Last season, the Hawks of Saint Joseph's were one of nine teams in college basketball to flip 20 losses from the year before into 20 wins. Those 20 wins led to a trip to the postseason, and a home NIT loss to Northern Iowa. "It wasn't real pleasant getting the 20 losses," Martelli stated. "But we had 20 wins and we played in the postseason. Yet we spent a lot of the postseason walking around with our heads down mumbling. And when we got to a point in late April, May, get your heads up, stick your chest out, and let's go forward."
The expectations for this year's Hawk team are certainly high, being selected as the conference favorite by the Atlantic 10 coaches, and receiving top 25 votes in preseason polls. One of the players receiving significant preseason attention and garnering preseason accolades is 6'9 junior C.J. Aiken. Aiken averaged 10.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks a year ago. Coach Martelli expounded on what he's seen from his shot-blocking sensation in the offseason.
"He walks around with his head in the air," Martelli began. "He is clearly more engaged. He's a lot more comfortable. He still will hold that little bit back, and he won't seek to dominate."
In addition to being a tremendous shot-blocker, Aiken has a unique shooting ability for a player of his size. CJ can shoot from deep, but in reality his shooting percentage from three was only 30%. Martelli spoke on that. "Statistically, he's a big guy who makes long-distance shots on occasion. Those percentages need to go up, because I know he has that skill. He's been very receptive to the fact that we've picked up a little bit of a flaw in his shot. We want him to work on that."
The little engine that could for the Hawks is 5'11 senior guard Carl ‘Tay' Jones, who averaged 17 points per game a year ago. As the lone senior on the Hawks, Martelli has high expectations for the dynamic scorer.
"He's been much more mature," began the coach. "He loves to play basketball, but the great ones, they know how to practice basketball, and they can attack their flaws. He's had a much more mature approach the last two years."
In the middle of last season, Jones missed a game at Xavier, and was less than 100% for a stretch. The Hawks went 3-6 during that stretch there where Jones was nursing his injury. "He needs to be in a situation where he stays injury-free," Martelli explained. "He's battling an illness now. There was panic in the streets because he didn't play in our intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday because he was in bed with strep throat."
One player that figures to play a more prominent role on this year's Hawk squad is 6'3 sophomore point guard Chris Wilson. Wilson showed flashes last year, with his ability to drive and create, to defend, and to play with confidence. Martelli said that he's a different player this year, both in terms of game and in terms of attitude.
"He's quieter, and I mean that respectfully. Last year, he wanted to make sure that he told you everything that he knew," said Martelli. "This year, he's quieter, more reserved, still plays that position really well. But I think people are gonna be really impressed by the improvement in his shooting stroke. He has changed it, he's accepted coaching, and he's improved because of that."
As has been stated over and over again, this year's Hawk squad returns every single player from a year ago. There is, however, one newcomer who figures to earn playing time as a freshman this year, and that is 6'7 combo forward Isaiah Miles.
"What I've seen is the wide eyes, and the look of deer in the headlights at times," Martelli said about his freshman forward. "But his eyes are so wide open that that means his heart is wide open. He wants to please. He's begging us in his body language, in his questions, ‘what can I do to please?' How can I help?"
Miles will likely see minutes at both the three and the four this season, due to his shooting ability and his willingness to defend and rebound. Martelli elaborated on that, saying, "He makes shots. And he's been very well schooled in his high school setting as a defender. He doesn't have the greatest of feet yet. That will come as he tightens his body up. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can bring to this team."
On Thursday evening, the Hawks begin the 2012-2013 season with an exhibition game against Wheeling Jesuit. Prior to that game, Martelli plans to meet with every player on the roster to discuss their role with the team.
"Wednesday, so the day before the exhibition game, we will have meetings behind closed doors where I will tell each of them where they fit in the rotation," Martelli explained.
Thursday evening, the Hawks will prepare for the regular season with their home exhibition game against Wheeling Jesuit. The following Monday, November 8th, the season starts in earnest with the season opener against Yale. The expectations for this year's Hawk team are high, and based on his comments at media day, Phil Martelli, his coaching staff, and his players, are more than ready for the season to begin.
Media Day on Hawk Hill: Part B
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