Funk gets hot start at Saint Joseph’s

By on November 15, 2017
Manheim Central grad Taylor Funk, a freshman forward on the Saint Joseph’s men’s basketball team, scored a combined 38 points in his first games with the Hawks. Photo courtesy of Saint Joseph’s University Athletics

Manheim Central grad Taylor Funk, a freshman forward on the Saint Joseph’s men’s basketball team, scored a combined 38 points in his first games with the Hawks. Photo courtesy of Saint Joseph’s University Athletics

Late game-tying ‘three’ helps Hawks win in OT

Taylor Funk was zoned in against the University of Illinois at Chicago Monday night.

So when the Saint Joseph’s freshman, a 2017 Manheim Central graduate, released a game-tying three-point attempt from the left elbow with just 40.6 seconds left, Funk was confident about it.

“We drew up a play, we executed it, I was kinda feeling it throughout the game and I just let it fly and it went in,” Funk recalled Tuesday by telephone with the Lititz Record. “Sometimes, you’re in a rhythm and you just kinda have that feeling.”

That three-pointer was part of a stretch in which Funk scored 11 of the Hawks’ final 14 points in regulation, forcing OT, where Saint Joseph’s eventually pulled out an 86-82 victory at UIC Pavilion for its first win of the season.

The 6-foot-9 forward is playing beyond his years in the early going. He finished with 22 points and a team-high nine rebounds against the Flames, just two days after scoring 16 points and grabbing six boards in the Hawks’ season opener at Toledo.

“I have to be honest, it’s definitely going better than I thought,” Funk said. “Obviously, you have expectations, like, ‘I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this,’ but I honestly didn’t think it was going to be this good.”

Following the win over UIC, Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli was quoted on SJUHawks.com as saying, “Taylor is not selfish enough yet. He has to know we expect him to take those shots. He hit that big jumper and did some really grown up things. He’s a gifted kid — I don’t know how many freshmen have scored 38 points in their first two games.”

Only a 98-87 loss to Toledo last Saturday has kept it from being a perfect start for Funk and Co.

“We’re 1-1, we should be 2-0, but Toledo just couldn’t miss,” the former Baron star said. “We fell a little short there, but we’re doing well. The team’s coming together well.”

The same can be said for Funk.

He had little time to enjoy his high school graduation before arriving on the Saint Joseph’s campus on June 10 to start training. The adjustment, initially, was “incredible,” Funk acknowledged.

“It definitely took time,” he said. “When I got here, at first I was like, ‘Man, I’m not going to be able to keep up with this play as a freshman.’ But with the all the training and stuff, the adjustment’s going well.”

Yes, the height and the strength of his opponents is greater. So is the athleticism.

But for Funk, it all boils down to fundamentals.

“If you just box out, it kinda equals everyone out,” he said.

In the Hawks’ game plan, Funk is part of a three-player rotation, along with his roommate, freshman Anthony Longpre, and redshirt-sophomore Pierfrancesco Oliva, in which two are always on the court at the same time.

“We all pretty much get equal playing time,” said Funk, who played 29 minutes against Toledo and 30 minutes against UIC.

Funk is a nice fit in Saint Joseph’s offense, one in which all five on the floor can shoot from three-point land. He is a combined 8-of-16 from beyond the arc — 15-for-28 from the field overall — in the Hawks’ opening two games.

“We have bigger point guards that can get to the rim,” Funk said, “so it gives them open lanes because the defense can’t really help off of too many people since we’re all capable of knocking down jump shots and knocking down ‘threes.’”

Shooting ‘threes’ is nothing new for Funk, who converted his share from downtown while finishing as the all-time leading scorer in Manheim Central basketball history with 1,977 career points.

Neither is running the floor after grabbing a defensive rebound, something that Martelli gives him the green light to do.

“If I feel like I have a lane to push it down the floor, Coach encourages me to bring it down,” Funk said. “He has no problem with that.”

Certainly, the Hawks’ fans would have no problem with their team advancing to the NCAA Tournament in March. It’s a goal that Funk and his teammates believe is well within their reach.

Shavar Newkirk returned to Saint Joseph’s lineup for the first time since tearing his ACL on Dec. 30, 2016 in the Hawks’ game against Toledo, scoring a team-high 21 points. Lamarr Kimble, who missed the final seven games of last season with a fractured foot, added 10 points in that game before exiting with an injury.

“Once everyone is back and healthy, I think we could definitely be a tournament team,” Funk said. “I don’t see why not. I think we can definitely win the Atlantic-10. We’re only going to get better and we didn’t play a perfect game (Monday) night, but we found a way to come back from down nine at one point. I just have high expectations for this team and I think everyone else does too.”

Funk’s hot start definitely doesn’t hurt.

 

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