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Hawks looking for improvement

It's amazing that everybody from Phil Martelli to the players, are suggesting that St. Joseph's needs to play harder.

Martelli says the team works hard in practice but doesn't play fast enough.

Whatever the issue, this team has started the season in disappointing fashion, falling to 5-4 following Saturday's 60-57 loss to Fairfield at Hagan Arena.

"We have had inconsistency and we can play harder," guard Carl Jones said.

In fact, Martelli gave a blunt assessment of the entire team to this point.

"We don't have any guy who is exceeding what we would anticipate how they would play," Martelli said.

That is some statement.

Of all the Hawks, the one who has shown some improvement is 6-8 junior Ronald Roberts, who is averaging 10.7 points and 8.7 rebounds. Yet Roberts, who does try to post up, still is so raw offensively. Much of his scoring inside comes on follows instead of post moves.

Langston Galloway, who was fourth in the nation in three-point percentage last year, hitting 46.6 percent, is hitting 37.5 percent from beyond the arc.

Jones, the leading scorer last year (17 ppg.) is averaging 13.7 points and shooting just 38.0 percent from the field.

Center C.J. Aiken has never developed a post game. He can be a shot blocking presence, but he doesn't mix it up inside. So what the Hawks have is a center who is a jump shooter and dunker.

Forward Halil Kanacevic, who missed the Fairfield contest in the first of a two-game team suspension for unsportsmanlike conduct in the loss to Villanova, has taken just eight free throw attempts in seven games.

Chris Wilson, playing more minutes this year, has better offensive numbers, but also has committed 26 turnovers compared to 25 assists.

Could the Hawks be feeling the pressure of heightened expectations, having been the preseason pick to win the Atlantic-10?

Possibly, but that doesn't explain everything.

Without much of a post game, the Hawks have become jump shooters. St. Joseph's is great in transition, but those fast break opportunities have been too few this year.

It is interesting that when talking to rival coaches, they rave about the athleticism, yet after the Fairfield loss, Martelli said the Hawks' athletic ability is overstated.

"We are vastly overrated as an athletic group," Martelli said. "If you lined us up and said, run a foot race, we are not that fast."

He did acknowledge the outstanding leaping ability and who wouldn't when seeing high-flyers such as Roberts and Aiken.

"Because we have high risers it looks a little different but we're too deliberate," Martelli said.

He said the Hawks are not making assertive plays.

"To me the offense is predicated not necessarily on speed, but the speed of precision, of cuts and we look like we are in quicksand," Martell said. "Even I practice we have been about trying to play quicker."

At least their next opponent will give the Hawks a chance to test playing at a faster pace. St. Joseph's hosts Iona on Friday.

Iona (6-5) is averaging 81 points. The Gaels lost last week, 88-74 to La Salle. They allow 75. 8 points and defense isn't the Gaels' strong suit.

So maybe the Hawks can get untracked, see what it feels like not to struggle so much on offense, and just simply play more freely.

Right now this is a team in search of its confidence. The preseason is for working out all the troubled areas.

The problem is that the preseason is winding down. The Hawks open their Atlantic-10 schedule Jan. 9 at Hagan Arena against Butler. That is a Butler team that already beaten North Carolina and Indiana.

If the A-10 were to re-vote, it's likely St. Joseph's would struggle to be in the top five at this point.

There is still time. The Hawks still face Iona, Drexel and Morgan State before beginning their A-10 schedule. Yet time is running out. If there isn't appreciable improvement over these next three games, then the Hawks should truly be worried heading into their conference schedule.