Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
St. Joe’s hosted a public inter-squad scrimmage on Saturday in Hagan Arena. The Hawks broke up into different team pairings for four 10-minute scrimmage segments.
Here are some thoughts from the inter-squad exhibition:
Pierfrancesco Oliva (right) and Taylor Funk (left) both had impressive scrimmages out Saturday. (Photo: Tommy Smith/CoBL)
1. Young bigs impress
Pierfrancesco Olivia started every game for St. Joe’s as a freshman in 2015-16. The 6-8 forward from Italy averaged 4.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg and 1.7 apg. After offseason knee surgery, Olivia missed the entire 2016-17 campaign.
He showed no signs of rust on Saturday, looking very athletic as he ran up and down the floor. Olivia made 30 percent of his threes during his freshman season, but he was much more effective driving to the basket on Saturday.
Olivia played some point-forward for the Hawks, leading St. Joe’s on the fastbreak and dribbling the ball up top.
“He’s a really special IQ player and our young bigs can be around him and be helpful for sure,” coach Phil Martelli said.
Freshman bigs Taylor Funk and Anthony Longpré displayed their range Saturday, making several attempts from deep, although no official stats were kept. Funk, a 6-9 forward from Manheim Central, has a beautiful stroke and looks like he could turn into a key piece for the Hawks down the line.
Longpré, a 6-10 forward from Canada, is a little less athletic than Funk, but can stretch the floor as well. He won a gold medal with Canada’s U19 National Team this summer.
2. Injuries still a concern
Two of Saint Joe’s best players were not available for Saturday’s scrimmage. Sophomore forward Charlie Brown fractured his wrist in practice last week, while senior guard Shavar Newkirk is still recovering from his torn ACL, which he suffered last December.
Brown was one of just four players to appear in every game for St. Joe’s in 2016-17, averaging 12.8 ppg and 5.0 rpg. His left wrist was wrapped up on Saturday, and he spent most of his time on the stationary bike.
“He’s got a few weeks,” Martelli said. “Is that two, is that four? We don’t know. It’s a few weeks.
“His approach will be to be ready,” he added. “When they say to him ‘go,’ he’s got to be able to go. It’s not, ‘Ah I’ve got to start rehab.’ He did a hard workout over there on the bike.”
Brown’s father posted a video on Facebook several days ago of the Northeast Philadelphia grad getting shots up thanks to his healthy shooting hand.
Newkirk was St. Joe’s leading scorer through 12 games last season, averaging 20.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg and 3.5 apg.
While he seemed a bit uncertain about when Newkirk would return earlier this preseason, Martelli’s comments after the scrimmage on Saturday suggest the senior guard might have a chance to start the season on the floor for the Hawks.
“Soon I think, but I’m not medical,” he said. “He has met every benchmark and he will go into this week, two weeks left, we can get him ready and he could be ready. He’s done everything short of competition. He hasn’t run into anybody. He hasn’t gone physical yet, but we just listen to the medical people and continue to rehab him.”
3. Clover looks to have more of a scoring role
From the first possession of Saturday’s scrimmage, junior guard Chris Clover was on the attack. Whether that was driving to the basket or catching and shooting from behind the arc, Clover put the ball in the hoop.
The 6-4 wing guard out of St. Joe’s Prep -- Clover won the Catholic League MVP award in 2014-15 -- started in 18 games last season, averaging 7.8 ppg. Clover’s offensive role expanded last season as the Hawks’ roster was hampered with injuries.
When Lamarr Kimble went down for the season in mid-February, Clover became a key cog in the offense. Clover averaged 13.6 ppg in the Hawks’ final seven games. After scoring in double figures in just four of the team’s first 23 contests, he scored 10-or-more points in five of the final seven.
With Brown out and Newkirk’s status uncertain heading into the season, Martelli is counting on Clover to once again pick up his scoring output.
“He has been (aggressive) all preseason and needs to be,” he said. “With Charlie out, somebody’s got to score the ball. It can’t all fall on Fresh. Fresh can’t run the offense and score the ball. Chris has gotta tighten with the ball and he’s gotta be quicker. He’s gotta take quicker shots.”