. Opposing teams are shooting 36 percent against UCF, too, which ranks first in the AAC in field goal percentage defense.

Those numbers can be attributed to 7-6 center Tacko Fall, who averages 2.4 blocks per game and alters countless other shot attempts.

UCF is led by its backcourt combo of B.J. Taylor and Matt Williams. Taylor averages 16.6 points per game, while Williams averages 15.5 points per game. Taylor has scored in double figures in nine consecutive games.

What it means
A win could help Temple try to find its way out of the bottom four of the AAC. Currently, Temple ranks eighth in the conference, and would play in the first round of the conference tournament.

If UCF wins, it will bump the Knights up to fifth in the AAC standings above Memphis.

Series history
Temple and UCF are meeting for the ninth time. The Owls hold a 5-3 lead in the all-time series.

What’s next?
Temple will play its final home game of the season against Tulane on Saturday at noon.

UCF will face Cincinnati at the CFE Center Sunday at 3 p.m.

St. Joe’s (10-16, 3-11 A-10) vs. St. Bonaventure (16-10, 8-6 A-10)
7 p.m. at Hagan Arena

Last time out
St. Joe’s fell, 83-68, to La Salle at Tom Gola Arena on Saturday (see story). The loss was St. Joe’s sixth consecutive defeat, its longest losing streak since a nine-game skid back in 2011. 

St. Bonaventure lost a thriller in the final seconds to Dayton, 76-72, on Saturday at UD Arena. Darrell Davis of Dayton hit a pair of free throws with 0.9 seconds left to sink the Bonnies.

Scouting report
St. Joe’s hasn’t been lucky this season.

Its two starting backcourt players, Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr Kimble, both suffered season-ending injuries.

Kimble led the Hawks in scoring at 15.5 points per game, but since he's been sidelined two games ago against UMass, freshman Charlie Brown has played big.

Brown is averaging 16.0 points and 6.5 rebounds in Kimble’s absence. He’s also scored in double figures in every game except one since January.

St. Bonaventure enters this game winners in three of its last six.

Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure’s leading scorer, is tied for first in the A-10 in scoring with 21.6 points per game. Matt Mobley also averages 19.0 points per game for St. Bonaventure and shoots 41 percent from beyond the arc.

The Bonnies have the best scoring offense in the A-10, averaging 78.3 points per contest.

What it means
There really isn’t much to gain here for St. Joe’s. The best thing for the Hawks in this game is to test out some of their young talent on the roster for next season. They’re tied for last place in the A-10 with Duquesne and UMass. 

A win for the Bonnies could improve their seeding in the A-10 Tournament. The Bonnies are a 1 1/2 games back of Richmond and Rhode Island, who are both tied for the third spot in the conference.

Series history
This is the 35th time the Hawks and Bonnies will square off. St. Joe’s holds a 23-12 advantage in the all-time series.

What’s next?
St. Joe’s will be on the road against Saint Louis on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

The Bonnies will be home against Duquesne on Saturday at 4 p.m.