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Saint Joseph’s young core laying the foundations for success on Hawk Hill

SJU reached the A-10 Quarterfinals for the first time since 2019

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at St. Joseph
In his first season on Hawk Hill, Lynn Greer averaged the second most PPG and led the team in APG.
Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday afternoon, Billy Lange’s fourth season at the helm of Saint Joseph’s came to an end with the Hawks battling No. 2 Dayton for a hard-fought 60-54, loss in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

For the Hawks, who arrived at the Barclays Center with the 10th seed, this quarterfinal run was a resounding success that saw St. Joe’s as the first program since the conference tournament’s expansion in 2014 to win on Day One and Day Two. (Although they were quickly followed by La Salle who defeated Rhode Island and Duquesne for a quarterfinal spot.)

Lange saw a lot of growth from his young core throughout their time in Brooklyn and thinks this was a great learning experience.

“I’m really proud of our guys [and], more importantly than celebrating, Dayton is really celebrating the growth of our group,” Lange said following the loss. “We wanted to be the most united team by the end of the season — that’s the goal of our program. I feel like our guys accomplished that and then some — teaching us a lot about spirit, respecting each other, elevating each other, serving each other, sharpening each other.”

While the Hawks haven’t put together a winning campaign in seven seasons, it’s clear to Lange that this was a big developmental step for the program by laying the foundations for a return to winning ways on Hawk Hill.

“We’ve had a lot of transition and turmoil that we’ve had to work through for 48 months, including a pandemic, including no roster, including a lot of things that I can’t mention now,” Lange said. “We continue to fight [with] the spirit that we have, that’s the Hawk Will Never Die. That’s our spirit, that’s our university, so I think the team represented that.”

A big part of that young foundation are sophomore guards Erik Reynolds II and Lynn Greer III who were crucial to St. Joe’s success come conference championship time.

For Greer III, it was leading the Hawks with a 22 point and 10 rebound double-double for a 72-67 first round win over Loyola Chicago. Meanwhile, Reynolds II led St. Joe’s with a career-high 34 points in the 87-76 second round victory against George Washington.

“[Lynn and Erik] are Hawk Hill guards [and] there’s a lot of great ones that have come before them,” Lange said after the first round win. “They don’t have to be Jameer Nelson, Delonte West, Langston Galloway, or Rasheed Bay [but] they have to know the standard that’s been created here before them.”

High praise for his young playmakers who, according to Lange, really grew into key leadership roles for the Hawks this season and most importantly, in Brooklyn.

While Reynolds II and Greer III were the stars of the show for St. Joe’s, collectively the Hawks young talent found a lot of success against Loyola, George Washington, and Dayton, to the satisfaction of the Hawks coaching staff.

“‘I’ll go down with young people knowing that when they’re older, we’re going to be able to do the things that I believe we can do,” Lange said. “To look out on that court and see two sophomores that didn’t even play last year in Kacper [Klaczek] and Lynn [Greer], and a third one in Erik [Reynolds]. Then [Christian Winborne ] in his freshman year, at the end of a game playing in this environment at the Barclays Center in March, is pretty special.”

While Lange indicated the program is hopeful for a return from senior Cameron Brown, and has already begun the process of re-recruiting him, this young core has really given the Hawks something to build on this offseason. Ultimately, St. Joe’s fans will finally feel that they have something to look forward to if they can keep this core intact.

“I love to teach, I love the games, I love to compete,” Lange said. “ … But, I love to teach, so I’m excited about the individual development that we have to do with guys that we are learning more about, and they’re young. I love this group we have coming in. I love the two guys that we have sitting out … so that’s what I’m excited about and this is how we’re going to do it at Saint Joseph’s.”