Sitting in his cramped office in 3,200-seat Alumni Memorial
Fieldhouse, coach Phil Martelli looks for ways to make his
mid-major Hawks a threat to go deep into the NCAA tournament. He
points to an overused videotape resting on the VCR next to him, a
cassette that contains the high-speed offense he's installing
during the preseason. "Kansas ran more effectively than anyone
else in the country last year," says Martelli, citing the team on
the tape, the national runner-up Jayhawks, as his inspiration.
"It's a style that creates better opportunities for our big
people. Of course, if all you needed were a perimeter game...
it's see you in San Antonio."
Indeed, the backcourt is Final Four-caliber, primarily because of
the return of senior point guard Jameer Nelson, who took his name
out of the NBA draft pool last spring after learning that he
wasn't likely to be a first-round pick. Nelson accelerates like a
Ferrari and orchestrates the offense with a deft but understated
style. "A lot of guys just want to score and some guys can only
pass," says Nelson. "I can do both." His role model now is Kirk
Hinrich, who played four years at Kansas and then became a
lottery pick (chosen seventh by the Chicago Bulls) last spring.
"He came back as a senior and helped his team become very
successful and moved up 12 to 15 spots in the draft."
Nelson's running mates--shooting guard Delonte West, who was
leading the Hawks in scoring last season when he fractured his
right fibula with six games left, small forward Pat Carroll and
senior reserve Tyrone Barley--are good perimeter shooters as
well, but they bow to the maestro. "Jameer can score anytime he
wants," says West, "but he's always thinking of who needs to get
In that vein Nelson has been contemplating ways to get more
production out of the frontcourt. Junior John Bryant and
sophomores Dwayne Jones and Dave Mallon combined for a paltry 6.8
shots and 8.8 points per game in 2002-03. "We have to show those
guys we believe in them," says Nelson. "Getting them easy baskets
is a good way to build confidence."
Layups and dunks by the big men will almost certainly mean that
the Hawks have mastered their coach's new system. --J.O.
2002-03 RECORD: 23-7 (12-4, 1st in Atlantic 10 East)
TOURNAMENT: Lost to Auburn in 1st round
POS. PLAYER HT. CL. KEY STAT
SF Pat Carroll 6'5" Jr. 45.0 3FG%
PF John Bryant 6'7" Jr. 3.5 rpg
C Dwayne Jones 6'11" Soph. 2.0 bpg
SG Delonte West 6'4" Jr. 17.3 ppg
PG Jameer Nelson 6'0" Sr. 19.7 ppg
an opposing coach's view
"The first thing I think about is how hard they play defensively.
It sometimes hides the fact that they are very inexperienced up
front.... A lot of people don't know about DWAYNE JONES, but he's
a really good shot blocker and very mobile. I look for him to
come into his own this year.... PAT CARROLL is the perfect
complement to JAMEER NELSON and DELONTE WEST because when they
break down defenses, he's often left wide open, and he's such a
terrific shooter. You want to make him put the ball on the
floor.... Nelson is a warrior. The bigger the stakes, the better
he is. He's the only guy in our league who can put his team on
his back and carry it to victory."
Points needed by guard Jameer Nelson this season to overtake
Bernard Blunt as St. Joseph's alltime leading scorer (1,985).