I’m happy to post an article published by our friends over at “Tony’s Takes”, a St. Joseph’s University-based radio show that focuses on Hawks basketball, as well as the NBA and other subjects. Tony and John give us an inside look at the Hawks upcoming 2018-2019 season, with quotations from head coach Phil Martelli.
Stay tuned for more details about a Bob Long Sports and Tony’s Takes COMBO video talk show in anticipation of the Holy War (St. Joseph’s vs. Villanova) on December 8th. We’ll have debates and discussions about the rivalry, and we at BLS might have a thing or two to say about Tony’s Take below that it was three-point shooting that doomed Villanova in the early years of the 2010 decade.
Enjoy reading, and stay tuned for more on the BLS/Tony’s Takes Combo Podcast! Great Job Tony and John with this one!
SJU’s Men’s Basketball Preview
Written by: Tony Morelli
Edited by: John Daly
This past Friday, November 2nd, the Saint Joseph’s Men had their Friday Frenzy season preview. The night included an open practice, Q&A with Coach Martelli, and the infamous half-court shot to win free semester of text books. I had the pleasure of hosting this event including the Q&A with Coach Matelli. While the event was an amazing time for all involved, the open practice was the most notable piece of the night. While sitting at the scorer’s table watching them run multiple drills, there were a few exercises that really stood out.
The practice started with running the offense against a 2-3 zone. A prep for the game against the ACC’s Wake Forest on November 15th. As the team ran the drill over and over it became evident that Phil was going to try and break the zone with excessive three-point shooting. All five players on the offensive side were spread around the arch, swinging the ball back and forth waiting for one of the 5 to become open. Martelli clearly believes in his team’s ability to shoot the three if he is using this as his strategy to break the Wake Forest Zone. The strategy could work, if SJU lives up to the prediction of being a top 20 shooting team then they might be able to light up Wake Forest enough to draw out the center from the 2-3 zone. But what stood out most from this drill was when Phil stopped the practice after a Kimble turnover. “We cannot afford to make these mistakes” Phil exclaimed, “Wake Forest is legit at every position, we have no room for mistakes”.
This was the most telling part to why Phil has picked the 3pt as the way to beat the zone. SJU clearly does not have the size to bully Wake Forest out of it. While I would prefer to run a hard pick and roll to clear space in the flats for mid-range shots. Phil understands that we don’t have the size at the 5 to run a real pick and roll. In fact, we do not even have a single center listed on the roster. In order to break the zone we will have to use 3pt shooting instead of using deep penetration and size to draw out multiple defenders.
When the open practice concluded, my co-host Rory Houston and I were able to ask Coach Martelli some questions about the season. Rory and I took the opportunity have Martelli explain the offense a little more in depth.
Question– “While SJU throughout the last 6-7 years has been known for their defense, it is clear that this team has some true offensive power. How will you turn your focus as a coach from using defense to win games to utilizing these offensive weapons?”
Phil– “There is a reason you see us pushing the pace, we know we can run and gun. I am confident that these guys can put up 70 plus on any given night. Because of this, I actually find myself coaching defense more often. I know this team can put up points without me having to draw up plays. I need to continually emphasize defense now because offense is second nature to this squad”.
While I wasn’t expecting Coach to spin the question about offense into a talk about the importance of defense, I could see the point he was making. If this starting core can really hit their shots the only worry will keeping the other team at bay. This is a luxury any Hawk fan is not used to. In years past we have been able to keep teams within 5-10 points at the most but catching up was the issue. It seems the roles have been reversed.
When I look at what Coach Martelli has constructed I am reminded of the Villanova teams of 2010-2014. Villanova would dismantle teams with unrelenting shooting from beyond the arc. But While this did work for Villanova through multiple regular season, this strategy would routinely back fire in win or go home situation. It’s why Jay Wright had to adopt a new style of play and shy away from excessive 3pt shooting. Too often Villanova would prematurely leave in the round of 32 because guys would go cold from beyond.
I can’t fault Martelli for adopting this style. We have no true post scorer after 3-star recruit Valdir Manuel de-committed from Saint Joe’s after the third week of class. Martelli had to adapt now that there was no post presence or someone to effectively roll to the basket. The team is going to play an exciting form of basketball. Expect Charlie Brown and Lamarr Kimble to push the ball in transition, constantly looking for open shooters. BUT, I think fans need to be cautious. Pace and Space is fun and analytically advantageous; but when role players go cold it can turn into a long night for the team. This is especially true when Charlie Brown and Lamarr Kimble are the only players who can truly get to the rim without help. For a team that can only afford three losses in order to make the tournament without a conference win, shooting consistency is the key to success for this veteran group.
The SJU Men’s basketball team kicks off the season against Old Dominion at 7:30pm in Hagan Arena on November 9th.