The 2016-17 season for the St. Joeseph’s Hawks is one that the entire fan base would rather forget. Stumbling to an 11-20, 4-14 record, the Hawks finished with the second-worst record in the Atlantic 10 Conference after nearly reaching the Sweet 16 a year prior.
A large portion of the team’s struggles a year ago can be attributed to injuries.
Shavar Newkirk, who was averaging 20.3 points per game for the Hawks last season, tore his ACL in late December and missed a third of the season.
Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble (15.5 PPG, 4.0 REB, 4.5 AST) fractured a bone in his left foot in February, leaving the team without arguably its best player to end the year.
Now nearing full-strength, the Hawks are trying to start the season on a winning path, starting on the road against Toledo (17-17) on Saturday. The Hawks won’t have much rest, as they immediately head to Chicago to face the University of Illinois at Chicago (7-11) on Monday night.
Hawks coach Phil Martelli is preparing his team for the challenge.
“This is like the NCAA Tournament,” Martelli said. “You play Thursday, play again on Saturday, or you play Friday and you play Sunday. So that’s where we want to be in March, let’s start to prepare for it now.”
Newkirk has been cleared by the doctors to play, but it will depend on how he feels Saturday if he decides to play. Hawks forward Charlie Brown is nursing a fractured left wrist that he suffered in practice last month. Brown was named to the Atlantic 10’s All-Rookie team last season for the Hawks, averaging 12.8 points per game.
In the meantime, Martelli preparing to fill the void until they return. Guard Chris Clover and forward James Demery are expected to get the starting nod in their absence.
“I do have 3 PhDs but I’m not medical in any way,” Martelli said. “Whatever the doctors tell me, that’s exactly what we’re going to do. … Yeah I wish everybody was healthy and that we were playing full tilt. We’re pretty good when that [happens]. That’s not where we are.”
The opener against Toledo is a rematch of last season’s opener, where the Hawks edged the Rockets, 77-76, at Hagan Arena. The game will air at 7 p.m. on ESPN3.