#A10WBBTIPOFF: 2019-20 Saint Joseph's Hawks Season Preview
Welcome to the Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Tipoff for the 2019-20 Season. This afternoon, we feature the Saint Joseph's Hawks.
Hawk Hill will have a different look this season behind the Atlantic 10’s most veteran coach, Cindy Griffin, entering her 19th season at her alma mater.
With six freshmen and four sophomores, these Hawks rival Saint Louis for being the youngest team in the league. During summer school, Griffin was able to introduce concepts, she said, that will play to this young group's strengths.
“We’ll be much more post-oriented,” Griffin said. “We’ll be recollecting two years ago when we had (6-1 defensive ace Adashia) Franklyn, (6-1 rebounding gem Amanda) Fioravanti and (6-0 two-time All-Atlantic 10 forward) Chelsea Woods. We’re going to look more like that in terms of post play and a little more balanced in terms of perimeter and post."
Headlining the cast of newcomers is Claire Melia, a 6-3 forward who averaged 16.3 points and 12.0 rebounds to help Ireland earn a bronze medal at the FIBA U20 European Championships (Division B). Griffin touts Melia’s “uncanny quickness and instincts” and projects her as an immediate contributor.
“She’s a fantastic passer, she can shoot the ball; we’re going to play a lot through her,” Griffin said. “She’s more mature because she’s played on the international circuit.”
As for the returners, Griffin is particularly excited about redshirt sophomore guard Katie Jekot, who made the A-10’s all-rookie team despite having to work her way back from a knee injury that wiped out her entire 2017-18 campaign.
“She’s a lot better,” Griffin said. “She’s that combo guard we need to complement our backcourt.”
Junior Lula Roig will play the point, a new position for her at Saint Joseph’s, but a familiar one given the Barcelona, Spain, native’s international experience. “She’s ready to do it,” Griffin said of the 5-9 Roig. “She’s hungry to do it. Her biggest thing is she’s going to need to be able to shoot the ball and get people the ball that need to shoot it.”
Expect freshman Kaliah Henderson, a 5-9 Floridian, to be in the mix. too. Griffin said the Hawks will benefit from her pull-up game, creativity and nose for scoring. “She’s got a knack for scoring; that’s going to help us play in a lot of gray areas,” she said. “Last year we didn’t have a gray area player. She definitely can get her own shot and she’s great in transition.”
A look at the Hawks:
Coach: Cindy Griffin, 19th season at Saint Joseph, 321-247, 22nd season overall, 369-280
Last year: 12-19, 7-9 Atlantic 10 (lost to VCU in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Championship, 58-47)
They’ll miss: Alyssa Monaghan, the program’s all-time leader in minutes played. The 5-5 do-it-all guard closed out her career by averaging 37 minutes, shooting 40 percent from 3 and pacing the Hawks in scoring (14.4 ppg) and assists (97).
Impact returners: Roig (6.1 ppg) and Jekot (7.5 ppg) are the returning leading scorers; 6-2 sophomore forward Katie Mayock paced the Hawks in rebounding (5.4 rpg) and blocks (39).
Newbies of note: There’s a positive buzz about all the incoming Hawks: on signing day, the Hawks’ class was ranked among the top 60 in Division I by the Blue Star Basketball Report - and this was before Saint Joseph’s plucked Melia out of Ireland.
Reason to be optimistic: It’s not unusual for the Hawks to surpass expectations; Griffin’s squads have posted six 20-win seasons along with six victories over nationally-ranked opponents.
Circle the date: “Start local,” is Griffin’s mantra and the Hawks finished without a Big 5 win last year. They’ll have the chance to avenge that starting Nov. 11 with a home date against Temple.
Bottom line: Never underestimate a team if Griffin’s at the wheel. While it might be too early for Saint Joseph’s to challenge the top tier in the A-10, don’t be surprised if the Hawks enjoy the spoiler role, and, come tournament time, who knows?