8 St. Joseph's The Hawks are ready to prove that last year's Atlantic 10 championship was no fluke

Nov. 19, 2001
Nov. 19, 2001

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Nov. 19, 2001

College Basketball Preview 2001-02

8 St. Joseph's The Hawks are ready to prove that last year's Atlantic 10 championship was no fluke

A year ago, at coach Phil Martelli's suggestion, St. Joseph's
players were gathered around a sports psychologist, hashing out
ways they might improve on their 13-16 record in 1999-2000. To
get the ball rolling, the psychologist asked each player to say
something about a teammate. Power forward Bill Phillips, then a
junior, commented on the essence of the team's best player:
"Marvin O'Connor doesn't want to win--he needs to win."

This is an article from the Nov. 19, 2001 issue Original Layout

Fast-forward five months to the closing seconds of the Hawks'
NCAA second-round game in San Diego. After fouling out with his
team trailing by three, O'Connor buried his head in his hands
with the realization that the Hawks were about to lose to
top-seeded Stanford. The 6'4" guard, who had scored 37 points,
received a standing ovation as he went to the bench. "It wasn't
until I was standing in the shower afterward that I realized how
big that game was for our program," says O'Connor.

By winning the Atlantic 10 regular-season title for the third
time in school history and playing valiantly against the
Cardinal, St. Joe's, which finished 26-7, won the admiration of
fans nationwide. Four starters return from that team, including
O'Connor and sophomore point guard Jameer Nelson, who set the
conference mark for assists by a freshman (213) and was the
Atlantic 10 rookie of the year.

A standout at Philadelphia's Simon Gratz High, the school that
produced the NBA's Rasheed Wallace and Aaron McKie, O'Connor was
heavily recruited and graduated as the school's third alltime
leading scorer in 1997. Enamored with the Big East, he signed
with Villanova. After averaging just 4.7 points as a freshman,
O'Connor felt the Wildcats' system was "a little too structured"
and transferred to St. Joe's, which had vigorously recruited him
out of high school. Martelli's aggressive, fast-paced style
suited him, and after sitting out the 1998-99 season, O'Connor
averaged 16.6 points per game the following year and was second
in the conference in scoring with a 22.1 average last season.

"I had noticed that St. Joe's players really seemed to enjoy
themselves," says O'Connor on why he transferred. "Now it seems
we've developed something special here."

Apparently the rest of the school thinks so too. More than half
of St. Joe's 3,500 students turned out to watch the team's open
practice on Oct. 18--the largest turnout ever. "The buildup to
this year has been astounding," says Martelli, who during the
off-season fielded more calls from high school coaches looking to
place more players than at any other time in his previous six
years with the Hawks. Despite the excitement, Martelli says the
team needs to improve in many areas, especially on the low post,
where the other two returning starters, the 6'10" Phillips and
6'9" senior center Damian Reid, and 7'1" reserve center Alexandre
Sazonov have to provide an inside presence that the team lacked
last season.

"It's still a puzzle that we're working to put together," says
Martelli. "But we do have some very nice pieces to work with."

--Kelley King

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH After transferring from Villanova, O'Connor (11) has flourished in Martelli's system.



COMMENT: With appearance in Sweet 16 in 1997, near miss against
top-seeded Stanford last season and highest preseason ranking
since '65 this year, Hawks have gotten most out of limited
resources on the court. Aside from one nasty in-game fight in
February 2000, coach Phil Martelli's program has been nearly




SF Na'im Crenshaw[#] 6'5" Sr. 11.4 ppg
PF Bill Phillips[#] 6'10" Sr. 8.9 rpg
C Damian Reid[#] 6'9" Sr. 6.5 rpg
SG Marvin O'Connor[#] 6'4" Sr. 22.1 ppg
PG Jameer Nelson[#] 6'0" So. 6.5 apg

2000-01 record: 26-7
Final rank (coaches' poll): No. 24
[#]Returning starter