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Talking about the history of basketball at St. Joseph's, the conversation will almost always come back to Jack Ramsay. Ramsay has the best winning percentage of any coach in Hawks history and took the Cityliners to the 1956 NIT Final Four and 1961 NCAA Final Four. He is also one of just two men to play for both St. Joe's and Villanova. The other is Marvin O'Connor. "It's significant," O'Connor said. "With the history that Jack Ramsay has brought to the university, and with me being the only other guy, it's an honor." O'Connor played his high school ball at Simon Gratz in Philadelphia, where he was named the Philadelphia Inquirer's 1997 Player of the Year and led Gratz to the city title. He went out to the Main Line for one season, and things didn't work out quite as he expected. He played just 15 minutes a game, scoring 4.7 points per contest for Villanova. "I left because it just wasn't the right place for me," O'Connor said. "I have no regrets and no animosity. I just did what was best for me." Leaving was the right thing for O'Connor, but his destination on the City Line has drawn boos from Wildcats fans ever since, as the Villanova-St. Joe's rivalry is probably the most bitter in Philadelphia. "There's a fierceness to the city games and Villanova-St. Joe's takes another notch up," Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. This year, it was no different. The Wildcats captured a 78-75 victory over St. Joe's at the Palestra on December 11 in front of a packed house. O'Connor, who leads the Hawks in scoring at 20.3 points per game, did all he could to carry his team. He scored a then-career-high 32, but it was not enough to defeat his old team. Villanova coach Steve Lappas described that game as "Palestra-ish and Big 5-ish," and added that St. Joe's is "a heck of a team this year." At 15-4, the Hawks are indeed just that, with many thanks to O'Connor's ebullient style and intensity. "He brings a fierce desire to win," Martelli said. "I think everybody who plays wants to win, but Marvin has to win. It doesn't matter if you were flipping coins or playing Playstation or playing Penn at the Palestra on Saturday." O'Connor is not only intense, but a very vocal player on the court. Still, he maintains a looseness that may be a calming force for St. Joe's. "He's loud and quite humorous," Martelli said. "The other players definitely have a chance to laugh when he's around. On the court, he has become very supportive in his communication with his teammates." O'Connor's personality stands in stark contrast to the quiet marksmanship of his opposite number tomorrow night, Penn shooting guard and leading scorer Lamar Plummer. Plummer did not play in last year's compelling battle at the Palestra, a three-point Penn win. O'Connor led St. Joe's with 15 points that night, and the Quakers know that O'Connor is an even better player now. "[O'Connor] can make three-point shots, and I wish that was the only thing he could do," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "He presents a terrific problem for us. Hopefully we can minimize the damage." Last year, with St. Joe's trailing by three points in the final seconds, O'Connor was not the man who took the final shot. If the same situation presents itself tomorrow night, O'Connor said that he won't be upset if he again isn't the one taking the Hawks' last shot. "We have five guys [who score] in double figures," O'Connor said. "I'm not the only guy who can put it in the basket. It depends who's doing well." That loss to Penn was one of three Big 5 defeats for the Hawks last year. St. Joe's is currently 1-1 in the City Series, but a win tonight would keep them alive for their first Big 5 title in 10 years, a feat that seemed improbable coming into this season, and that would be a dream come true for the Hawks' leading scorer. "That's huge," O'Connor said. "The history of the Big 5 -- for the people in the area, that's huge. But it's just another stepping stone for us." Indeed, if O'Connor can power the Hawks to their first city title since 1991, it may be a precursor to their first NCAA Tournament bid since a run to the Sweet 16 in 1997.

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