STANDISH, ME – The St. Joe's men's basketball team has been a powerhouse in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) since joining the league in 2007 and this season looks to be no different.
The Monks paced all levels of NCAA Men's Basketball with a 43.2% (240-556) three-point success rate and will likely employ a similar offensive style this season under the guidance of ninth-year Head Coach Rob Sanicola '99 (139-80, .635), the 2011 GNAC Coach of the Year.
Saint Joseph's returns four starters - and five of the team's top six scorers - from a squad that went 20-8 overall and 15-3 in conference play last season. The GNAC record was good for the top seed in the conference playoffs, but the Monks' hopes of winning a second league championship in three years were dashed when Johnson & Wales University topped the Royal Blue in the GNAC title game at the Harold Alfond Center in late February.
The disappointing loss has driven the returners, led by senior two-year captains Zach O'Brien (Schenectady, N.Y.) and Chris Petzy (Kensington, N.H), to work harder than ever before, particularly in the offseason. This team will also benefit from a week-long trip to England during which the group played a handful of exhibition games and scrimmages against professional teams. Although the competition was welcomed, the camaraderie and chemistry gained during the trip overseas will likely prove invaluable.
O'Brien, a 2011 First Team All-GNAC selection, leads a talented group of returners as the 6'4 swingman became the second player in team history to pace the Monks in scoring (16.9 PPG), rebounding (4.8 RPG) and assists (4.3 APG) in a single season. Petzy, another outstanding offensive player, averaged 15.4 PPG and led the conference in three-point success with a 45.5% (65-143) rate as a junior. Both players started all 28 contests last winter.
Junior point guard Julio Vazquez (Waterbury, Conn.) averaged 5.1 points, 4.1 boards and 2.6 assists per game and emerged into a viable offensive threat as a first-year starter. Clark Noonan '14 (Bangor, Maine), a 6'6 center, started 18 of the Monks' last 19 contests and averaged 5.0 points and 4.4 rebounds while exhibiting excellent defensive skills in the paint. It is reasonable to expect both of these players to perform even better this year after logging plenty of PT as underclassmen.
Sophomores Matthew Medeiros (Westport, Mass.) and Nicholas Jobin (Westbrook, Maine) will be asked to fill bigger roles this season. Medeiros, a terrific perimeter player and dependable shooter, averaged 6.4 PPG while shooting 43.8% (32-73) from downtown and 42.5 % (51-120) overall. Jobin, a powerful and athletic forward who stands at 6'6, showed glimpses of things to come as a rookie and could play a big role in the Monks' plans this year.
The team will look to the continued development of returning players as well as contributions made by incoming recruits to help fill the void created by the graduation of Tyler Kelley and Anthony Savino. Kelley, a two-time All-GNAC selection and 1,000-point scorer, averaged 14.7 PPG and ranked 13th in the country with a 44.7% (84-188) success rate from beyond the arc as a senior. Savino was a solid defensive presence during his collegiate career and paced the Royal Blue with 11 blocked shots last season.
Vazquez, the team's lone junior, will once again quarterback the SJC offense. His surprising ability to pop the open three or slash the lane for an easy bucket provides Saint Joseph's with another offensive weapon while preventing opponents from double-teaming the Monks' top offensive threats.
Petzy enjoyed a tremendous season in his first season as a full-time starter and posted career-highs in nearly every category as a junior. One of the finest pure shooters in program history, Petzy enters his senior season just 65 points shy of the 1,000-point plateau.
O'Brien has developed into one of the Monks' best all-around players in recent memory and became just the 12th player in team history to reach the 1,000-point mark during his junior year in a win over Rivier College last winter.
Medeiros will be counted on to fill a bigger role in Kelley's absence and seems prepared, both mentally and physically, to do just that. He was barely fazed by the speed of the college game and displayed plenty of poise on the court as a freshman; expect this second-year player to log plenty of minutes in a variety of roles this season.
Incoming freshmen Matt Sullivan (West Babylon, N.Y.) and Steve Simonds (Steep Falls, Maine) could work their way into the rotation with further development and understanding of the SJC offense. Returning guards Spencer Adams '12 (North Yarmouth, Maine) and Chinyere Ibezim '14 (Queens, N.Y.) will look for minutes off the bench, as will newcomers Jordan Tripp '15 (Maspeth, N.Y.) and Mike Fecteau '14 (Epping, N.H.).
Noonan and Jobin look to log plenty of minutes on the post this winter and the growth of their games will likely play an important role in the Monks' fortune in 2011-12. Both possess the size and skillset to be successful in the paint on both ends of the court.
This group is not lacking in depth. Senior Tom Ray (Cape Elizabeth, Maine), an intelligent and hardworking player, has seen his role increase every season and played in all 28 games as a top reserve last year. James Philbrook '14 (Auburn, Maine), a smooth all-around player, and Terry Cullen '14 (Massapequa, N.Y.), a massive presence on the defensive glass, have benefited from a year of collegiate hoops and could see increased minutes as second-year players.
Bruno Cavallo '14 (Hampton Bays, N.Y.) and a pair of freshmen, Danny Brooks (Boston, Mass.) and Zach Blodgett (Glenburn, Maine), will also vie for time this season. Brooks is a gifted scorer who possesses rare athletic ability and is in line to log valuable minutes in his first season. Blodgett could develop into a consistent contributor, perhaps as early as this winter.
Saint Joseph's will open the 2011-12 campaign on the road with a non-conference contest at University of Maine-Farmington. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 PM.