Practices and workouts during the summer months, and trips abroad to Europe along with other parts of the world — Division 1 teams are permitted to take trips abroad during the summer once every four years — are welcome opportunities for coaches and players to gel with one another and bond off of the basketball court.
This is also a time for coaches to become innovative and experiment new playing styles in preparation for the upcoming season. For St. Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli, that style, in one word — fast.
“I want them to play at a better pace…being more aggressive, Martelli told Nick Menta of CSNPhilly.com.
It is easy to understand why Martelli wishes his Hawks play at a more frenetic pace this season. In 2012-13, their adjusted tempo ranked 293rd in the country, according to KenPom.com. Don’t think that having to play at a quick pace is necessary for success. Teams like Wisconsin, Notre Dame, and Georgetown all play at a slow pace, but they are routinely in the Top 25 annually.
A primary reason for the slow pace of play was St. Joe’s inability to force turnovers. Many coaches will tell you that deflections are critical in not only forcing turnovers, but disrupting the opposition’s offensive flow. Longtime head coach Ralph Willard developed a “Circle of Opportunity” that has deflections as the number one priority: “1. Deflections: our goal is 40 a game. 40+ deflections a game = .900 winning percentage.”
St. Joseph’s ranked in the bottom 30 of forcing turnovers, and Martelli knows that must change: “We have to force more than nine turnovers a game…[And] we have to score more. We have to take more shots.”
Forcing more turnovers equals more offensive possessions equals more shots attempted equals more scoring opportunities. But, it all stems from disrupting the opposition and forcing turnovers. Make sense?
As you would expect, Martelli will use a variety of combinations and different looks when his team embarks on a 10 day trip to Italy this evening (August 11 – August 21).
While modifying and retooling how St. Joe’s plays their game this season, a trip like this to Italy is an experience that extends further than the court, Martelli explained:
The best programs in the country do this every four years. And we consider our program to be one of the best in the nation and it was the decision and cooperation by our administration to allow this to happen. We also have a number of kind benefactors who have stepped forth to allow us to finance this. “The chance for these guys to have a social opportunity that they may never have again. It’s really going to prove invaluable to them as people which is part of my responsibility.
Martelli and St. Joseph’s are hoping this experience over in Italy will help lead them back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008, and earn them their first Tournament win since 2004.