There was an excited, anticipatory ambiance in Hagan Arena on Thursday afternoon as the Saint Joseph’s Hawks held their annual media day. Reporters representing a multitude of local sports media outlets inquired the head coach and his players almost exclusively about the team’s soaring expectations.
With a team returning every player from last year’s 20-win campaign, the Hawks faced questions not about their limits, but about their possibilities. As a result of the caliber of talent returning to Hawk Hill this season, Saint Joe’s received 25 votes in the AP preseason poll and is favored to win the conference according to the A-10 preseason poll.
As the media bombarded head coach Phil Martelli with questions surrounding these preseason accolades, the coach reiterated that the expectations would not affect how his locker room prepares.
“I never talk about the expectations with the players,” Martelli said. “As for the preseason poll, it’s a non-issue. I didn’t run from it when we were ranked 12th last season, and I don’t run to it when we’re first. The only thing I told the team is what happened, how you were ranked, and how you were thought of. Now it’s a challenge because you have to exceed the expectations of others.”
The head coach was more concerned with how his team would react to last season and how they would continue to improve.
“I use the term ‘positively disappointed’ when looking back at last season,” he said. “This year we’re about execution, execution, and then some more execution.
“I’ve beaten this number into the ground: in 11 of our 14 losses last year we held the lead going into the second half. That means that there was somewhere in that second half that it got away from us, and to me, plain and simple, it came down to the lack of execution of an offensive game plan and a defensive game plan. That is on the players, but it’s on the coach first and foremost to do a much better job in the practice sessions, to demand execution.”
“Coach brings it up every practice,” forward C.J. Aiken said. “We led in a lot of our games ended up losing 14. Now we’re focused on finishing our games, and we know we need to finish on everything we do – in the weight room, in the classroom, even shooting foul shots. We just have to finish.”
As media day came to a conclusion, it became clear that the common goal for the talented Saint Joe’s squad was finding the ability to close out tight games. The skill of execution may be the difference between a memorable season and a disappointment.
“There’s a lot to build off from last season,” forward Ronald Robertssaid. “I’m not completely satisfied with our record, I know we can do better this year. We have to keep building off last year, we had a strong summer and preseason, guys have been working really hard.
“Coming up short for this team is not winning the Atlantic 10 Championship.”
Listen to Matt Schultz‘s interview with Ronald Roberts HERE:
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