No Jameer Nelson? No Problem! The Story of the 2004-05 Hawks
How can a team that went undefeated and finish 30-2 and make an appearance in the Elite 8 and not have enormous shoes to fill the following year? You lose the A.P Player of the Year recipient Jameer Nelson and Honorary All-American Delonte West to the NBA draft. That's how! A player that was also deeply missed on Hawk Hill was Tyrone Barley. He was the reliable sixth man on the undefeated team of 03-04. Tyrone was best known for his instant offense and lock down defense.
The 04-05 Hawks, were a new look team, much less recognizable then their previous team. Anchored by the sharpshooting senior Pat Carroll and senior forward John Bryant, the Hawks set out on a mission to show the country that they still able to compete on a national level without the likes of Nelson or West.
Along side Carroll and Bryant were players that now had their chance to shine. At the point you had Dwayne Lee, the scrappy shut down defensive specialist. Beside him playing shooting guard was a man known as Chet Stachitas, not only an ace shooter but also an Academic All-American. At center stood the 6-11 Dwayne Jones, rebound extraordinaire. Phil Martelli's starters also received help from a deep bench. Roles players such as Abdulia Jalloh, Dave Mallon, Rob Ferguson and 6-10 point guard Pat Calathes could come in and support the starters at any given moment.
In an effort to prove that their level of competion was still amongst the best, the Hawks traveled to Kansas to take on the Jayhawks. You could call this game a minor setback as the Hawks got rolled 91-51. However sniper Pat Carroll sat out this game due to a sore shoulder. With out a doubt Carroll would have scored the 41 points that the Hawks needed needed to win. As non- conference play ended, that Hawk had a dismal record of 3-6, with some of those loses coming against Drexel and Old Dominion. But as conference play began, a sense of urgency was felt on Hawk Hill. From that point on the Hawks won 9 of 10 conference games. Saint Joe's won 14 of its last 18 regular season games, losing to Pennsylvania, Villanova, Dayton and Rhode Island.
The Hawks received the top seed in the A-10 tournament. They dealt loses to Richmond and Xavier in their first two games. The championship game was set, it was the Hawks of Saint Joe's verse the perennial A-10 powerhouse George Washington Colonials. In the end GW proved to be to much for Saint Joe's defeating them 76-67. Now all the Hawks could do was sit and wait for their name to be called for a NCAA tournament bid.
The Hawks, sitting with a record of 17-10, were passed over by the selection committee. Not long after, Phil Martelli received a call from the NIT selection committee. The Hawks would once be playing in post-season basketball.
Saint Joe's had the luxury of playing their first three games in their backyard at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse. The Hawks ground out three hard fought wins and were on their way to Reed Arena to play Bob Knight and the Texas A & M Aggies. In a grueling battle the Hawks won 58-51. This win propelled them to the NIT Final Four to play in the epicenter of sports, Madison Square Garden, in the Big Apple. Saint Joe's were slated to play John Calipari's Memphis Tigers. It was a back and forth game until the end, and due to consistently sharp foul shooting the Hawk's won 70-58. Saint Joe's, after starting the season 3-6, was in the NIT championship game. They were to face the South Carolina Gamecocks.
The game went back and fourth, when one team would make a basket so would the other. With approximately 10 seconds to go SJU was down by three. They called upon their leader, Pat Carroll to step up to the occasion. Rolling off a Dwayne Jones screen, Carroll drained a three tying it at 67. Ronaldo Balkman of South Carolina, received the inbounds pass, drove up the floor and knocked down a three, thus ending both teams season's. One ended in pure joy, and one ended with a very painful defeat.
Saint Joe's not only met their expectations, they SHATTERED them. While no team in SJU history has matched that illustrious undefeated season, the 04-05 Hawks were a thrilling team to watch. A team that to will always be remembered on Hawk Hill.
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