On the eve of its biggest game in years, the St. Francis men’s basketball team found itself unexpectedly short-handed on Saturday for their match-up with Robert Morris, the top team in the Northeast Conference (NEC).
Junior Brent Jones, St. Francis’ starting point guard, sophomore Anthony White, super freshman Wayne Martin and junior P.J. Santavenere were suspended indefinitely from the team for violating unspecified college policies, transforming a game that had promised to be a Terriers’ coming-out party into a 72-50 rout for the visiting Colonials. Robert Morris (13-11) jumped out to a 13-4 lead in the game’s first four minutes, and they were never headed in capturing their ninth NEC win in ten tries.
For St. Francis, it was the worst possible outcome to what appeared to be an ideal opportunity for the upstart Terriers to prove that their strong showing thus far in the 2013-14 season had not been a fluke. St. Francis (15-10) came into the game with a 6-3 record in conference play, including three straight wins and a sparkling 73-72 OT win last Saturday against NEC rival Wagner.
Thanks to a deep roster, St. Francis head coach Glenn Braica’s squad appeared to have a decisive edge over a Robert Morris team that is currently dressing only eight players. Andrew Toole, the Colonial’s head coach, has also had to cope with suspension woes. Two weeks ago, Robert Morris announced that four players, including freshman standout Jeremiah Worthem, were given one-year suspensions for undisclosed violations of university policy.
The absence of three key contributors before Saturday’s tip-off had a profound effect on the Terriers: St. Francis shot a paltry 34% from the field, while their 50 total points tied a season low for offensive output.
The fates of the suspended Terriers are yet to be announced; Richard Relkin, St. Francis Director of Media Relations, will have a statement for the media tomorrow. It’s possible that the players will not be back for St. Francis this season, sabotaging what so far has been a breakout campaign in Coach Braica’s fourth season in Brooklyn Heights. With signature wins over Wagner, University of Miami and arch-rival LIU Brooklyn, the Terriers appeared poised to compete for their first-ever Northeast Conference title and to capture a berth in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for the first time in the program’s 108-year history.
Long-term absences of Jones, Martin and White not only threaten St. Francis’ current campaign but also the team’s future, as all three players are expected to be key contributors next season. Losing Martin for an extended period is especially problematic; the freshman had gradually gained his coach’s confidence, and was therefore expected to be a pivotal player for the Terriers during the NEC playoffs, which begin in March. With six games left in their season, including a high-profile matchup against LIU Brooklyn next Sunday at Barclays Center, the future of the Terriers’ season appears very much in doubt.
Photo Caption: With four players under a suspension cloud, St. Francis head coach Glen Braica suddenly has a lot to worry about.