Last Saturday was the first day of basketball practice at St. Joe's. I attended Saturday's practice and posted a full, detailed write-up on the Hawk's Nest message board. Senior forward Papa Ndao did not participate in practice, and will miss the entire 2014-2015 season after news broke last week that he has a medical issue that will require him to sit out the year. Ndao was primed to play a major role this season after the graduation of front court members Halil Kanacevic and Ronald Roberts.
Ndao was not the only scholarship player sitting out of Saturday's practice. Freshman power forward Markell Lodge was also shooting around on a side basket during practice. As of now, no news is public as to why Lodge was not participating in practice. With Ndao and Lodge to the side, 6'7 junior Isaiah Miles was the only real, traditional power forward on the court. As of now, it appears that Miles is the leading candidate to start at the 4 for the Hawks. Last season, in just over 9 minutes per game, Isaiah averaged 3 points and 1.7 rebounds. With his minutes primed to make a major leap this year (30 per?), it will be imperative that Isaiah makes a major leap in productivity as well.
In the backcourt, freshman point guard guard Shavar Newkirk was impressive during drill work. Right around 5'11, Newkirk will give the Hawks a spark plug, dynamic point guard off the bench. Newkirk looks like he could be a difference-maker on both the defensive end, and also leading the Hawks in transition. Fellow freshman James Demery, a 6'5 wing, looks like a possible star in the making. Demery is all arms and legs, and was a menace defensively during full-court drills. Demery's offensive game is built upon his quickness and ability to get to the rim. While his jumper is the area he needs to improve most, he shot it a bit better than I expected, especially from the mid-range. Demery will start this year, and I don't believe it's inconceivable for him to have an impact this year similar to what DeAndre Bembry had last year.
I will be back at practice this coming Saturday. Following practice, I will also be sitting down with Saint Joseph's head coach Phil Martelli for our second video interview of the year. If any subscribers have questions that they would like me to ask the head Hawk, there is a thread on the Hawk's Nest message board for all questions. Post them there, and I will ask Martelli on Saturday. The video will be uploaded onto SJUHawks.com next week.
Now, shifting our attention to the recruiting front, things seem to be really coming into focus. After yesterday afternoon's Cody Schwartz to San Jose State commitment, there are really just two remaining recruits in play in 2015. Schwartz had a St. Joe's offer, but never traveled from his home state of Wisconsin to SJU for a visit.The two remaining primary targets are Bergen Catholic (NJ) skilled forward Pierfrancesco Oliva and 6'9 Archbishop Carroll (PA) post Ernest Aflakpui.
Oliva, who stands right around 6'8, is looking at St. Joe's, Davidson, Marist, and a few others. One new school has entered his recruitment as well. NJHoops' Jay Gomes reported on Tuesday that Seton Hall is now expressing interest in Oliva, and will watch him next week in an open gym.
Ernest Aflakpui is down to Temple, St. Joe's, VCU, Rhode Island, and Saint Louis. Ernest has visited all five schools officially and is nearing a decision. VCU head coach Shaka Smart visited the big-time 6'9 post on Tuesday. The head coaches of all five schools are likely to make their final pitches in the coming days. It would not surprise me in the least if Aflakpui didn't make his college decision in the coming 7 to 10 days.
Next week, in addition to our practice coverage and constant recruiting updates, Hawk Hill Hardwood will also begin our Player Profile series, with articles on each and every scholarship player. This will be the third straight year of our series, which proves as a great way to get to know your Hawks in the weeks leading up to the season.
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