This could be a big year on Hawk Hill. Saint Joseph’s was selected as the preseason favorite to win the Atlantic 10 Conference. The Hawks return all five starters from last year’s 20-14 team, which advanced to the first round of the NIT. Phil Martelli, Saint Joseph’s head basketball coach, is keeping everything in its proper perspective as the college basketball season begins.
Despite the early season accolades, he knows the Hawks have some work to do. In fact, they have a great non-conference schedule that will test Saint Joseph’s right away.
The Hawks will open the season on Nov. 12 at home against Yale in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic game. After that, Saint Joseph’s will then battle Notre Dame in the tournament on Nov. 16 in the Barclays Center. The Hawks will then face either BYU or Florida State, as the championship and consolation games will be played on Nov. 17.
“Always in our scheduling we try to prepare our team to play on the road in the Atlantic 10,” Martelli said. “So, we have road games in there and people would say shouldn’t teams in this league play a lot of home games. Well, two we would like to play a lot of home games. We have student season tickets that sold out in six days. Then, the additional allotment that went to students sold out in three minutes. They deserved to see their team. It’s their team.
“Scheduling, you go to New York play Notre Dame won over 20 NCAA tournament, BYU won over 20 NCAA tournament and Florida State won over 20 NCAA tournament. It’s planned a certain way that we’ll be challenged.”
The Hawks have some quality players in the backcourt with guards Carl Jones and Langston Galloway. Jones led the team in scoring with 17 points last season. Galloway was Saint Joseph’s second leading scorer tallying 15.5 points a game.
Up front, they have 6-foot-9 C.J. Aiken, the 2012 A-10 Defensive Player of the Year, who ranked fifth in the nation in blocked shots with a 3.53 average. In addition, 6-foot-8 Ronald Roberts was the A-10 Sixth Man of the Year last season. Halil Kanacevic, a 6-foot-8 power forward, averaged 8.3 points and 8.3 rebounds a game last season.
“They’re experienced players,” Martelli said. “They’ve played a lot of games. They deserved to hold their heads high and stick their chests out. They can say, ‘Wow! We won 20 times last year. We went to the postseason.’ They should embrace those 20 wins.”
Jones, a 5-foot-11 senior, spent a lot of time polishing his basketball skills during the summer months. He’s excited about the upcoming season on Hawk Hill.
“I just hope we can come together and do the things we need to and finish those games we didn’t finish last year,” Jones said. “I feel real good about that (preseason favorite). We know what people can do now. We know our weaknesses and strengths. It should be a lot better.”
Galloway, a 6-foot-2 junior, is coming off a strong season. He’s one of the Hawks best all-around players. He’s well aware of all the attention.
“It’s been great, but you have to keep working to get better,” Galloway said. “You have to be prepared for when time comes to play in the Atlantic 10. We want to build on last year. We want to do more. We’ve all been working this summer to try to get better. We’ve been working on our jump shots and going to the basket. It’s going to be exciting to see how far we can go.”