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Fledgling Hawks Look to Gain Experience

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Jones speeds down the court (ESPN).

The post-season. A winning season. Success. Coach Phil Martelli has experienced all of this, but not his players. The Hawks are the 4th youngest team in America, but still are already 16-10. Boasting a roster of 5 freshman, 5 sophomores, and 2 juniors, Hawk fans have a reason to believe 11-win seasons are in the rear-view mirror, and the road towards success has begun. Without a senior on the team, the tiny 5-11, 160 pound junior guard Carl “Tay” Jones looks to improve his teammates day in and day out. Tay is the leader on this young team. Hailing from Garfield Heights, Ohio, Jones has only seen failure during his two years on Hawk Hill.

Experiencing two, difficult eleven-win (and 20+-loss) seasons, Jones continues to progress as a player, and his improvements have shown this season.  He is the Hawks’ leading scorer and is receiving some attention from NBA scouts already. Tay made NBADraft.net’s 2013 mock draft. Considered a second-round pick with his size is a testament to his ability to work with what he’s been given. Tay’s agility is second to none and he leaves defenders wondering what just hit them.

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Aiken catches an alley-oop (AP).

Make your way to the top of this mock draft list and you’ll see another Hawk. Projected to be selected early in the first round as a junior is C.J. Aiken, the Hawks’ enforcer in the lane. You better think twice before driving in the lane with the 6’9’’ C.J. Aiken in the game. There’s a good chance your shot will be coming right back in your face. C.Jis a tremendous shot-blocker with remarkable timing. Aiken is currently 4th in the nation in blocked shots. He is also a versatile player shooting 31% from deep and 49% overall from the field. He is a shooter, a rebounder, a blocker, but most widely know as a dunker. Come to the Hagan Arena and you’ll most likely see him flying through the air on a fast break catching an alley-oop and slamming it down with the student section chanting his name in a state of disbelief from the dunk they just experienced.

Roberts throws down a monstrous dunk.

C.J. Aiken is an astounding dunker, but sophomore Ronald Roberts Jr. will blow your mind. Roberts has made his way into “Sportscenter’s Top 10 Plays” a few times this year and only continues to amaze. Roberts’ athleticism is a joy to watch. Every time the Hawks get into a fast break situation, Roberts is sprinting down the court hoping to kill the rim with an earth-shaking dunk.  When this 6 foot 8 inch, 216 pounder comes barreling down the lane, you get out of the way. When Saint Joe’s upset a ranked Creighton squad, a six-foot four Grant Gibbs learned his lesson when Roberts posterized hims.

Maybe the most valuable of the sophomore group is guard Langston Galloway.  Averaging 35 minutes a game, 15 points, and possessing a three-point percentage of 78%, Langston is way ahead of his years.  A sharpshooter who can drive into the lane with force and play lock down defense, he is the all-around player that the Hawks rely on in big game situations. He exemplifies how a basketball player should competeLangston hustles for every loose ball, and plays with confidence and poised humility all at the same time.

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Galloway prepares to launch a three (AP).

To round off SJU’s stellar sophomore class is a transfer from Hofstra, Halil Kanacevic. Kanacevic is an odd player.  As a 6-8, 258 pound forward you would expect to find Halil posting up around the basket all game.  This is not the case.  Kanacevic averages the most assists on the team and is found on top of the key throughout the game.  Halil has a special sense of awareness and uses it to his advantage.  Halil is also the team’s rebound leader, averaging 7.5 a game.

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Kanacevic plays scrappy defense against Laurent Rivard (MHK).

With the youth this team has, their potential is through the roof. Eight of their ten losses have come on the road. With more experience I believe St. Joe’s will learn to win these away games.  When they overcome this obstacle they will surprise fans and analysts alike.  In 2004 the Hawks shocked the college basketball world, accomplishing an undefeated regular season, becoming a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and making it to the Elite Eight.  I’m not saying that this team will accomplish anything like that, but I do believe the talent is there. If all the pieces fall into the right place, if each player progresses to their full potential, I think the Hawks will turn some heads in the years to come. What is the ceiling for this youth-packed team? Honestly, I’m not sure. They’ve shown flashes of what is yet to come. Defeating Creighton, Villanova, and Dayton quite comfortably makes me want to believe I will see more of this in the future, but the Hawks need to learn to win on the road. Just how high will the Hawks fly? Only time will tell.

Matt Grubb is Khandyman’s senior Saint Joseph’s analyst, and serves the role of beat writer and head editorial writer.

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Categories: CBB, Saint Joseph's

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