STANDISH, ME – The Saint Joseph's College Men's Basketball team returns three starters from a 2010 squad that posted a 19-7 overall record and played to a 14-4 tilt in Great Northeast Athletic Conference play last winter.
Rob Sanicola '99 is back for his eighth season as the Monks' head coach and the upcoming campaign promises to be one of the most exciting during his tenure. St. Joe's - ousted from the 2010 conference tournament in the opening round by an upstart Lasell College quintet, features a veteran corps that logged significant minutes last year. The freshman class should provide talent and depth, and several newcomers are expected to contribute immediately as the Royal Blue attempts to make another run at the GNAC crown.
A larger roster filled with athletic, intelligent players will allow Coach Sanicola to fully implement his style of play. Expect to see more man-to-man defense with the same fast-paced tempo offensively. Sanicola encourages his guards and forwards to push the ball up the court and play in transition. They can create opportunities for teammates or take the shot themselves.
The Monks will be a more balanced inside-out team in 2010-11, as post play is expected to improve significantly this year with the additions of talented newcomers Nicholas Jobin '14 (Westbrook, ME), James Philbrook '14 (Auburn, ME), Clark Noonan '14 (Bangor, ME) and Terence Cullen '14 (Massapequa, NY).
Among the teams listed on the Monks' non-conference docket are seven programs that earned postseason invites, including three that went on to make an appearance in the NCAA or ECAC Tournament last March. Highlighting the Monks' non-conference slate is a contest in North Carolina against NCAA DI opponent Davidson College in late December. St. Joe's will be playing the Wildcats, a 2008 Elite 8 participant, for the third time in program history.
"The Davidson trip is a high profile game for us," Sanicola commented. "We are excited about competing against one of the top teams in the Southern Conference and one of the best mid-major programs in the country."
Other non-league opponents include UNE, Maine-Farmington, Southern Maine, Husson, Bowdoin and Bates. Farmington participated in the NCAA DIII Tournament and advanced to the second round and Husson was selected to play in the ECAC New England Tournament last season.
Saint Joseph's will kick-off the GNAC season with a tough contest against Emerson College at the Alfond Center on December 4th. The Monks will seek vengeance against Lasell College, the team that bounced the Royal Blue from the GNAC tourney last year, in Newton, Massachusetts on January 15th and play at Albertus Magnus College two days later. The game against the Falcons, the reigning conference champs who defeated #7 William Paterson in the opening round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, should prove to be a good litmus test for the Royal Blue.
The Monks will look to go deep into the conference tourney without the familiar faces of Ray Eatmon (Huntington, NY) and Alberto Rue (Jamaica Plain, MA), as both graduated last spring after four seasons of solid play. Eatmon, a 6'5" swingman, netted over 1,000 points and 750 rebounds in his career and was a three-time All- GNAC selection. Rue, a 6'2" guard, notched over 600 points in three seasons as a contributor and earned All-Tournament honors as a sophomore.
An abundance of talent returns to man the guard positions on the 2010-11 team. Tyler Kelley '11 (Saco, ME), Zach O'Brien '12 (Schenectady, NY) and Chris Petzy '12 (Kensington, NH) all averaged over 13.0 PPG last year and will be relied upon once again to ignite the Monks' high-powered offensive attack. All three have the ability to drive the lane as well as connect on mid-range jumpers, and there is no doubt about their ability to shoot from downtown, as the trifecta combined to make more than 120 three-pointers in 2009-10.
Kelley enters his senior campaign looking to leave his mark as one of the best shooters in program history. He collected his first All-Conference honor last year as a Second Team honoree after averaging 14.3 points, 3.6 boards and 1.2 assists in 24 games as a junior. Kelley, the team's all-time leader in three-point efficiency with a 43.4% (115-265) success rate from downtown, will once again be one of the Monks' top scoring threats this winter.
O'Brien, also a 2009-10 Second Team All-GNAC selection, looks to build upon his all-league status and is primed to propel Sanicola's offensive system for a third season. The junior swingman led the Monks with 14.5 PPG and 4.1 APG averages last year while shooting 44.3% (141-318) from the field and 75.3% (70-93) from the line in 26 starts as a sophomore. O'Brien's skill-set includes the ability to shoot, drive the lane, distribute the ball, rebound and defend, but his court vision is perhaps his most impressive quality as a player. He ranked fourth in the GNAC in assists and assist/turnover ratio (1.5) during his second season.
The coaching staff expects big things from Petzy, O'Brien's classmate and fellow co-captain, this season. The 2010 GNAC Sportsman of the Year paced the Royal Blue in shooting from beyond the arc (43.6%, 44-101) and the charity stripe (78.5%, 51-65) while averaging 13.7 PPG during a breakout sophomore campaign and is expected to increase his production in 2010-11. Sanicola also anticipates better decision-making from Petzy, who is entering his third year with the program.
Speedy point guard Julio Vazquez '13 (Waterbury, CT) averaged 2.2 points and 2.5 assists in limited minutes as a freshman and, with a year of collegiate hoops under his belt, is expected to increase his contributions across the board.
The addition of Matthew Medeiros '14 (Westport, MA), a sharpshooting guard, gives the Saint Joseph's coaching staff a scoring point guard to challenge Vazquez and provide depth in the backcourt.
As a senior last year at Westport, Medeiros averaged 24 points, 7 assists and 3 steals per game and garnered Mayflower League MVP honors to cap his stellar high school career. He led his team to conference titles his junior and senior years and is likely to bring that winning attitude to the Monks program.
"Matt sees the floor very well and can put the ball in the basket," Sanicola said. "He will push Julio for playing time and give us another option at the point."
Returners Spencer Adams '12 (North Yarmouth, ME) and Tom Ray '12 (Cape Elizabeth, ME) and newcomers Sean McCloskey '12 (Valley Stream, NY) and Chinyere Ibezim '14 (Queens, NY) will compete for time at the guard positions as well.
Senior Anthony Savino (Portland, ME/Cheverus), who averaged 4.9 points and 3.5 caroms per game last season, is the Monks' lone returner at the forward position. Savino, an athletic forward, started in 19 games and averaged 21.6 minutes of playing time as a junior.
Despite the lack of experience in the paint, the Royal Blue Faithful should expect big things from an impressive class of first-year forwards. Jobin and Noonan, a center, both stand at 6'6" and bring impressive high school résumés to "The Lake." At 6'4," Philbrook is another skilled rookie forward who brings athleticism and quickness to the paint.
Sanicola believes the Monks have landed a tremendous prospect in Jobin, who enjoyed an outstanding four years of varsity basketball and averaged 20 points, 12.5 rebounds and four assists as a senior at nearby Westbrook High School. A two-time All-SMAA pick and conference MVP as a senior, Jobin is a physical forward and a threat to score from any distance. Look for this first-year player to vie for serious minutes and contribute on both ends of the court in 2010-11.
Noonan hails from Bangor High School, where he earned All-KVAC First Team, All-Defensive and All-Academic honors as a senior. Already one of the team's hardest workers, Noonan averaged 15 points and 12 boards at Bangor High last winter and appears ready to make the jump to the next level.
Philbrook comes to Saint Joseph's from Edward Little High School where he led the Red Eddies to a pair of Eastern Maine Championships and averaged 10 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists per game as a senior.
Although a very talented corps returns, it's likely that the Monks' success in 2010-11 hinges on how the first-year players adapt to the pace, intensity and overall level of competition at the collegiate level. The development of the newcomers is likely to play a major factor this season; if the effort during preseason is to be considered, the coaching staff is very encouraged.