After waiting his turn at St. Joe's, time is now for Isaiah Miles

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After waiting his turn at St. Joe's, time is now for Isaiah Miles

One of the first things Isaiah Miles does after each game is go to his locker and check his phone.

And when he does, the Saint Joseph’s senior forward almost always finds texts from Langston Galloway, Ronald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic — the three professional players who led St. Joe’s to the Atlantic 10 championship in 2014.

“They’ll say, ‘Good game, keep it up, we’re watching you,’” Miles said from the SJU locker room after pouring in 31 points in Tuesday’s 85-82 loss to VCU. “That means a lot that they’ve been gone for two years and they’re still supporting me. It means a lot, especially because their lifestyle now is pretty busy but they take time out to watch us and show love for me.”

There’s a lot to love right now about Miles’ game — from former players, alums and fans alike.

Perhaps the most improved player in the city, the 6-foot-7 forward is averaging 18.3 points — tops on the team and sixth in the Atlantic 10. He’s also second in the conference in rebounding (8.6), second in free throw percentage (.889), fifth in blocks (1.6) and 11th in three-point percentage (.406).

It’s that inside-out combination that makes him such a feared matchup for opposing teams — and, of course, one of the biggest reasons the Hawks are off to an 11-3 start heading into Sunday’s home game against Rhode Island.

“He has the rep of being a shooter,” teammate DeAndre Bembry said. “When he plays the four and five, I can’t picture any four or five, being the size they are, running out on the jump shooter. He shoots better than any of us on the team. That’s really a hard matchup for anyone in our league — or any league.”

Bembry, the Hawks’ electrifying junior who’s averaging 16.4 points and 7.7 rebounds, added that he relishes playing with a big man who can shoot. And it’s helped his own game with St. Joe’s head coach Phil Martelli calling the duo a “great one-two punch.”

But Martelli knew both players would be kicking themselves for missing free throws down the stretch as St. Joe’s blew a 13-point second-half lead in Tuesday’s loss to VCU.

“He’s really played terrific,” Martelli said of Miles. “He’ll be in there beating himself over missing two foul shots. But I think there’s more to come.”

Despite the tough loss, Miles was a sight to behold Tuesday at Hagan Arena. He shot a blistering 11 for 14 from the field and 4 for 6 from three-point range and buried consecutive three-pointers midway through the second half, prompting one fan to do the we’re-not-worthy bow from Wayne’s World.

The Rams were probably surprised by the offensive outburst. When St. Joe’s faced VCU last season, Miles scored a modest 12 points in 24 minutes. The season before that, he played four total minutes in two games against VCU, including zero in the A-10 championship.

“I’m happy for him,” Bembry said. “I know during his freshman and sophomore year, he didn’t play that much. And last year it was a new role for him to start. It’s definitely a big year for him to drop in the numbers that he has. The team’s happy for him and we hope he keeps doing it the rest of the year.”

Miles admitted that averaging only 5.1 minutes per game as a freshman and 9.3 minutes as a sophomore wasn’t easy, especially after being the “No. 1 option in high school.” But at the same time, he enjoyed being a part of the 2013-14 team that stormed to the NCAA Tournament while absorbing information from Kanacevic, Roberts and Galloway, the three star seniors on that squad.

“They told me a lot,” Miles said, adding that he still often plays PlayStation with Galloway, who’s now plying his trade in the NBA with the New York Knicks. “They told me to stay aggressive, to stay in shape. This is a fast game and it’s a good league. Just being aggressive and staying confident is what they’ve been telling me and I’ve been sticking to it. And it’s been paying off well for me.”

There was one play late in Tuesday’s game when Miles really showed his aggressiveness. With the Hawks clinging to a tenuous lead in the final three minutes, Miles followed up one of his rare misses, dove on the ground to collect the loose ball and fed James Demery, who was fouled.

It was a play Martelli immediately brought up when asked about Miles in the postgame press conference. And it was one that, perhaps more than anything else, shows how bad the St. Joe’s senior wants this — all of this — after patiently waiting for his turn.

“Some guys, they sit for two or three years and their minds are messed up,” Miles said. “They get depressed and stuff. I just stayed confident and I stayed patient. And I knew when my opportunity came, I was going to shine.”

Drexel's Chris Crawford soaks up tradition at U.S. Open

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Drexel's Chris Crawford soaks up tradition at U.S. Open

ERIN, Wis. — The U.S. Open is all about tradition. This week is the 117th playing of golf's national championship and this event more than most celebrates those golfers who play the game as amateurs. 

Soon-to-be Drexel graduate Chris Crawford has been soaking up all the traditions this week at Erin Hills. Playing in his second U.S. Open after qualifying through both local and sectional competition for the second straight year, an extremely difficult feat, the 23-year-old fifth-year senior enjoyed the amateur dinner put on by the tournament organizers with the USGA. Crawford and his fellow amateurs, a stout list including Texas' Scottie Scheffler, who shot 3-under Thursday to seize the early low amateur lead, were celebrated the entire evening — one of Crawford's early highlights in a long week here in Wisconsin. 

Crawford produced a 3-over par 75 Thursday during the first round to tie for 102nd out of a field of 156 players.

"I played OK (Thursday)," Crawford said. "I'm going to take more positives than negatives out of the round. I played really well for 14 holes and just had a few bad swings on the other four holes."

Indeed, Thursday morning started nervously for the former Drexel golf standout. On the opening par-5 first hole, he snap-hooked his drive into the weeds out of bounds to the left, resulting in a double bogey. Three holes later, he chipped one shot over the back of the fourth green and took another double-bogey, placing him 4-over through four holes. 

Although bogeys might keep many of us alive in our weekend matches, it doesn't cut it in a U.S. Open. Crawford responded well in the ensuing 14 holes, going 1-under in that stretch.

Crawford's coach Mike Dynda, who teaches him at LuLu Country Club in Glenside, Pennsylvania, said he makes a big point to prepare Crawford's mind for his big rounds.

"I texted him last night and said, 'When you got to sleep, imagine that you're on the 18th hole and you have a putt for 9-under,'" Dynda said. "It's important to go to sleep and dream like that."

On the other side, Dynda — who taught the golf team at Drexel from 2003-2015 — also told his pupil to stay away from expectations. When you're 23 and you're playing in your second consecutive U.S. Open, one might think it would be easy to get ahead of yourself. Not so with Crawford, according to Dynda.

"I've taught him to not have any expectations for the five years we've been together," Dynda said. 

Crawford had a superstar practice round on Monday, playing with Jordan Spieth, Jim Furyk and Wisconsin's own Steve Stricker.

"It was a lot of fun playing with those guys and just watching them strategize about learning a brand new U.S. Open course," Crawford said. "I think that's the biggest thing I was impressed with, was the way they talked about strategy on this golf course.

"They were all very nice with me and were very specific to ask about me and they wanted to learn a little bit about my life, so I appreciated that."

For Dynda, talking with Furyk brought back a fond memory. Furyk's father, Mike, actually sold Dynda his first set of golf clubs, Tommy Armor 845s, back in Philadelphia years ago. 

With one round in the books and the forecast calling for rain this weekend, Crawford was looking forward to having the proper mentality as he headed into Friday's second round.

"I want to go out there and just not get ahead of myself," Crawford said. "I'm going to think positively and appreciate that I'm playing in the national open."

Crawford teed off at 2:31 p.m. local time off of the 10th hole.

"This week is so cool because I never do something like this," Crawford said. "Playing in front of such large crowds is a treat and I just love the interaction with the fans before and after the rounds as well."

Last year at Oakmont, dozens of friends and family made the drive down the turnpike to see him play in his first U.S. Open. This year, Crawford estimates that he has around 15 friends and family out in the galleries cheering him on. Though coach Dynda caddied last year, those duties have gone to current Drexel golf coach Ben Feld.

It's a party this week of Drexel golf proportions.

Atlantic 10 reveals 2017-18 schedule pairings

Atlantic 10 reveals 2017-18 schedule pairings

Philadelphia basketball fans will be getting a double dip of one of the Atlantic 10 conference's best rivalries once again next season.

With the league's 18-game regular season format in place for a fourth straight year, it was revealed Wednesday afternoon that Saint Joseph's and La Salle will battle twice — once in North Philly at Tom Gola Arena and a second time at the Hawks' home just off City Line Avenue. Each team in the 14-member conference will play eight teams once and five teams twice.

The full pairings for the Explorers and Saint Joe's are listed here:

La Salle
Home: Dayton, George Mason, St. Bonaventure, VCU, Fordham, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, Saint Louis
Away: Davidson, Duquesne, George Washington, Richmond, Fordham, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, Saint Louis

Saint Joseph’s
Home: Dayton, Duquesne, Saint Louis, VCU, Fordham, George Mason, La Salle, Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure
Away: Davidson, George Washington, Rhode Island, Richmond, Fordham, George Mason, La Salle, Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure

It was also rumored earlier in the day that the Hawks have added a Big Five matchup at Temple for Dec. 9.