Jerome Taylor (@ThatGuy_Rome)
Coming into the 2023-2024 season, the potential was evident for Saint Joseph’s men’s team.
To fulfill that potential, the Hawks will need contributions from some of the less-established players on their roster.
On Tuesday night, Billy Lange and his staff got an extended look at some of those players.
Xzayvier Brown (above) set a new career mark as St. Joe's routed Stonehill on Tuesday night. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
With 16:22 remaining in the first half, Lynn Greer III picked up his second foul. In his stead, another former Roman Catholic guard, Xzayvier Brown, stepped up in the 100-56 blowout win over Stonehill.
In his first offensive possession, the freshman converted a reverse layup that excited the crowd in Hagan Arena. A few possessions later, he attacked the rim again, taking advantage of an out-of-control closeout by a Stonehill (1-2) defender at the top of the arc.
“I saw that I could push the pace and try and make the game a little bit faster. I watched that from the bench as the game started,” Brown said. “When I came in, I just tried to be the spark for the rest of our team.”
The 44-point victory was the biggest Hawks’ win in the Lange era and pushed the Hawks to 3-0, with their sights on the program’s first 4-0 start since 2003-2004, when they went 27-0 in the regular season.
Throughout the first half, the Skyhawks got a healthy dose of Brown, and Lange got to see his freshman guard’s and the rest of his roster’s “possession endurance.”
“You have to build up possession endurance in college basketball, it’s not about minutes to me,” Lange said.
After the game, Brown and sophomore Rasheer Fleming (14 points and three blocked shots) said the phrase was foreign to them before arriving on Hawk Hill.
“[At St. Joe’s] was my first time hearing that, and I think it’s a good thing to hear because it gives you a new way of looking at it,” Fleming said. “When you think about minutes in a game, it’s just the amount of possessions. So much goes on in a little amount of time, but a lot can go on in a certain amount of possessions.”
“To me, it means trying to be on point the whole possession because a lot can happen in that 30 seconds. And it’s a big adjustment for me coming from high school,” Brown added.
Lange’s definition revolves around the values that the program instills in the players.
“Possession endurance is doing the things that we are holding them to from a standard standpoint on offense, on defense, when the ball goes out of bounds, and your mind can race.. can you continue to play like a Hawk every time,” Lange explained “You can do it for six possessions, can you do it for 12 possessions? Can you do it for 18?”
Brown and Fleming strung together their share of good possessions throughout the matchup. Brown’s stat sheet was particularly full by the end of the rout, finishing with 21 points, four assists, five rebounds, and a steal.
In addition to production from his young guard, Lange got contributions from up and down his lineup. Junior leader and CoBL preseason Big 5 Player of the Year, Erik Reynolds II, was lights out from beyond the arc, going 5-7 from deep in the game en route to 15 points.
Cameron Brown, the other member of the starting guard trio (joining Greer III and Reynolds II) and one of four players in double figures on the night, added 12 points. Christian Winborne and Kacper Klaczer, two other key bench contributors, finished with 6 points apiece. The offensive production was abundant; 14 of the 16 Hawks who touched the court scored, and St. Joseph’s assisted on 26 of their 39 baskets (67%).
Defensively, SJU held Stonehill to 27% from the field. Christ Essandko played a significant role in that regard, adding three blocks of his own, joining Fleming as a stifling vertical presence.
The Hawks’ depth has been evident this season, with Lange playing at least ten different players in five of the first six halves this year. Lange has no plans to change the strategy, but he’s made it clear to his locker room that “possession endurance” will keep you on the court.
“Our younger players have to respect the experiences and journeys that guys like Kacper, Cam[eron Brown], Christian, Erik, Lynn have been through together. They’ve lost games but built up their ‘possession endurance’ because they were young. I want [the younger players] to value that,” Lange said.
“I want our older guys to understand there’s a lot of talent on this roster. If you’re not doing the things that you should be doing possession-by-possession, that want that opportunity.”
Texas A&M University - Commerce comes to Hagan Arena on Friday for the final game of the Hawks’ season-opening four-game homestand. After that, they’ll have their biggest test, possession endurance or otherwise, when they go on the road to take on the Kentucky Wildcats.