Phil Martelli and St. Joe's won 28 games last season. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Stephen Pianovich (@SPianovich)
Phil Martelli and Saint Joseph’s are coming off their most successful season since Jameer Nelson and Delonte West memorably led the Hawks to the Elite 8 in 2004. So it’s fitting that Martelli could potentially see one of his players (DeAndre’ Bembry) go in the first round of the NBA Draft, like Nelson and West did 12 years ago.
We caught up to Martelli to discuss the Draft process for both Bembry and Isaiah Miles, a few of the Hawks’ recent 2016 commitments and what he has planned for his team in the summer:
CoBL: Let’s start with the two guys you have in the Draft. What’s your contact with DeAndre and Isaiah like, and how closely do you follow their progress through these steps up to the Draft?
Martelli: “Isaiah is still in Philadelphia. So when he is not working out with NBA teams, he’s here working out with our strength and conditioning here and getting shots up in Hagan Arena. He’s living locally and celebrating his graduation, which is a tremendous achievement.
With DeAndre, I went out to the combine for a day, and he came through when he worked out with the Sixers. I spent some time with him that day. I try to stay in touch with him through texts and phone calls, but I don’t overdo it. He’s a very calm guy, but there are still stressful parts of this. So I text just about every morning, telling him to travel safe and letting him know I’m here if he needs anything. And we’re still taking phone calls, not quite as many before the workouts started. But no we take phone calls from the security people of each team and things like that.”
CoBL: DeAndre is potentially your first first-rounder since 2004 with Jameer and Delonte. What was it like that year watching them, and is the feeling at all similar with DeAndre?
Martelli: I was with Jameer in 2004. He was invited to the Green Room, and I was at his table. Meanwhile, by phone I was monitoring what was going on with Delonte. We had a coach with him and his family. We were dead certain Jameer would be a first-round pick, and we were unsure where Delonte would fall.
As DeAndre prepares, I’m not overstepping my bounds. This is a special time for his family, and any engagement I have with him on the night of the Draft will be strictly at his family’s request.
CoBL: Another thing on Isaiah, no matter what happens in the Draft, it seems like he’s going to end up in a pretty good situation after the senior year and combine and everything he's had. Do people realize how much he’s changed his personal future in the last year?
Martelli: This is a true legacy. He’s left a legacy for our younger players to appreciate and understand. The legacy he’s left is way beyond the numbers and the 28 wins. It’s not something that you sit and pinch yourself and say ‘Man, I can’t believe this happened.’ He’s beyond that. He’s put in that work that is just extraordinary. For two guys to have this opportunity two years after Langston (Galloway) and Ron Roberts had similar opportunities – I’m just delighted for them and their families. And I think it can pay dividends for this program for a very long time.”
CoBL: Switching the focus to your current team, you signed a few guys in the 2016 class since the end of the year. How do you feel about where your roster is heading into the summer?
Martelli: I think first and foremost, I’m delighted with the quality of people that we have, the returning players and the incoming players. Our championship last year was won in the players’ lounge and won in the locker room. It was won in the way we practiced. It was not won on DeAndre being the best player in the league and Isaiah was arguably two or three in the league. It was built on the fact we had wonderful teammates, and I don’t see that changing. I’m not big into this culture and all those buzz words of today, but that’s what we have now.”
CoBL: The two players you signed, Nick Robinson and Lorenzo Edwards, can you give a rundown of what you see in those guys?
Martelli: Nick is a certifiable basketball junkie. He’s always in the gym. He’s always asking me questions via texts or phone calls. He’s always asking me what it’s going to be like when he gets here and what are some drills he can start working on. I’m really energized by his basketball jones, really. He has a burn about him. He has a very high IQ and he’s a very good passer. We have to tighten up his body, and we’re going to have to work on his perimeter shot. But he has real personality that I think is going to be advantageous to his development.
Lorenzo is a very gifted, a very mature young guy. He carries himself older. He’s very calm and he’s multiskilled. Just like Nick is not coming here to be the next DeAndre Bembry – nor is Chris Clover going to be the next DeAndre Bembry – Lorenzo has been told repeatedly he’s not coming here to be the next Isaiah Miles, even though their skillsets match up. He’s coming here to be the very best Lorenzo Edwards he can become, just like we want Nick Robinson and Chris Clover to be the best versions of themselves. Lorenzo comes from NBA DNA with his dad. He comes from a winning program. He’s been very very well schooled. And he has a skill, he puts the ball in the basket, and we’re going to need to put the ball in the basket from every position. We want to play a similar style (next season), and that was predicated on us being able to score.
CoBL: What’s your summer look like, and what are you hoping your team gets out of it?
“We’re going to work out every Monday and Tuesday starting June 27. The freshman come to school the 26th. Most of our guys are off for the next three weeks. Then we’re going to pick it back up when we have everyone here, and we’re really going to concentrate on putting the ball in the basket in June, July and August in hopes that when we come back to school at the end of August, we’ll be ready to go and prepare for a tougher schedule. When you have quality people, you’re anxious to get started. So June 27, to be honest with you, can’t get here soon enough.”