Isaiah Miles’ emergence Just What Doctor Ordered at Saint Joseph’s

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on December 25th, 2015

Though they returned 81 percent of the minutes and 86 percent of the points scored from last season, even the Atlantic 10 coaches were not optimistic about coach Phil Martelli’s Saint Joseph’s prospects this season. True, the coaches voted junior forward DeAndre’ Bembry, a projected first or high second round pick in the NBA Draft next June, as the preseason Player of the Year, but the talent behind him was thin — a ceiling low enough to project the Hawks no higher than seventh in their poll released on Media Day. So far, Bembry has not disappointed —  “plays with a great pace, incredibly tough to guard, 16-17 feet and in, an elite passer” as Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams described after the Hawks defeated the Hokies, 79-52, at the Barclays Center Tuesday. Going into the Virginia Tech game, Bembry led the Joe’s in minutes played (367), points scored (159) and rebounds (79). Nipping at his heels was senior forward Isaiah Miles, who was second to Bembry in all three of those categories. Going into Tuesday’s game Miles had scored at least 10 points in all 10 of his games, matched his career-high 24 points versus Buffalo, logged double-doubles (points and rebounds) three times and was named to the All-Tournament Team for the Hall of Fame Classic in November for his play versus Florida and Old Dominion.

Isaiah Miles has become the second option that the Joe's have been searching for. (

Isaiah Miles has become the second option that the Joe’s have been searching for. (

Identified as the Hawks’ most efficient offensive player by KenPom‘s possession-based statistics with a 122.5 offensive rating and most effective offensive rebounder (9.1 percent, ranked #351), Miles set new career-highs for points scored and rebounds gathered in Tuesday win over Virginia Tech when he scored 36 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in 39 minutes of play. His year-over-year progress is unusual, from 2.3 points per game as a freshman to 10.7 points per game as a junior, but gave no hint that he would jump to his current 17.4 points per game this season. When did Martelli have an inkling Miles might have a game like this? “In August,” he said. “Really, in August. Because he lost a lot of weight.” Indeed, Miles, who tipped the scales at 226 pounds his junior year, lost 11 pounds during the offseason. Martelli took it as a sign of a more focused commitment Miles would have this season. “Seniors have two choices,” Martelli continued, “They can be ‘been there, done that’ and they can go through their 30 games. (Miles) leads this team in charges taken (combined). This game was decided on his two offensive put-backs at the end of the second half.”

The conference will be hard pressed to find another A-10 player whose numbers will eclipse Miles this week. If he can continue this pace, Martelli will have a legitimate second scoring threat as his possession-rate (21 percent) and shot-rate (22.8 percent) should move him out of the “Also watch for … ” portion of the scouting report right next to the section on Bembry. Miles’ rebounding, especially his offensive rebounding, could be the difference-maker in a number of conference games come January and February. The Hawks are not, at this point, a great shooting team as their 43 percent conversion rate for the year, only 4 percent higher than their shooting versus the Hokies, suggests. Those second chance opportunities provided by offensive rebounds translated into 26 points Tuesday, nearly 33 percent of the total points scored in Brooklyn, a significant component, should this become the norm, of any scoring mix come conference play. Martelli’s best teams, going back to the Delonte West and Jameer Nelson teams of 2002-04, were either scored efficiently and/or gave themselves multiple opportunities to convert. Guards Aaron Brown and Shavar Newkirk, along with forward/centers Aaron Brown, James Demery and Pierfrancesco Oliva, give Martelli a serviceable rotation. The Joe’s, currently 9-2, should pick up at least one (more likely two) more wins from their non-conference slate. Nine to 11 conference wins (KenPom currently predicts 11) should be enough to earn bid to the Big Dance.

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