Anthony Bellino (@Bellino_Anthony)
Saint Joseph’s hosted its annual media day today Thursday, and with every starter returning this season expectations are high for coach Phil Martelli and his squad. The Hawks are coming off a season in which they went 20-14 and ended their season with a first round loss to Northern Iowa in the NIT.
This season though, things are expected to go a little differently for the Hawks, who were picked first in the Atlantic 10 Conference pre-season polls. Martelli said there are some similarities between this year’s team and the 2003-04 squad that went to the Elite 8, but also said that the two teams are “not comparable.”
“The similarities would be that this team is very focused on team, they want each other to achieve,” Martelli said. “In 03-04 and the time when those guys played together what was underreported was the fact that they were tremendous teammates.”
According to the Hawks’ coach, everyone either gets either better or worse with every game and practice, and his team needs to get better. He stressed the fact that the players and coaches don’t win or lose games as individuals, but rather as one.
“As a staff I put the same things on us as I do the players: let’s be about the joy of this journey, the joy of being with this particular group. The players didn’t lose 14 games last year, the team did,” Martelli said. “We’re responsible for improved execution, we’re responsible for individual players’ improvement and their embracing the opportunities they’ve been given, that message comes from the coaches, it doesn’t come from anybody else.”
The 18th-year head coach then talked at length about some of his players as individuals, first discussing junior C.J. Aiken. Aiken, a 6-foot-9 forward, was recently selected to the A-10′s all-conference third team in the league’s preaseason viting. Martelli said he sees improvement in the Plymouth-Whitemarsh grad’s demeanor, but would like to see some improvement in his jump shot. Last season Aiken shot 30.5 percent from behind the arc and attempted 95 three-pointers on the season, a number Martelli said must improve.
“He walks around with his head in the air, he’s clearly more engaged, he still holds that little bit back, he won’t seek to dominate and this is a numeric thing,” Martelli said. “If you polled the 4200 people that fill this place they’d say C.J. is a great shooter. Is he really? Check his numbers.
“Statistically, he’s a big guy who makes long distance shots on occasion; those percentages have to go up.”
Senior Carl Jones, Martelli’s 5-foot-11 lead guard, returns with a more mature approach to his game. Martelli said Jones is a more mature player and is putting more effort into his game. Coming off a year where Jones led the team with 17 points per game, he will once again be relied upon to be the catalyst of the St. Joe’s offense.
“He’s been much more mature, weight room, individual workouts, he loves to play basketball,” Martelli said of Jones. “The great ones they know how to practice basketball and they can attack their flaws. He needs to be in a situation where he stays injury free.”
The Hawks will open their season next Thursday with an exhibition contest against Wheeling Jesuit at Hagan Arena. Martelli said that he will let the team know their individual roles on Wednesday night in closed meetings with his players.
“Next Wednesday we will have meetings behind closed doors where I will tell all of them where they fit in the rotation,” Martelli said. “If you’re a guy whose going tobe the 8th or 9th man he’s going to be told that on Wednesday, and when he shows up on Thursday it’s about us.”
A few Saint Joseph’s players spoke at the event, and here’s what they had to say:
“We know what to do, we know what to expect, we didn’t real know what to do last year, this year we do.”
On being picked first in the Atlantic 10: “It kind of caught me off guard. I was excited, I thought and a couple of my teammates thought we should be number one, I kind of figured we wasn’t going to get picked number one but we was.”
On being the preseason A-10 favorite: “It wasn’t that big to me, knowing that we got to come out here everyday and be ready to play so it wasn’t that big.”
On being selected team captain: “It’s definitely big knowing that everybody is behind me and knowing what I could do and I could help the team win.”
“As a group we’re not looking at any type of NCAA, A-10 were just looking to work hard every day we know if we play our best we’re going to do a lot of good things. Personally I want to win the A-10, I think if we win the A-10 everything falls into place.”