St. Joe's had four double-digit scorers Monday night in a blow-out 85-65 win over Columbia. The Hawks were led by a 19-point, 8-assist outing by sophomore lead guard Lamarr Kimble, then also got 17 from Shavar Newkirk, a career-high 15 from freshman Charlie Brown, and a career-high 11 from Chris Clover. St. Joe's jumped out on Columbia early, stretching the lead to 50-27 at the half, and then never looked back. The win brings St. Joe's to 2-0 heading to the US Virgin Island, where they will play Loyola of Chicago on Friday afternoon. My five instant takeaways are below.
1) The two point guard system, so far, is working. Lamarr Kimble and Shavar Newkirk combined for 36 points, 12 assists, and 6 rebounds in the win over Columbia. They shot just 1-12 from deep, but hit 9-10 from the line, controlled the tempo, attacked the rim, and made the right reads throughout. Columbia's backcourt simply could not keep up with the speed or athleticism of the Hawks across the board, and that started with the guard play. For the second consecutive game, and the second consecutive win, it all started with these two.
2) Chris Clover needed a breakout game. Was Monday night just that? The 6'3 guard out of St. Joe's Prep scored just two baskets his entire freshman year, a freshman year that came on the heels of winning MVP of the Philadelphia Catholic League as a high school senior. On Monday night, Clover shot 5-8 from the field, 1-2 from deep, and tallied a career-high 11 points in just 13 minutes. If St. Joe's can get productivity out of Clover off the bench, which they did tonight, it will really give them a significant boost this season. Hopefully tonight that light switched on for him.
3) The three-headed center position, with Markell Lodge, Jai Williams, and Javon Baumann, did its job again tonight. Nobody's numbers jump out at you, but combined they tallied 8 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocks. This coaching staff, this team, will take that every single night. The way that Hawk fans will have to look at the middle this year is as really one position, played by three individuals. I doubt any of the three average more than say 5 points or 5 boards a game this year, but can they continue to average right around a double-double and play solid defense. They did again tonight, and it resulted in another win.
4) St. Joe's freshmen will have to contribute, and they did tonight. With James Demery out for at least the foreseeable future, freshmen Charlie Brown and Nick Robinson will have to shoulder more of the scoring load, while also combining to play tough defensively on the wing. Charlie Brown, after struggling with his shot in the opener Saturday, got it going tonight. He was 3-5 from deep, 5-10 from the field, and finished with 15 points. Robinson made his mark across the stat sheet, finishing with 5 points, 5 boards, 3 assists, and 2 steals. At 6'5-6'6 Robinson is a long, athletic, mobile perimeter defender. He's also impressed me in his first two games with his creativity as a passer. His passing and shooting have both been ahead of where I expected. His athleticism is right where I expected, and he showcased that on an alley-oop finish tonight off a sweet dime by Shavar Newkirk.
5) 2-0 is a strong start for his Hawk team. And they have what appears to be a fairly winnable game ahead of them Friday against Loyola. There were be ups and downs. Tonight was up. Way up. I didn't expect this team to score 85 points in a game all year, let alone without Demery. That being said, I can absolutely foresee games this year where shots aren't falling and they struggle to hit 60. Fans will have to be patient this year, well aware that it will be a rollercoaster. Things are trending up though. Next year you bring in three very useful front court pieces, with the return of Pierfrancesco Oliva and the arrival of freshmen Taylor Funk and Anthony Longpre. All that while also returning everyone. Things are definitely on the up-tick long term. And for the time being, enjoyable so far this season.null