Saint Joseph's entered a rebuilding phase one season ago. Coming off an NCAA Tournament berth in 2013-2014 where they lost to eventual national champion Connecticut in overtime, the Hawks had the unenviable task of replacing three starters in 2014-2015.
The Hawks would suffer growing pains throughout a 13-18 season, but would see sophomore DeAndre' Bembry emerge as a star and gain attention not just in the Atlantic 10, but nationwide.
In 2015-2016, Saint Joseph's will rely on Bembry to drive their success. Coming off an offseason in which he was one of 20 college players in the nation invited to take part in the Nike Basketball Academy with instructors such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis, the expectations for Bembry are sky high.
With the lineup heavily depleted from a year before, Wilson was relied on a bit more in 2014-2015, and proved to be just an average player for the Hawks. While his college career was so-so, losing a three-year starter and leader like Wilson still hurts. The Hawks will look toward some of their younger players to fill the void left by Wilson's graduation.
Key Returning Players: F DeAndre' Bembry (17.7 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.9 SPG); F Isaiah Miles (10.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG); G Aaron Brown (9.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG); G James Demery (6.7 PPG, 3.5 APG); G Shavar Newkirk (3.3 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 2.3 APG)
The season has yet to start, but the accolades have already begun rolling in for Bembry, a 6-foot-6 forward. Bembry, who is coming off a season in which he led the Atlantic 10 in points per game and led the Hawks in just about every measurable stat you can think of, has been named captain of the team, Preseason Atlantic 10 All-Conference First Team and to the watch list for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award.
Bembry, a legit NBA prospect, will once again be the key to the Hawks success. Perhaps the only thing better than his hair is his on-court ability. Bembry has the innate ability to take over a game when necessary. If the cast around him can provide decent support, the Hawks should make a vast improvement from a year ago.
A 6-foot-7 forward, Miles saw his minutes triple a season ago and was the Hawks' second leading scorer and rebounder. Now in his senior season, Saint Joseph's will look for Miles to take his game to the next level and provide a threat other than Bembry. In order to do so, Miles will need to find some consistency. In 2014-2015, he scored 18 or more points in six games, but was also held scoreless twice and scored six points or less in nine contests. That type of inconsistency needs to be corrected for Miles and the Hawks to take a leap forward this season.
A 6-foot-5 redshirt senior entering his second season as a Hawk after transferring from West Virginia, Brown provides Saint Joseph's with some versatility and becomes especially useful when Coach Phil Martelli decides to use a smaller lineup. If Brown can up his numbers slightly this season, or at the very least improve his shooting percentage (particularly from beyond the arc), he could be a nice piece for the Hawks, whether it be as a starter or coming off the bench.
Demery could be the Hawks' breakout player in 2015-2016. Coming off a freshman season in which he saw plenty of minutes (24.3 per game), he had time to get his feet wet. Demery will need to improve his 36.6 percent shooting percentage (17.5 percent from beyond the arc) if he wants to be a starter, however, as there will be plenty of others nipping at his heels for those minutes.
With Wilson gone, Newkirk is the heir apparent at the point guard position. For now. In his sophomore campaign, Newkirk will need to greatly improve his 28.1 percent shooting from the field if he wants to be trusted in an expanded role from a year ago.
Key Additions: G Lamarr Kimble (Fr., Neumann-Goretti); G Chris Clover (Fr., St. Joseph's Prep)
Having earned All-State honors and been an All-Catholic League First Team selection in his senior season, Kimble averaged 14.5 points per game and helped lead Neumann-Goretti to its second straight PIAA Class AAA championship.
Clover was named MVP of the Philadelphia Catholic League, earned All-State and All-League First Team honors in his senior season, averaging 20.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.1 steals per game.
Both freshman are very talented and should see considerable minutes this season as they battle returning players for time on the court.
The Hawks left plenty of room for improvement from a season ago. With a more experienced squad returning this season as well as a nice influx of young talent, Saint Joseph's should definitely improve from a year ago.
On top of the players previously mentioned, the Hawks will also get back forward Papa Ndao, who missed last season with an undisclosed illness, and see Markell Lodge take the court for the first time after the redshirt freshman was academically ineligible a year ago.
Regardless of all of this, it should remain the DeAndre' Bembry show on Hawk Hill this season. Luckily for Bembry, however, he should have an improved cast of characters surrounding him this season.
By: Kyle Babcock
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