Preseason Poll Selects La Salle for 10th Place, Saint Joseph’s 13th Place
The men’s basketball season is getting closer to tip off.
The La Salle Explorers were in the same position as the Saint Joseph’s Hawks are in this year. There is a new coach, new players, and a new outlook. The league poll indicates that each team is still growing. La Salle was picked for 10th place and Saint Joseph’s was selected 13th. Neither school had a player selected for the all-conference teams at the Atlantic 10 Media Day at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The Explorers are under second year coach Ashley Howard and come off a 10 – 21 season record. The team rebounded after losing their first ten games to compile an 8 – 5 record to end the season, which included a 79 – 69 win over league champion Davidson. The experience from last season should benefit him and translate to the Explorers.
“For a first year coach, everything is new,” said Howard. “I now know what’s important like getting our guys in shape and continuity going into the season. I was trying to get a whole lot accomplished every single day. After having gone through it year one has definitely prepared me for the upcoming season.”
Saul Phiri was among the lead leaders in three-point shooting percentage. Phiri sat out the first semester, then came back and played 20 of the last 21 games averaging over 32 minutes and 11.3 points per game. He is a player that has great leadership potential for this team.
“Saul’s leadership, his effort every day in practice has really stood out,” Howard said. “Saul understands the expectation we set to play hard and together. He has taken that and set the tone for us.”
Phiri and Isiah Deas, both seniors, are two dangerous three-point shooters. Both players averaged over double-figures in scoring and ranked second and third in points scores.
Other returning players of note are Ed Croswell, who averaged a team-high 7 rebounds per game Jared Kimbrough should be a contributor. David Beatty adds experience to the lineup.
During the season La Salle will play the Big Five teams hosting Temple and Saint Joe’s both home and away. There is a game with Murray State in the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida, and a home contest with Drexel. The Atlantic 10 portion of the schedule begins on January 2 when Dayton comes to 20th and Olney.
The Hawks are now under the tutelage of Billy Lange who takes the helm. Many of the experienced players from last season have departed. Former Coach Phil Martelli is at Michigan. Time to focus on the upcoming campaign. Lange sees the team as a work in progress at this time.
“I have to lead buy in, and show up every day with great energy and confidence in the guys, they’ll start to follow and they are following that,” said Lange. “I want them to connect together. I am one part of it.”
Saint Joe’s will have Taylor Funk, Anthony Longpre, and Lorenzo Edwards returning. A new and major addition is transfer Ryan Daly from Delaware. He led the Blue Hens in scoring in both of the seasons he played there averaging 16.7 points per game. Funk averaged 8.4 points and is the highest scoring returnee. He also pulled down 180 rebounds. Edwards grabbed 102 boards.
For Lange, it is all about the team.
“I’m learning about them so all of them to an extent have impressed me,” Lange said about his players. “Not one has stood out over the other. I’ve been impressed with the group’s commitment to learning and their urgency to learn about each other.”
The Hawks are in the Charleston Classic this season playing Florida in the first round. In addition to the Big Five games, SJU will play at Loyola of Chicago and UConn. This year starts against Bradley. And there is always the Big Five games.
Both coaches are former assistants at Villanova. Howard was on the staff on both national championship teams. Lange was a Sixers assistant prior to landing on Hawk Hill.
VCU was picked as the preseason choice for Atlantic 10 champions. Davidson was selected second and Dayton third. Each of those teams received first place votes. Following in order are; Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure, Richmond, Saint Louis, Duquesne, George Mason, La Salle, Massachusetts, George Washington, Saint Joseph’s, and Fordham.
The All-Conference first team selections are; Kellan Grady and Jon Axel Gudmundsson of Davidson, Obi Toppin from Dayton, Cyril Langevine Rhode Isand, Jacob Gilyard from Richmond, and VCU’s Marcus Evans.
Written By: Glenn Papazian