The St. Joseph’s College (Brooklyn) men’s basketball team begins its 2019-20 season this Friday (Nov. 15) at the Stockton Tip-Off Tournament taking on the host Ospreys on day one with a consolation or championship game to follow the next day against either Cabrini or Albright. The Bears will look to improve upon a 9-16 (7-13 Skyline) finish last year as they return all five starters and welcome six newcomers to Clinton Hill.
With the return of Manhattanville to form a 12-team league, the Skyline Conference is reverting back to a divisional format in 2019-20. The Bears were recently picked to finish fourth in the South division in the Skyline Preseason Coaches’ Poll as the top four teams from both the North and South groups will qualify for the Skyline Championships, expanding the tournament to an eight-team field.
Key dates on SJC’s 25-game slate include their first-ever matchup with Western Connecticut State on November 26 at The Hill Center, a trip to Atlanta, Georgia, to take part in the Holiday Inn Express Classic (Dec. 29-30) battling Oglethorpe and Berry (both first-time meetings), and home-and-home series with last year’s Skyline champion Farmingdale State (Jan. 8 away, Feb. 8 home) and runner-up Yeshiva (Dec.3 home, Feb. 11 away) — both joining the Bears in the South along with Old Westbury, Mount Saint Vincent, and SJC Long Island.
"Moving to a 16-game conference schedule allowed us to enhance the non-conference experience with strong teams from the NJAC, Little East, SAA, Atlantic East, and SUNYAC, all in an effort to better prepare ourselves for the deep Skyline schedule," said Head Coach Joseph Cocozello.
The senior captain averaged double-digit points for the second-straight season in 2018-19 (10.6 ppg) ranking fourth on the team while shooting a career-high 39.2 percent from the floor. His 3.1 assist rate also set a new career mark and was second on the Bears, and he shot 35.2 percent from deep (fourth on team). The St. Francis Prep product got hot towards the end of the season with a stretch of five-straight games in double figures, but his best outing of last year came in early December when he dropped a season-high 25 points in a home win over Mount Saint Mary. Sirakis’ playmaking and spot up shooting should continue to play a large role in the Bears’ offense this season.
Another in a group of six seniors, Etheart took the biggest leap a year ago improving his numbers across the board while being the only Bear to average a double-double with 14.3 points (third on team) and 10.0 rebounds (led team - third in Skyline) — both career highs. He also set a career best with 4.5 assists per night which topped the Bears as the point-forward is adept at pushing the ball and finding open teammates in transition. The Hollis native scored 10-plus points in 18 of 25 games, including a stretch of eight straight, and abused Maritime in both of their meetings as he set a program record with 23 rebounds and scored 18 points versus the Privateers in December and torched them on the road for a career-high 32 points with 22 boards in January.
Reali, a junior from Staten Island, transferred to Clinton Hill last season after playing his freshman year at SUNY Poly and made an immediate impact during his first campaign in the navy and gray. He led the Bears in total points (359), was second on the squad in minutes per game (32.0) and showcased his touch from beyond the arc with a team-high 38.7 three-point percentage. Reali reached double-figures in 20 of 24 games played, highlighted by a career-high 31 points (10-17 FG) in a road win at Purchase, and carries a seven-game double-digit scoring streak into this season. His tough-shot making and ability to heat up from deep should help the Bears win close games.
Stephane started all 25 games as a sophomore but missed nine contests in 2018-19 due to injury, starting 12 of his 16 appearances. Despite the setback, he led the team in scoring average (15.2) when healthy and was second in both rebounding (7.0) and field-goal percentage (44.3). Etheart scored in double-digits in every game he appeared in, aside from SJC’s exhibition against Division I Columbia, posting a career-best 28 points (10-19 FG) with nine boards at Mount Saint Vincent. The Bears will look for Etheart to provide production inside and on the glass as he aims for a healthy senior season.
Meiner, who has started all 71 of his games played over the past three seasons, has seen consistent growth throughout his career. He, like Seb Etheart, cracked double-digit scoring for the first time as a junior with 10.0 a game and finished third in rebounding pulling down a career-high 6.3 a night. Meiner is the most polished low post player on the roster as shown by his team best 52.7 percent mark from the field in 2018-19 (career high). The Staten Island native is valuable on the glass too as he posted seven-plus rebounds 10 times last year, highlighted by a season-high 23 points with 11 boards against 2019-20 Skyline returnee Manhattanville for one of his three double-doubles on the year.
The senior took on the largest role of his collegiate career last season starting 18 of his 25 games played averaging a career-most 24.4 minutes. With his ability to facilitate the offense, McQuillen was one of three Bears to average more than two assists in 2018-19 (2.5) marking a new career high. He’s a tough defensive guard as well, finishing third on the team with 23 steals last season. The St. Peter’s alum scored in double figures on five occasions a year ago en route to a career-best 4.5 ppg, including 12 points (3-4 FG, 6-6 FT), six assists, and six rebounds in a Hill Center victory over Mount Saint Mary.
Cocozello joined the squad as a sophomore and has seen limited minutes over the past two seasons, but holds a 50 percent career mark from the field and a 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio in 23 total appearances. However, the Staten Island native's biggest impact comes behind the scenes in practice as he always brings the most energy and leads by example. "Our team will be successful if the rest of the roster follows his lead and learns from him," said Assistant Coach Lukasz Cygan.
Rk. Team (2018-19 Record, ‘18-’19 Skyline Record), Pts. (first-place votes)
1. Purchase (15-11, 13-7 Skyline), 63 (9)
2. Sarah Lawrence (14-12, 12-8), 53 (2)
3. Manhattanville (11-14, 5-9 MAC Freedom Conference), 48 (1)
4. Mount Saint Mary (14-12, 11-9), 40
5. USMMA (9-15, 7-13), 27
6. Maritime (6-19, 5-15), 15
1. Yeshiva (19-8, 16-4), 66 (11)
2. Farmingdale State (20-8, 16-4), 54 (1)
3. Old Westbury (15-11, 13-7), 46
4. St. Joseph's-Brooklyn (9-16, 7-13), 36
5. Mount Saint Vincent (7-18, 6-14), 27
6. St. Joseph's-Long Island (5-20, 4-16), 17