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Saint Joseph’s forward Pierfrancesco Oliva to miss 2016-17 season

The Hawks’ depleted frontcourt takes another hit as Oliva recovers from knee surgery.

NCAA Basketball: Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament-Saint Joseph's Hawks vs Dayton Flyers Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Saint Joseph’s sophomore forward Pierfrancesco Oliva will miss the 2016-17 season to recover from knee surgery, the school announced on Wednesday.

This leaves Phil Martelli without yet another piece from the Hawks’ successful 2015-16 frontcourt. Atlantic 10 Player of the Year DeAndre’ Bembry (37.3 minutes per game) was selected 21st overall in the NBA draft by the Atlanta Hawks, while Isaiah Miles (34.4 mpg) and Papa Ndao (19.9 mpg) ran out of eligibility.

Oliva (16.5 mpg) was expected to play a key role in a big-man rotation thin on experience. He started 30 games as a freshman and was the team’s third-leading rebounder despite his comparatively limited action next to Bembry and Miles.

Junior James Demery (21.6 mpg) will be the lone forward with significant experience on a roster highlighted by guards Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr Kimble.

Martelli does bring in a four-man recruiting class with plenty of size, which includes a pair of versatile Illinois prep products in 6’7 forward Lorenzo Edwards and 6’6 wing Nick Robinson. Edwards talked to City of Basketball Love about his game in May:

“I feel like I’m a mismatch. I am bigger and I have been playing in the post for a while, since really the beginning of my basketball career. But then I really started working on my ballhandling and shooting so I could really become a mismatch problem. Shorter guys on me, I can post them up, and if there’s a bigger guy on me, I can take him off the dribble and attack that way.”

This always figured to be a step-back year for the Hawks, and there will now be even more opportunity for Martelli’s young players to develop.

Saint Joseph’s opens against Toledo on Nov. 12.