The past couple of seasons have been rough for fans of Saint Joseph’s men’s basketball. Consecutive 20-loss programs from a program that has a winning tradition put the Hawks in uncharted territory over the last two seasons. During that time there have been rumblings that coach Phil Martelli had lost his touch and even some whispers that he should lose his job. You can count me as someone who thought Martelli had indeed lost his touch. So on this beautiful Thanksgiving day I will eat my turkey (in place of crow) and admit that I was wrong, Martelli has assembled quite a group of talent and in my opinion is one more good recruiting class away from having a team that can compete with Xavier and Temple in the Atlantic 10.
In fact, Hawks fans should be thankful that the Saint Joseph’s administration didn’t jump the gun on ousting Martelli and stayed patient with him through consecutive 20 loss seasons. The thing that Hawks fans should be most thankful for is that they have Martelli as their coach. In Martelli the Hawks have a winner who doesn’t cut corners and doesn’t committ NCAA violations that are so abundant in this age of college sports.
Examples of the progress the Hawks have made this season have been prevalent through the first five games, in which Saint Joseph’s has started 3-2. The most recent examples actually came in a losing effort against Iona on Wednesday night. Despite the loss, the Hawks went toe-to-toe against an Iona Gaels squad which is laden with seniors that are expected to make a run into the NCAA Tournament, with Iona winning 104-99 in double overtime.
What makes this so encouraging for the Hawks is that of their seven players that played over 15 minutes in this game, the most experienced of them is junior Carl Jones, who scored 25 points in a losing effort. Ronald Roberts Jr., a sophomore, had a career high with 20 points along with 9 rebounds coming off of the bench. As I mentioned after Sunday’s win over Tulsa, it will likely be just a matter of time before he takes fellow sophomore Halil Kanacevic’s spot in the starting lineup. Fellow sophomores C.J. Aiken and Langston Galloway also continue to develop, Aiken set career highs with 19 points and 9 rebounds and added 4 blocks, while Galloway canned five three-pointers on his way to a 17 point effort.
The biggest weakness right now for the Hawks is the fact that they’re really only 8 deep, at best. They need one more solid recruiting class to really be considered a threat towards the top teams in the conference. But if there is one thing that Phil Martelli and his staff have proven over the past couple of seasons its that they haven’t forgotten how to recruit solid talent.
So when Hawks fans sit down for their Thanksgiving feast today, the thing that they should be most thankful for when it comes to their favorite basketball program is that the school’s administraion didn’t listen to doubters like me and instead kept their faith in their most valuable asset, head coach Phil Martelli.