St. Joseph's Basketball Preview: #95
Overall Rank: #95
Conference Rank: #7 Atlantic 10
2008-09: 17-15, 9-7
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Phil Martelli (278-167 at Saint Joseph’s, 278-167 overall)
Saint Joseph’s was looking like a possible Atlantic 10 contender heading into mid-February, but then Coach Phil Martelli’s team lost seven of their last ten games, including a conference tournament loss to Temple. The Hawks, who had four players who averaged over 34 minutes per game, simply ran out of gas at the end of the year. Without their two best players returning, this is a team that needs to find some depth and fast.
Key Losses: G Tasheed Carr, F Ahmad Nivins
This is a pretty good recruiting class, led by point guards Justin Crosgile and Carl Jones. Those two will be good players at some point, but how much they can contribute as freshmen remains to be seen. Jones is the more likely option to see major minutes as a freshman, but one of the two needs to turn into at least a serviceable backup point guard. The lone incoming freshman in the frontcourt is Carl Baptiste. He is a solid player, but will likely need some time to adjust to the level of play. The addition of 6-11 sophomore Todd O’Brien, a transfer from Bucknell, could be the best replacement for the departed Ahmad Nivins.
Tasheed Carr was the team’s most consistent outside shooter and the leader on the floor, but his departure may not be as bad as it sounds. Garrett Williamson is a capable ball handler who actually led the team with 4.5 assists per game last year. At 6-5, Williamson is not your typical point guard, but he played there a lot last year and will do so again this season. More known for his defense, Williamson is emerging as an offensive threat and he might have to score even more this year. In the meantime, Darrin Govens will carry the load. Govens was inconsistent last season, but he still averaged 12.5 points per game. If his shot falls a little more consistently this year, he will be the team’s go-to-scorer.
Just like how Govens and Williamson need to step up to replace Carr on the perimeter, Idris Hilliard needs to try and replace Ahmad Nivins in the paint. Hilliard may not average 19.2 points and 11.8 rebounds like Nivins did during his senior campaign, but Hilliard is a very capable scorer and rebounder. He has sat back as an underclassman and complimented Nivins quite nicely, but now it is his time to shine. As a sophomore last year he averaged 9.2 points and 5.5 rebounds. Now that he will be the main focus under the basket, those numbers should improve dramatically.
Who to Watch:
However, part of the reason Hilliard was able to put up decent numbers is due to the fact that the opposition had to focus on Nivins. If Hilliard wants to turn into the next Nivins, somebody like Bryant Irwin needs to develop into a player who can compliment Hilliard just as well as he complimented Nivins. Irwin is just one of two players who had promising freshmen campaigns that need to step up as sophomores. Guard Chris Prescott only averaged 12.6 minute per game last year, but he might step into a starting role now.
This group may lack a superstar, but Williamson, Govens and Hilliard are not a bad trio to build around. The bigger question is how well can the inexperienced underclassmen play this year? As was shown last year, the Hawks need more than five players if they want to be fresh in February and March and that means the newcomers need to contribute and Prescott and Irwin need to be ready to play major minutes.
Projected Post-season Tournament: CBI/CIT
Projected Starting Five:
Garrett Williamson, Senior, Guard, 6.1 points per game
Chris Prescott, Sophomore, Guard, 2.8 points per game
Darrin Govens, Senior, Guard, 12.5 points per game
Idris Hilliard, Junior, Forward, 9.2 points per game
Bryant Irwin, Sophomore, Forward, 3.1 points per game