- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 1, 2011

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - There is a tradition at Saint Joseph’s for fans to cheer “The Hawk Will Never Die!”

They need to believe in that defiant slogan more than ever this season, because hard times, indeed, have hit Hawk Hill.

Jameer Nelson and Delonte West once ruled Saint Joseph‘s, where fans and scouts flocked to watch the Hawks romp their way toward a No. 1 national ranking and stamp themselves as the dominant darlings of college basketball.

Now, seven years after Nelson and West left for the NBA, the record has never been worse under coach Phil Martelli. And the only thing Saint Joseph’s is known for these days is landing at the bottom of the Atlantic 10.

“I know it’s an unfortunate situation for them,” Nelson said.

The next Nelson never came. The next West went somewhere else.

The duo not only represented Martelli’s greatest success, they’ve cast a shadow larger than the campus at the private Jesuit school, a shadow the Hawks have yet to escape.

St. Joseph’s opened the 2003-04 season with 27 straight wins, reached No. 1 in the AP poll, was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for the first time and made its first trip to a regional final since 1981.

This season’s Hawks, though, are 5-16 overall, 0-7 in the A-10, and have lost eight straight games _ one fewer than the 2002-04 seasons combined. This comes after an 11-20 record last year and a 17-15 mark (with no postseason play) in 2008-09.

“I know Coach is a great coach, and it’s just unfortunate that we didn’t capitalize in terms of the season that we had,” Nelson said. “I just don’t know what it is.”

For those close to the program, the answer is multilayered, yet simple.

Unlike Nelson’s hailed decision to play all four years, West and forward Dwayne Jones wouldn’t last until their senior seasons. They declared early for the NBA draft in successive years, costing the Hawks at least two more NCAA tournaments.

Like Nelson noted, the three- and four-star recruits were not motivated enough by Martelli churning out NBA prospects to take their chances in Philadelphia. They, for the most part, didn’t want to play in a program so far removed from Duke or Connecticut.

“What really happened is, they got involved with a higher level recruit because of the Jameer bump, but didn’t finish,” said Joe Lunardi, chief marketing officer for Saint Joseph’s and the Hawks’ radio announcer.

Martelli hoped he struck gold again in Chester, Pa., having plucked guards Jawan Carter and Darrin Govens from the same town that produced Nelson, now with the Orlando Magic.

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