Scouting Report: St. Joseph’s

Its been a tough year for Saint Joe’s and head coach Phil Martelli. Martelli’s Hawks have put forth the worst season of his career on Hawk Hill. Following the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons in which SJU made the elite eight and NIT Finals respectively the program has been on the wane. Is Martelli losing his fastball? A better explanation is that he never had a fastball or rather that his max 90 mph heat was not being supplemented by the right secondary offerings. Those other pitches are the talent he has.

Martelli is not good enough of a coach to schematically break teams down, but very few coaches are. When he has excelled is when the coach has convinced top level talent to spend some time on Hawk Hill. In the early part of the previous decade when St. Joe’s had its most success players like Marvin O’Connor, Jameer Nelson, Delonte West and Pat Carroll dawned the crimson and gray. Since those years Martelli has not been able to get that type of player to come to St. Joe’s and consequently it has not been able to match the success of the apex of the program.

Things are changing however. Martelli put together one of the best recruiting classes in Atlantic 10 history this season getting coveted prospects Langston Galloway, C.J. Aiken, Daryeus Quarles, and the red shirted Papa Samba Ndao. They combined with sophomore Carl Jones comprise a solid core of players of which the Hawks can build around. The influx of talent has come with a price this season. The youth of the club has led to more losses in the short term. Martelli’s inability to mold his players into a cohesive half court unit has held back the Hawks this year, but the future remains bright.

Ideally, Martelli’s offense is a drive-and-kick penetration game where the point guard is featured prominently. It is no wonder that the years when the Hawks had Jameer Nelson mark the most successful in the recent history of the program. The team goes as its point guard goes. This year there was no true point guard with Jones and Galloway doing the bulk of the ball handling. Neither has an elite handle but both do a solid job of taking care of the ball with both ranking in the top 500 players in turnover rate. Such is expected from a Martelli coached team. The Hawks are generally going to have ball handlers who are good decision makers that can find an open shooter. The shooters will then knock the shots down. That’s what happens when everything goes right, but that was not this year. Fortunately, Martelli has already signed a highly touted point guard Chris Wilson.

On defense, Martelli seems to focus on staying in the half court and preventing open shots. St. Joe’s will not pressure often and will play a good bit of zone. This season it has seemed that the Hawks has not put together consistent effort on defense. The athleticism of the players has not manifested itself when the other team has the ball. This condition, again, may go back to Martelli’s inability to game plan well.

St Joe’s is clearly a poorer team when compared to George Washington however it has won three of its last four games and is playing the best basketball it has all season. A flat effort from Duquesne will open the door for the youthful Hawks looking to make a statement. Nevertheless, this is a game the Dukes should win and SJU fans can look forward to next season when the Hawks are my favorite to be the sleeper team.

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