What's missing is a point guard

Phil Martelli is having a tough year: His Hawks are 5-12.
Phil Martelli is having a tough year: His Hawks are 5-12.
Posted: January 17, 2011

During the good times for St. Joseph's basketball under coach Phil Martelli, the common denominator was strong play at point guard.

Rashid Bey, who will be inducted into the Big Five Hall of Fame on Friday, led the Hawks to the Atlantic Ten Conference championship in 1997. The next season, the media voted Bey the Big Five most valuable player for the second straight season.

Three years after Bey was gone, Jameer Nelson arrived on Hawk Hill and ran the team for four successful seasons while becoming one of the top players in city basketball history.

The last couple of years, though, the absence of a solid, heady point guard has been the main reason St. Joe's has struggled to compete in the Atlantic Ten.

After Saturday's 67-51 loss at St. Louis, Martelli met with sophomore guards Carl Jones and Justin Crosgile and told them they need to adopt a point guard's mentality if the Hawks are going to turn around the season.

"A good point guard almost has to live that position," Martelli said Sunday.

Martelli has an incoming freshman, Chris Wilson of Fayetteville, N.C., who he believes has the capability of filling the role of point guard.

"He's an old school point guard," he said. "He talks during the game, and he makes simple plays simply."

Tough trip. St. Joe's showed progress in a 65-59 loss at Dayton on Wednesday then went backward in Saturday's defeat at St. Louis, which dropped the Hawks to 5-12 overall and 0-4 in the conference.

At Dayton, perhaps the toughest venue in the A-10, the Hawks had possession and needed a three-pointer to tie it, but Crosgile was off target. He's one of the team's better three-point shooters. At St. Louis, St. Joe's was lethargic, and Martelli suspects that the six days away from home might have affected his young team.

"We felt we did all we could to keep them fresh," he said. "But I was afraid human nature would kick in, and I think it did. My responsibility now is to make them feel good about their games or parts of their games. We'll get back to it Monday."

Poor starts. In seven of its losses, St. Joe's has failed to shoot better than 40 percent in the first half. Martelli said he's had no problem with shot selection.

"We haven't been a good shooting team all year, but it's not shot selection, it's shot commitment," he said. "It's one thing to shoot and it's another thing to shoot with the intent that it's going in. That might be a confidence thing."

Free throws. St. Joe's is 16-32 in its last 48 games and has lost five in a row to St. Louis. . . . Freshmen have accounted for 53 percent of the minutes played by the Hawks, the most in the A-10. . . . St. Joe's returns to Hagan Arena on Wednesday to face Rhode Island.

Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.

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