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St. Joe’s lose returning starter to injury

Saint Joseph's v Oregon

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 20: Head coach Phil Martelli of the Saint Joseph’s Hawks looks on in the first half against the Oregon Ducks during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 20, 2016 in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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Saint Joseph’s, on the heels of an Atlantic 10 Tournament title and an NCAA Tournament appearance, had a lot to replace heading into the 2016-17 season.

DeAndre Bembry, the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, is now an Atlanta Hawk, while Aaron Brown and Isaiah Miles both exhausted their eligibility. Following the news on Thursday, the Hawks are down another returning starter.

The school released a press release stating that Pierfrancesco Oliva, who started 30 of 33 games for St. Joe’s, will miss the entire season following surgery to repair an osteochondral defect in his right knee.

“We’re obviously disappointed for Checco, but he has the best in terms of medical care and rehab,” Saint Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli said in a statement released by the university. “His teammates and coaches will keep their arms wrapped around him as he goes through the day-to-day grind of not just getting back, but getting better. I anticipate that as we go on we’ll see a much better Checco.”

The injury leaves Shavar Newkirk, who averaged 8.0 points, 2.6 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game, as the only returning starter for the reigning A10 champs.

The 6-foot-8 Oliva averaged 4.0 points and 3.7 rebounds in 16.5 minutes per game last season.

The Hawks weren’t the deepest on the frontline to begin with, but Oliva’s knee had been an issue before, so perhaps Martelli knew a scenario like this could occur. Either way, he’s going to have to rely on several freshmen, like Lorenzo Edwards and Charlie Brown Jr., to make an immediate impact on the frontline. Returnees Markell Lodge, Javon Baumann and Jai Williams, combined for 170 minutes of action last year, recording a total of 27 points and 39 rebounds.

St. Joe’s opens the 2016-17 season on Nov. 12 at home against Toledo.

In our Atlantic 10 preview, the Hawks were projected to finish 11th in the conference standings.