Finally getting attention
Olivier Laurent is a star at St. Joseph's (L.I.). He is averaging 16.7 points per game, the best scoring average on the team, and he is pulling down 5.4 rebounds per game.
As good as Laurent has been for the Golden Eagles, who are unbeaten in Skyline Conference play, there was a time when the senior guard didn't get much attention on the basketball court.
Of course, that turned out to be a good thing.
"When I was younger, I was the underdog," Laurent said. "In high school, I felt like people were always overlooking my talent and it has made me work that much harder. Always being the underdog has really made me into the player I am today."
What is has turned Laurent into is a player that has the Golden Eagles believing they can wrap their hands around a conference championship this season.
St. Joseph's is 11-2 overall and 7-0 in the Skyline Conference. Laurent has played a key role in that success. Not only is he doing his job offensively and on the boards, but he also has 50 assists and 25 steals.
"The season has been great so far," Laurent said. "I feel like we are really growing together as a team. The biggest improvement I see in my game is that I am playing much smarter. I feel like I have done a better job of limiting turnovers."
The thing is, Laurent doesn't have to do the job alone. He isn't expected to carry the Golden Eagles on his back if they want any shot at having success.
Trey Black is pumping in 15.2 points per outing and grabbing 7.3 rebounds per outing. Chris Jiminez is averaging 14.2 ppg and has racked up 38 steals. He also has 39 assists. Steve Velasquez is pouring in 12.2 points per outing.
The Golden Eagles are lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 85.2 points per outing. They are giving up 76.5.
Laurent will be the first to tell you that things have come together nicely for St. Joseph's, which has won four of its last five games. Its only setback during the stretch was a 101-86 loss to Division I Yale.
"My teammates make the game that much easier for me," Laurent said. "We all know our roles and I feel like that is an important part to our success. Trey, Steve, Chris, Vinny (Russo) and Shahab (Syed) are all major threats when they are on the court.
More than average Joes
There are four schools named St. Joseph's in Division III. Here's a look:
St. Joseph's (L.I.): A member of the Skyline Conference, the Golden Eagles reside in Patchogue, N.Y., and have 3,113 full-time undergraduates, more than 70 percent of them women.
St. Joseph's (Bklyn.): A recent transplant to Division III, the school in Brooklyn is another campus of the same school that is in Long Island. They have a similar profile: 1,252 undergrads, more than 70 percent women.
St. Joseph's (Maine): In Standish, the Monks are a member of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference. They have a little over 1,000 undergrads, two-thirds of them women.
St. Joseph (Conn.): In West Hartford, the Blue Jays are also GNAC members. They have 853 students, 100 percent of them women. (OK, technically, the report lists 849 women, four men, but that rounds up from 99.53 percent to 100 percent.)
Honorable mention: Mount St. Joseph is a Division III school in Cincinnati.
"It is truly a luxury to have guys that can put the ball in the basket."
While Laurent is pleased with what he and his teammates have accomplished so far, he is hardly satisfied. There is no time to sit back and admire the success of the team. There is still plenty of work to do if the Golden Eagles want to win a conference title and compete for a spot in the NCAA tournament.
"Personally, I would be lying if I said that I didn't want to be player of the year," Laurent said. "That would be a great honor on a personal level."
But that isn't what means the most to Laurent.
"Ultimately, I hope our team can accomplish our main goal, which is to win the Skyline Conference championship. We failed in our attempt last year, but this year, we hope to put another banner in the gym."
Don't bet against that happening. After all, Laurent has proven in the past that it's not wise to doubt him.
Brittany Hicks has continued to rise to the occasion during her sophomore season.
The sophomore forward averaged a double-double in a pair of wins last week as the York (Pa.) strengthened its hold on second place in the Capital Athletic Conference.
Hicks poured in 15 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in a 65-50 win over Hood before following it up with a 12-point, 11-rebound effort in a pivotal league game against Salisbury. The Spartans came away with a 70-56 win in that showdown.
In 15 games this season, Hicks is clicking for 12.2 points per outing. She has grabbed 119 rebounds and has dished out 24 assists.
Cabrini hot at home: Cabrini's men's basketball team rose to No. 10 in the nation on Monday. Its 74-52 win over Marywood on Saturday helped propel the Cavaliers to a rise in the poll.
Cabrini has won its last five games and its win over the Pacers was the 39th consecutive Colonial States Athletic Conference game the Cavaliers have won at the Nerney Field House.
Jeremy Knowles played a key role in the latest win. Although he was making his first start of the season, he is no stranger to being productive. Knowles dropped in 13 points, including 11 in the first half, and also pulled down 10 rebounds for a double-double. Knowles is averaging 14.4 ppg and is grabbing 6.2 rebounds per outing. He has led the Cavaliers in scoring four times.
Blue Jays flying high: Never mind that Johns Hopkins had to go on the road to take on Muhlenberg on Monday with a chance to grab possession of first place in the Centennial Conference women's standings.
The Blue Jays were ready for the challenge, and by the time the game was over, they had earned a 76-67 win over the Mules, who have lost back-to-back games at home for the first time since the 2007-08 campaign.
Chantal Mattiola poured in 11 points while Alex Vassila and Fatu Conteh dropped in 10 points apiece. Johns Hopkins is now 13-2 overall and 8-2 in the Centennial Conference.
This was a rematch of the 2011 conference championship game and the Blue Jays were determined to get a win after falling 41-37 to Haverford on Saturday. The loss on Saturday ended a nine-game win streak for the Blue Jays.
Johns Hopkins has forged its success this season behind solid defense. The Blue Jays are allowing only 51.1 points per outing and holding opponents to 32.3 percent shooting. The stellar defensive effort is the reason the Blue Jays don't have to worry about having a lot of explosive scorers. In fact, the only player averaging 10 or more points per game is Mattiola, who is pumping in 12.7 ppg.
Richard Stockton wins defensive battle: Staying in the race for a New Jersey Athletic Conference championship hasn't been easy for Richard Stockton.
But the Ospreys managed to improve to 4-1 in league play after knocking off New Jersey City 55-48 in a game where both teams shot less than 37 percent from the field.
Kevin Johnson led the way for Richard Stockton. He poured in 13 points and was clutch down the stretch, hitting all six of his attempts from the free-throw line in the final five minutes of the game.
DiAndre Brown also came up big for the Ospreys, dropping in 11 points.
Richard Stockton is 10-6 overall on the year and is focused on trying to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out on a trip last season.
The Ospreys certainly seem to be on the right path. After all, they have won seven of their last eight games and are holding opponents to 69.2 points per outing.
They have also been solid on the offensive end of the floor. Six players are averaging at least 8 ppg, including Johnson, who is clicking for 14.2 points per contest. Bill McDonough is dropping in 12.5 ppg and Rich Suhr is averaging 10.7 ppg.
The Ospreys are shooting 44.2 percent from the field as a team this season.
The Mary Washington men have control of first place in the Capital Athletic Conference. The Eagles topped Wesley 83-69, and thanks to St. Mary's falling 85-72 to Frostburg State, the Eagles now have a two-game lead in the conference standings. Mary Washington is rolling with a 7-0 conference record. St. Mary's, the two-time defending league champion, is in second with a 5-2 league mark. Bradley Riester paced the Eagles with 16 points on a day when Mary Washington charged in front 49-22 at halftime. ... Endicott is on a roll in the Commonwealth Conference. The Leopards picked up their fourth consecutive league win with a 75-46 victory over Wentworth on Thursday. The Gulls shot 46.8 percent from the field and improved to 4-1 in conference play with the win. They are 7-5 overall. Endicott led by as many as 36 and got a huge boost from its bench. The Endicott reserve players combined for 29 points. ... John Ford was in a zone for Drew on Saturday. The sophomore knocked down six shots from beyond the arc and carved up Moravian for a career-high 29 points in a 69-60 victory. The win meant a lot to the Rangers. They ended an 11-game win streak and won their first Landmark Conference game of the season. Asmar Capers did his part as well for Drew, which is now 3-13 overall and 1-4 in the conference. The senior scored 20 points, marking the sixth time this season he has hit the 20-point mark, and he also tallied six rebounds and five assists. ... Brooklyn was prepared for its CUNYAC women's showdown with Hunter at the West Quad Center on Saturday. The Bulldogs topped the Hawks 55-47 and are the only unbeaten team still standing in the conference. Nicole Francomano paved the way for Brooklyn finishing with 13 points. Charnelle Saint Laurent wasn't bad either, dropping in 11 points, dishing out five assists and racking up seven steals.