Saint Joseph’s just witnessed its superstar, 2015-16 A-10 Player of the Year DeAndre’ Bembry, get drafted in the first round of the NBA draft by the Atlanta Hawks. Without Bembry and the Hawks’ leading scorer Isaiah Miles, it’s not going to be easy for Saint Joseph’s to find the same level of success as it did this past season. The Hawks went 28-8 (13-5 A-10) and finished 1 game out of first place in the 2015-16 season. They’d go on to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament as the 4 seed and lose to Oregon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Hawks got a narrow first round win over Cincinnati thanks to a late-game three pointer by senior Isaiah Miles. Saint Joseph’s certainly exceeded expectations this past season and proved that it has what it takes to be a serious contender in post-season play. Let’s see if the Hawks can do that again this year.
1. Young talent at the point
Though Saint Joseph’s loses a lot of talent in its dominant forwards, it’s returning quite a bit of skill in the backcourt. Point guards Shavar Newkirk and LaMarr Kimble will be back at Hawk Hill next season and should be ready to lead this team back to the Big Dance. The two point guards put up very similar numbers last year; Newkirk had 8.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists on 23.6 minutes per game last season while Kimble had 6.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists on 18.1 minutes per game last season. It will be interesting to see how Phil Martelli chooses to balance these two next year. They almost exclusively flip-flopped at the 1 and rarely saw time at the 2. According to Kenpom, only 1 of Saint Joseph’s top 10 most frequent lineups last year featured both guards on the floor at the same time, and that lineup was used 2.1% of the time. Without Aaron Brown at the 2, it’ll be interesting to see if Newkirk or Kimble spends a lot more time playing shooting guard.
2. James Demery is on the rise
Rising junior James Demery is the highest-scoring returning player for this Saint Joseph’s team after averaging 8.1 points per game last year. Without scoring machines Bembry and Miles, Demery is going to be one of the key components for this Saint Joseph’s offense. He had a career-high 17 points on two separate occasions this past season, against Florida and against La Salle. In addition, he scored in double figures 15 times and will definitely be looking to do that with more regularity this year.
One of the most promising aspects of Demery’s game is his shooting percentage. He was second on the team in that mark with a 50.5% percentage from the field last season. He could definitely improve from the free throw line and from three point range though, as he shot 66.0% and 23.8% from those ranges respectively. It’s Demery’s time to step up and become this team’s go-to scorer, and he certainly has the talent to do so.
3. Road Warriors
Saint Joseph’s lived on the road last year, and if there’s anything that gets the NCAA Tournament committee salivating over your resume, it’s quality wins away from home. The Hawks went 9-1 in true road games last year and would’ve gotten at at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament even if they didn’t win the A-10 Championship. Though it may not be so easy without Bembry and Miles this year, the Hawks will undoubtedly have their opportunities to win tough road games in conference play. Saint Joseph’s will play Dayton, VCU, Rhode Island, La Salle, and Saint Bonaventure on the road next year, arguably 5 of the top 6 teams heading into the 2016-17 season. Steal a couple of those wins on the road, and the Hawks could hear their names called on Selection Sunday.
4. Talented freshmen
Saint Joseph’s has 4 incoming freshmen for the class of 2016, all of whom could make an immediate impact on this team. Most notably, 3 star recruit Charlie Brown has the opportunity to help fill the void left by Bembry and Miles. The 6’6″ shooting guard should fit the system well and add to a backcourt that’s building to be one of the best in the league next year. Forwards Lorenzo Edwards, Nick Robinson, and Gerald Blount could all help strengthen a frontcourt that’s not going to have a lot of depth next year. Give these players a couple of years, and they can be high-level competitors under Phil Martelli.
5. Coach Martelli himself
If you’re looking for a reason Saint Joseph’s could make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, look no further than the big man himself. Coach Martelli has had this team in the Big Dance multiple times throughout his tenure and knows exactly what it takes to get there. Just remember the year where Martelli led his team to a 30-2 record and a narrow loss in the Elite 8. The Hawks are no stranger to the NCAA Tournament, and even though this may very well be a rebuilding year for Saint Joseph’s, don’t be surprised if the Hawks pull a fast one and make it back to the tourney.