Updated: Mar 23, 2020
At the beginning of the year I wrote what was probably my most read Billikens blog, talking about what I expected to see this season.
With the help of Peter Hale, we put together our expectations for the season along with my slightly skewed projection numbers.
Since then, the Billikens went 23-8 in what I would describe as the most improbable season we will ever see, not beacuse of what happened on the court but because of what transpired over the last few weeks off the court.
A season cut short by the Corona Virus. We are living out the movie Contagion.
When I first started writing this two weeks ago, the Billikens had yet to finish their season.
We were staring down a mega-bowl matchup with the Bonnies and were hopeful to make another magical run through Brooklyn as this team continued to get hot at the right time.
Now it's all gone.
In the grand scheme of things there are a lot bigger issues in the world right now than Billikens' basketball - hell Billikens' athletics - being cut short, but it is nice to vent and talk about things like this while the world seemingly burns around us.
While I can only imagine what every Billikens' fan is going through on an individual level at the moment, I hope for the time being this can offer some reprieve from the craziness around us.
Now it is time for a reckoning on my numbers and recap of what we got from every player this year, while also looking (tentatively) at the future.
0 - Jordan Goodwin
It was an up, down, and all around year for Jordan.
At times, he was downright dominant showing the country that he is a nearly unstoppable force on the offensive and defensive glass, proving he is without a doubt the best rebounding guard in the country.
At other times, he was committing turnovers with the ball, and mental errors with fouls that was more becoming of a freshman.
In what was a year where I expected Jordan to take a jump, we saw half of that.
I said in the preview that Jordan might handle the ball primarily until Yuri got comfortable, but I stood immediately corrected.
From the jump, Travis Ford showed confidence in his freshman guard that allowed Jordan to operate with the ball in his hands less, though he still got his fair share of time running the offense.
Unfortunately, that doesn't say much.
As we have talked about on the podcast, there was still no real flow to the offense apart from Yuri Collins creating oppurtunities off the dribble for others and Javonte creating shots in conference.
This team worked around French early on, especially in light of key injuries to Jimerson and Thatch, which left Goodwin in more of a role that I would have felt favored him.
Still, we were left with games where it seemed like one of our team leaders was not that in charge of what was happening on the court.
But when it was all said and done, Jordan and Has were both averaging double doubles showing that these two will always lead by example, whether in performance or in pure effort.
Don't be surprised if Goodwin get's some serious national recognition next year.
P.S. and I don't intend to do refer back to this pandemic too much, but Jordan's reaction and response to the cancellation of the season was a leader's response through and through.
Did not complain, accepted it for what it is and kept it going because he was mature enough to realize that there are bigger things in life than a basketball game.
It is a small thing, but hats off to Jordan.
Collin's Projections: 12.5 ppg / 9.0 rpg / 2.0 apg
2019-2020 Actual: 15.5 peg / 10.4 rpg / 3.1 apg
A natural leader who has been the team's motor since the day he stepped on campus, we saw Goodwin mature and take his game up another notch this season.
Goodwin found an invaluable backcourt partner in Yuri Collins, and Collins' pure point guard mentality and skill set allowed Goodwin to play to his more natural strengths as a ball hawk and the best rebounding guard in college basketball.
His ability to create something out of nothing, grab offensive rebounds, come up with loose balls, and create steals led to a more potent offense than the often stagnant, ugly offensive team we saw the previous season.
His game has some flaws - primarily free throw shooting and unforced turnovers that seem to come in clusters - but his energy and "go get it" style proved infectious this season.
1 - Yuri Collins
Apart from my take on Javonte Perkins, Yuri may have been about as close to right as I came in the preview blog.
I feel I underestimated the confidence Ford had in Collins, but clearly we were in agreement when it came to saying Yuri and Goodwin had to be on the court at the same time.
Not really a hot take I know.
But when I set out the number of 6.5 assists per game, I wasn't too far off of what we actually saw.
Yuri is probably the best pure, pass first type point guard we have had at SLU.
He broke Kwamain's freshman year assists record early in conference play and then kept piling on.
We saw turnovers in bunches coming from a young guard not afraid to take risks, who made freshman mistakes being too aggressive.
Okay, it happens.
Coming from a guy who had to tape his wrist from an injury that left him with numbness in his hands, I would say we saw a pretty impressive freshman campiagn from a talented guard primed for success in his time at SLU. (and hopefully we get healthy over the summer too)
If there is a knock to be had on Yuri outside of turnovers, it would be that I want to see him finishing more at the rim.
As a smaller guard, I understand it is easy for him to have shots blocked or altered when attacks the rim.
And he certainly wasn't afraid to score at the rim or at least take the ball hard to the hole.
But he is going to have to position himself as a real threat to score in order to make his passing drives more effective as teams start to key in on that defensively.
Collin's Projections: 4.5 ppg / 2.0 rpg / 6.5 apg
2019-2020 Actual: 5.4 ppg / 2.8 rpg / 5.5 apg
Heading into the season I called Collins the "most natural PG we've brought in for quite some time" and I was wrong. He's the most natural point guard SLU has ever put on the floor as a freshman, period, and easily the best passer.
He proved to be the perfect running mate for Goodwin, the unselfish engine behind the offensive attack whose vision and passing ability made the Billikens an actually-pretty-efficient team this season.
He also showed that he was up for the challenge defensively, having packed on muscle between high school and college and displaying a knack for creating turnovers.
He shattered the all-time freshman assist record in a shortened season and if he stays all four seasons, he'll own the career record by large margin, too.
2 - Tay Weaver
Not quite the Isabell I had hoped for.
I obviously had my hopes way too high with Weaver, though we saw spurts of his shooting ability throughout the year, and as you will hear on our interview with Jack Raboin he was as talented a shooter as Tremaine was.
Inconsistency in playing time early obviously hurt, but even with the loss of Jimerson it never felt like Weaver really took charge of that opening in a way that forced Ford to play him.
At times it felt like we almost were just hoping - maybe even praying - to get a nice night from Tay, because, well, we were.
And we definitely needed the outside scoring without Jimerson.
Unfortunately, lighting didn't strike twice with grad transfer guards, and here's hoping we don't bank on that success on a yearly basis.
Collin's Projections: 6.5 ppg / 1.5 rpg / 1.5 apg
2019-2020 Actual: 4.5 ppg / 1.6 rpg / .87 apg
Weaver was the three-point shooter we expected this season - sometimes. When he hit early, he tended to hit often.
In other games, he never found his groove or wasn't given the minutes to find it.
He showed more comfort taking it to the basket as the season progressed but didn't show quite the playmaking or defensive abilities that could have earned him more consistent minutes. Still, his experience and shooting ability were welcome for a one-year player on a team that needed an offensive boost.
3 - Javonte Perkins
"But, if you are looking for someone to be standing tall at the end of the year, I would bet Javonte Perkins has a real chance at turning some major heads this year while helping the Billikens win some games."
The only person I can say I had picked perfectly, as you can tell from the quote above.
Javonte had a quiet start to the year, showing flashes of what we would eventually see during conference play.
One of the best scorers in JUCO last year, we saw just how talented Javonte is at getting to the rim and pulling up from midrange.
Add in a three point game that seemed to get a little more consistent as the year went on and now we have a very versatile threat that can score from almost anywhere on the court.
We saw in the Dayton game that Javonte can play defense against some of the best in the A10, doing a competent job guarding Obi Toppin, while also getting the job done on the offensive end.
And this is one of the few places in this blog where I will take the time to talk about next year, as much as next year could be completely up in the air right now with this pandemic.
Javonte Perkins is primed to have an amazing senior campaign, and provide a much needed "go-get-a-bucket" guy to this Billikens offense.
With another year of Jimerson and Collins, and the senior season for French and Goodwin, Javonte Perkins stands to be, in my humble opinion, the key to us being a top-25 team.
I may be assuming too much early when it comes to personnel given this years display of injuries, but when this team is healthy, they are scary to see.
A healthy Jimerson, which I expect to see at the start of next year, offers one of the best if not the best three point shooting threat in the conference.
Jordan Goodwin through the ups and downs is a gamer, and he will if nothing else outrebound any guard in this conference and provide real defensive matchup problems on the offensive glass.
French is one of the best shot blockers in the conference who had a tough year due in large part to a number of different factors which I will touch on shortly.
Yuri Collins is likely only going to get better.
And with Javonte Perkins, we have a legit threat to go off for 20+ every night, and do so pretty efficiently.
He's not an offense killer, he does well in isolation, but will also have more oppurtunities to create as teams key in on him.
With Javonte showing that he can score at will, teams will have to give every single guy on this team more space, which is deadly for a Collins, Goodwin, French, Jimerson.......dare I continue?
A lot to love about Javonte's game going forward, and a lot to love about this team going forward.
P.S. it stands to point out Javonte was a 1,000 point scorer at SWIC and likely could do the same at SLU.
Collin's Projections: 12 ppg / 5.5 rpg / 2.5 apg
2019-2020 Actual:15 ppg / 3.5 rpg / .7 apg
One of the leading scorers in NJCAA last season, SLU needed Perkins' bucket getting ability to translate quickly to help replace Javon Bess' scoring load.
Early on, Perkins looked shaky - too quick and too uncertain with his trigger, failing to find his spots offensively, and getting beaten at the other end.
But once he got the feel of the D-I game and Ford's system, things clicked in a major way. His very low shooting percentages climbed rapidly.
His mid-range clankers were falling more than half the time. He was getting to the hole with ease. He was staying in front of his man defensively. And he was taking and making more three-pointers than ever.
He finished conference play as SLU's all-time scoring average leader in the conference, and there's no reason to believe he can't do it again next season. His game was consistent above all else in conference play.
11 - Hasahn French
Talk about tough years, the first name on that list has to be Has.
While there were flashes of excellence, brilliant dunks, and a broken shots blocked record to boot, it felt like this was a more muted campaign than we have seen from the Billiken big man in his time at SLU.
And I also realize as I write this how blessed we have been to have a division one ready big come into SLU and have an immediate impact.
We have also seen some crazy year over year improvement as Has fine tuned his scoring ability on the inside.
Call it a hip injury, increased awareness from teams defensively, or the inability to shoot free throws, French probably underperformed what he could have been this year.
And he still had a pretty great year numbers wise.
And top of the list for correcting this next year begins at the free throw line.
This is where I start and stop my comments on Hasahn's free throw shooting: it just has to be better.
Teams know he can't shoot at the line, and they put him there killing any flow we have to the offense.
You have to be a threat to score at the line, or we will suffer for it once again next year.
And now that's over.
French is another guy, like Goodwin, where the maturity is just stunning.
Has and Jordan wear probably the lion's share of blame and finger pointing when it comes to things going wrong on this team, and yet they have never once created a dramtic situation about it.
I expect we are going to see something specil with Has next year, beginning with blocks per game being over 3-4, and bringing his assist numbers up to 5-6.
And the assist numbers in my head are more likely, assuming French continues looking for kick out threes and his team comes through for him.
Regardless, Has is another guy that makes me love what we have next year.
Collin's Projections: 11 ppg / 10 rpg / 2 apg
2019-2020 Actual: 12.4 ppg / 10.4 rpg / 2.26 apg
French solidified his legacy as the best shot blocker in SLU history through just three seasons, and it isn't particularly close.
He now owns the all-time record by a margin of 67, he owns the single-season blocks record, and he continues to be a nightmare matchup for opposing A10 frontcourts.
Heading into this season, I had three questions for French: Can he stay out of foul trouble? Can he make more FTs? Can he be a more efficient finisher? On the first count - eh, not really. He's still a marked man for A10 refs, and I'm pretty sure he gets punished for just being such a physically imposing presence.
On the second question - decidedly not. On the third - yes, he actually did manage to lift his FG percentage above .500 again, finishing at .521 on the year. He ran into a tough stretch in A10 play when Davidson and a few other teams in a row decided to collapse on him in the post double and triple team him, and foul aggressively.
The strategy worked and he looked like he'd been scouted and exposed. Then slowly but surely he started forcing his will again, assisted by the unsolvable problem of Javonte Perkins opening up things for him. Defend, Rebound. French's ability to do both helps him overcome the flaws in his game and he delivered yet another big season.
15 - Demarius Jacobs
Now let's talk about someone I was way wrong on.
Demarius Jacobs, this is my formal apology to you.
In a year where I expected very little, Demarius Jacobs showed me a whole lot including athleticism I had no clue he posessed.
Ignore his game altogether for a second, this year Demarius proved he can get up as well as anyone and finish at the rim with some pretty impressive dunks.
Add in a few hot games from behind the arc, and his length defensively on the perimeter, and you have another guy who gives you a lot to love for next year.
While the jury is likely still out on how effectiev Jacobs will be next year, it stands to reason that he will be a key factor next year if we want to be as good as we can be.
Collin's Projections: 1.0 ppg / .5 rpg / .5 apg
2019-2020 Actual: 6.6 ppg / 2.6 rpg / .96 apg
Heading into this season, I said Jacobs needed to show an outside shot, show more confidence, and take the next step. He delivered across the board - shot well on a much higher volume from outside, took over a few games, and showed clear development year-over-year.
And despite his progress, I'm left wanting more. Jacobs has a habit of disappearing for stretches, both within games and sometimes over a week or more. He averaged 6.6 PPG this season but only scored above his average 10 times - meaning that when he showed up, he showed up big, but more frequently he just didn't show up.
His career high against Valpo in the second game of the season primed us for a big breakout season, but his next big game didn't come until a month later against Tulane, which he lit up for 18 points on 6-7 shooting from 3. The promise continues to be there, but will he be able to put together a more consistent season as a junior?
20 - Fred Thatch
Just a tough year for Fred.
An unfortunate situation for a very talented player who could have done a lot to help this team.
It feels like Fred has a lot to offer next year if we go zone as well, something we saw often working well for young guys like Hargrove or Demarius who had lapses in man to man defense.
Fred is already a plus defender in man to man defense, which is another reason for me personally that I am excited to watch this team play zone defense next year maybe more than we did this year, maybe not.
Fred is also a plus scorer which we saw early on this year.
While he may not be the most deadly shooter from range, he certainly is capable of hitting his share of threes and finishes well around the basket making this team a deep threat wherever Fred plays next year.
I expect, if healthy, that Fred could find himself in a starting spot again next year contributing heavily all year long.
The third of the "big three" Ford promised along with Goodwin and French, a long-term health issue kept Thatch out for almost the entire season. I don't know enough about his condition to speculate on his future.
However, if he's back to 100% health or even close to it and able to play out his career, the team's potential - especially on the defensive end - is top-20 for an entire season.
21 - Madani Diarra
Not much to say here.
Ford is obviously being very patient with Diarra, but now it will be interesting to see if he factors in at all with Bell and French next season, or if he still has another year of waiting.
We knew heading into this season that Diarra's health history made him a long-term project, and we indeed saw very little of him this year. We might see very little of him next year. He has size and athleticism, though, which gives him the potential to form a formidable frontcourt alongside Bell down the road.
22 - Terrence Hargrove
In a year that didn't look so promising from the jump, Terrence Hargrove showed us a lot this year.
Most importantly, he showed that nothing is bigger than his heart.