There isn’t a college team in Philadelphia that is facing a turnover like the one at St. Joseph’s. After the firing of popular longtime coach Phil Martelli last spring, the Hawks saw an exodus of talent from the coaching staff and the roster.
So, it has been up to new head coach and former 76ers assistant Billy Lange to completely rebuild St. Joe’s from the ground up. He started by bringing in talented assistants and was able to take his roster from five players to 11 by getting three late commitments and three transfers. It has been a valiant effort, but the question remains. Will it be a successful one?
Redshirt junior guard Ryan Daly sat out last season after transferring from the University of Delaware and was sorely missed on a team that struggled to find offensive consistency. This season, Daly will be the most intriguing member of the St. Joe’s offense. The sharpshooter is the only proven Division I scorer on the team. At Delaware, he ran the show, putting up an average of 17.5 points in the season before he transferred.
St. Joe’s caught a much-needed break when sophomore guard Myles Douglas was given a waiver, making him immediately eligible to play for the Hawks. It appears that Douglas will be tasked with helping at point guard, and, with his size (6-foot-7) will likely force a lot of turnovers. Lange has preached the importance of perimeter defense, and a lot of that will fall on Douglas. It is a new position for Douglas, but he has the talent necessary to wreak havoc on the defensive end.
The Hawks lost their top four scorers from last season, leaving junior forward Taylor Funk as the top returner. After a rookie season in which Funk averaged 11.8 points per game while shooting 39% on three-pointers, he struggled last season to find that same scoring touch. When he is on, he is one of the deadliest shooters in the Atlantic 10. But he wasn’t on for the majority of last year. Through two exhibition games, Lange emphasized three-point shooting, so Funk is the most valuable Hawk because his bounce-back would alleviate a lot of pressure on an inexperienced team.
The most exciting member of the incoming class is freshman guard Cameron Brown. A 6-5 guard from Maryland, Brown is coming off a state-championship season in which he led his high school team with an average of 19 points. He will likely be one of Lange’s more versatile weapons, possessing the ability to both beat defenders off the dribble and shoot from beyond the arc. His length will also be an asset defensively as well, as Brown will most likely be asked to guard opponents’ guards and forwards.
St. Joe’s will have its hands full early. The Hawks’ out-of-conference schedule includes UConn in Hartford, preseason No. 6 Florida, and either Miami or Missouri State at the Charleston Classic, and of course No. 10 Villanova at home. It is hard to see a scenario in which the Hawks make it out of that gauntlet unscathed.
Conference play won’t get any easier. Even though the A-10 is top-heavy this year, there doesn’t seem to be any easy games. There are too many question marks on both the roster and coaching staff to be overconfident in this team going into the season.