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St. Joe's men facing significant turnover this offseason

03/21/2022, 12:30pm EDT
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

Billy Lange is coming back for his fourth year on the Saint Joseph’s sidelines, but the Hawks’ head men’s coach is going to have quite a new look on his roster next season.

Billy Lange (above) will have to try to move St. Joe's forward without his two leading scorers from this year. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

When Jordan Hall announced his intention to forgo his final three years of eligibility and declare for the NBA Draft on Friday morning, he became the fourth St. Joe’s player this offseason to depart with years still left to play in a collegiate uniform. Dahmir Bishop and Jack Forrest had already elected to leave earlier this month, while Taylor Funk announced earlier this week his entrance to the transfer portal as a graduate transfer with one year of eligibility left.

That quartet takes with it a sizable chunk of St. Joe’s scoring, rebounding, and minutes, especially in the form of Funk and Hall, its two biggest stars.

A 6-foot-8 wing guard from Neumann-Goretti, Hall burst onto the scene as a potential pro prospect after his freshman year, where he averaged 10.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg and 5.7 apg, proving himself as a playmaking guard who can stretch the floor and attack the rim. He briefly tested NBA waters and also announced a transfer to Texas A&M but quickly reversed course and returned to St. Joe’s for his sophomore year.

Hall did improve his scoring (14.1 ppg), rebounding (6.7) and assist (5.8) numbers, shooting 36.2% from 3-point range and 39.3% overall, though the Hawks struggled this season, going 11-19 overall and just 5-13 in the Atlantic 10. Nevertheless, Hall decided his time in college was done, and it was clear from statements both he and the school released that he wasn’t just testing the waters this time.

Funk, a 6-8 stretch-forward out of Manheim Central (Pa.), finished his St. Joe’s career with 1,439 points and 670 rebounds, putting him 22nd on the school’s scoring list; his 277 career 3-pointers are third in program history. After struggling from deep as a sophomore and junior, he rebounded nicely to average 14.9 ppg and hit 36.5% of his triples over his last two seasons, averaging a career-best 6.6 rpg this past season as well. 

Due to the COVID season and a redshirt injury year in 2019-20, Funk has one season of eligibility remaining, and he told Lancaster Online that pro scouts and agents had encouraged to take that season, play at a high-major level and add muscle to his frame to get ready for his professional hoops career.

For both Bishop and Forrest, their transfers will be the second of their respective careers.

Bishop, a 6-4 guard out of Imhotep Charter, started his career at Xavier, where he left midway through his freshman year as a little-used reserve. He appeared in 48 games (14 starts) over two years with the Hawks, though his scoring average dropped more than half from his first (7.7 ppg) to second (3.1) year on campus, and his playing time had decreased as well. 

It was a similar situation with Forrest, as the Lower Merion product averaged 10.4 ppg and 3.3 rpg in 2020-21 after transferring in from Columbia, but only 3.6 ppg and shot 25% from 3-point range this year.

Both lost their minutes in large part due to freshman Erik Reynolds II, who averaged 12.1 ppg in 28.6 minutes, marking himself as one of the top rookies in the city and the Atlantic 10.

The Hawks ended their 2021-22 campaign losing eight of their final nine, including a defeat at the hands of Big 5 rival La Salle — which just fired its coach, Ashley Howard, after four years — in the opening round of the A-10 tournament, the third time this season the Explorers topped the Hawks.

The last ended Lange’s third season in replacing Phil Martelli, who was fired by new SJU athletic director Jill Bodensteiner in 2019 after a 24-year career that saw him take the program to seven different NCAA Tournaments. 

Fan discontent was clear on social media and at games as the season went on, but St. Joe’s was quick to squash any coaching rumblings, issuing a statement the day after the season ended.

There’s no doubt that frustration with the current state of St. Joe’s basketball will continue to grow without a significant step forward next season, one that was supposed to happen this year with the Hawks’ returning core. Now Lange and his staff have to make that happen with what’s going to be quite a different look next year, though there are a few pieces back.

Grad student forward Ejike Obinna has already announced his intent to return after averaging 12.1 ppg and a team-high 7.9 rpg last year, and Reynolds has given no indication he’ll be anywhere but Hawk Hill next year. Cameron Brown (8.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg) makes it three starters back, and the hope is that Dayton transfer Lynn Greer III, the Roman Catholic grad who sat out last season after transferring, will provide some pop to the backcourt. 

The college transfer market is going to be hot every spring, and so the departures are not an immediate sign that Lange’s program is in danger of totally falling apart. But playing the game this time of year has become an important part of most D-I programs' success, and what the Hawks’ staff is able to do in the next 4-6 weeks will be crucial towards taking that program step forward in 2022-23.

Three new faces are already slated to join the program faces: Harcum College (Pa.) transfer Louis Bleechmore, who will have three years of eligibility remaining; and a pair of true freshmen, guard Christian Winborne (Gilman School, Md.) and forward Rasheer Fleming (Camden, N.J.).

You can bet that the Hawks’ staff will do their best to add a couple impact transfers with immediate eligibility to shore up the backcourt, and they could use a stretch-big in Funk’s mold, most of their current bigs of the physical, interior variety.

That's all easier said than done, of course.

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