Updated: Nov 14, 2019
Every year is a little different. New faces, players lost to elligibility or transfer.
This year seemed especially weird for the Billikens, who look much different than anyone, myself especially, was probably expecting them to look in the middle of last year. Lets see what 2019-2020 might hold for the Billikens basketball program and better get to know the players.
0 - Jordan Goodwin - Junior, 6'3 200 lbs.
Leading the group is returning Junior guard Jordan Goodwin. A long time personal favorite of mine, Goodwin has been stuck between the primary ball handler and a slashing scorer who moves well without the ball roles.
Goodwin's abilities to find open lanes and offensive rebound is a huge plus, fitting in well with the Travis Ford's blue collar style of play. Abilities that are hampered when he is running point.
Goodwin averaged 10.5 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game in 36 games played for the Billikens last year, while also dishing out 3.4 assists per game.
Expectations could probably safely see Goodwin running the point for the early games this year until Yuri Collins potentially grows into that role, or maybe Weaver takes over full time, who really knows. I think ultimately what we can all agree on is that Goodwin may not be labled our primary ball handler, but in late game situations I bet he will always have the ball in his hand to run the offense.
Goodwin has never shown a great ability to shoot the ball. Making this addition to his game could allow him more oppurtunities to score close to the basket.
"To me, the bottom line with him is finishing and figuring out his role. I like him more as a "point forward" than a PG. Someone who can play on-ball but who is as extra vauable as he was down the stretch last season, playing off ball more and chasing offensive rebounds."
Projections: 12.5 points per game / 9.0 rebounds per game / 2.0 assists per game
1 - Yuri Collins - Freshman, 6'0 175 lbs.
A newcomer, Yuri Collins was a very exciting commitment for the Billikens who will now fill the hole left in this years recruiting class by Mike Lewis. Where Lewis was supposed to come in and be the primary ball handler, the Billikens now look like they will be leaning on Collins for this right away.
In my humble opinion as a Billiken fan, we are at our best when Jordan Goodwin isn't bringing the ball up and running our offense. He plays best on his own, filling in and finding holes where he can. This relationship in playing time between Goodwin and Collins is going to be key this year to the Billikens success.
Having them on the court at the same time will be our recipe for success in the back court.
Last year as a senior in high school, Collins' had three games of over double digit assists, and had seven 30 plus point games out of twenty three total games. A quick ball handler with an ability to facilitate offense and score when need be.
"I wouldn't be afraid to use the superlative here that he's the most natural PG we've brought in for quite some time. His vision and passing instincts are off the charts. He's unselfish and undersized, and his challenge will be adjusting to the speed of the college game and scoring."
Projections: 4.5 points per game / 2.0 rebounds per game / 6.5 assists per game
2 - Tay Weaver - Senior, 5'10 170 lbs.
The lone senior scholarship player for the Billikens this year, Dejuanta Weaver is a transfer from Eastern Kentucky University. Last year for the Colonels, Weaver averaged 10.2 points per game and 2.8 rebounds per game.
A potential guard option that I have overlooked here has been Tay Weaver. While he only averaged 2.2 assists for the colonels last year, it would seem he could help run the offense as a primary ball handler, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him starting early in the year.
No matter where he plays, 10 points per game is nothing to shy away from, and hopefully he is finally the solution that adds more depth to the Billikens this year.
"Undersized but high-volume shooter. Almost all his points came from 3-pointers. Combo guard that will allow Goodwin to play off-ball and Collins time to get up to speed. Loves to play fast and will pull the trigger anytime, anywhere."
Projections: 6.5 points per game / 1.5 rebounds per game / 1.5 assists per game
3 - Javonte Perkins - Junior, 6'6 195 lbs.
One of the quietest acquisitions of this recruiting class, Javonte Perkins might be the player this year that I am the most excited about. At 6'6, Perkins is long and lanky making him difficult to guard, with explosive quickness that enables him to get better openings. He has a natural feel for how to score the ball, and will immediately be a fit.
While I have not heard much early on from Perkin's at practice, this is the norm for the young man who keeps a low profile on social media and in general. The only reason I know anything about his talents came from my decision to watch him play at SWIC last year, where he was supposedly the 15th best scorer in the country in terms of total field goals made.
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.
"Offensive star at SWIC, Bess' replacement still has question marks on his defensive ability. Not a high volume 3-point shooter, and loves to operate in the mid-range, where he can catch and shoot, stop and pop, or take guys off the dribble."
Projections: 12 points per game / 5.5 rebounds per game / 2.5 assists per game
11 - Hasahn French - Junior, 6'7 245 lbs.
Now we come to the second returning Billiken on this list, and he might be poised to have the biggest overall year for anyone on the roster.
The growth of Hasahn has been obvious. Maybe not in the stats, but Hasahn French has turned into a truly dominant force in the Atlantic 10. French brought his rebound average total up by one per game last year while staying steady at 9.3 points per game for his sophomore and freshmen seasons.
But I feel more comfortable watching him take shots in the paint. I don't feel like a dunk is the only way for him to score. French has found ways to dominate games, rather than just being a useful big man. He has proven it at times, like 25 points against UMass early in conference play last year.
Consistency in his ability to score remains the biggest complaint against Hasahn to this point, a complaint he can hopefully silence in year three.
"Big three for me are his finishing, FT%, and foul trouble. He's going to be expected to be our frontcourt anchor for 30+ MPG, primary rebounder, shot blocker. He's going to give up inches on mathcups frequently.
' Can he stay out of foul trouble? Can he make more FTs? Can he be more efficient?"
Projections: 11 points per game / 10 rebounds per game / 2 assists per game
15 - Demarius Jacobs - Sophomore, 6'2 185 lbs.
A bit of an enigma for the Billikens, Demarius Jacobs has a lot to prove, and not a lot for us to go on.
Travis Ford has vouched for Jacobs, who only saw minutes in 19 games last year, but due to injury we have been unable to see how good Jacobs can be. Regardless, looking at this list already it is clear there are more ready options in the back court and so this will be a development year for Jacobs.
Still would be nice to see him get some minutes.
"He's a smooth 2-guard who can finish. Needs to develop his outside shot. This year is about confidence and development. He needs to make a jump."
Projections: 1.0 points per game / .5 rebounds per game / .5 assists per game
20 - Fred Thatch Jr. - Sophomore, 6'3 215 lbs.
A surprising star in last years team, Fred Thatch Jr. has an oppurtunity to turn a corner this year and be a legit contributor for three years as a Billiken.
While Thatch did get quality minutes last year, averaging close to twenty minutes per game, it's likely that could grow this year and his minutes could be more high leverage down the stretch. This also comes down to the battle in the backcourt that revolves around Weaver, Collins, Goodwin, Thatch, Perkins, Hightower, there are a lot of guys.
It is easy to see how Thatch would get overlooked but it remains to be seen how Ford chooses to use Perkins, Hankton, Hargrove, Weaver, Hightower, and Jimerson. Some of these guys just won't play, some of these guys have an oppurtunity to earn playing time, and some are almost shoe ins at this point.
I hesitate to say it, but the Billikens have a little depth this year. Playing time is going to be a real competition.
But... .if I were to base it off last season, I see Goodwin as the only backcourt shoe in, with Collins, Perkins, Weaver, Thatch, Jimerson, and Hightower as guys who could earn some playing time in the backcourt this year. Certainly looks like some depth is avaible for the Billikens this year.
"Already all-conference level defender. Can he make the leap offensively this year to become that two-way threat. Slow start hurt percentages last year."
Projections: 2.5 points per game / 3.5 rebounds per game / 1.5 assists per game
21 - Madani Diarra - Freshman, 6'10 240 lbs.
The big man of the future, I see Diarra as a project already. Whether or not I'm right remains to be seen, but based on the physical attributes and the fact that he found himself at SLU, it's probably safe to assume some things here:
1. He's probably a great athlete
2. He probably can't score consistently at this level.
3. He will probably be in foul trouble every game.
Prove me wrong. Just based off of the big men we get in at SLU, especially with the size of Diarra, there has to be some major reason that you aren't at a power 5 school. But those physical attributes will be scary regardless and Diarra will be a really interesting case to follow this year.
Diarra played on a stacked St. Benedict’s team that went 27-5 last season, so he’s used to winning. He was never a primary option for the Grey Bees, but was a vital member of the team with his size, rebounding and ability to do the dirty work. For a tough, physical team like the Billikens, a player like Diarra is a perfect fit.
"Long history of knee injuries. Ford hasn't talked about him like he has other freshmen. He seems to be a long-term project because he missed so much basketball while rehabbing. It'll take a while before we see much of him."
22 - Terrence Hargrove - Freshman, 6'4 195 lbs.
A born leader and competitor, Terrence Hargrove is maybe one of the most exciting gets in terms of new recruits that I have witnessed in my time following SLU basketball.
Hargrove is a local stud, with crazy athleticism and projectability, but who also has a respect for the area and a love for where he came from. Hargrove's importance is more than just what he can do on the court, it's the pride that he will take in wearing St. Louis across his chest next year. Because it's in his blood.
Not too mention the fact that he took East St. Louis to a state title in high school basketball last year, where they adopted the slogan "Chasing Greatness". Expect high light reel dunks, high intensity play, and a skilled player who will probably have some adjustment hiccups as he settles into the college game.
"Possibly the best leaper we've ever signed. He just needs to improve his efficiency from everywhere - for an elite finisher, his FG% isn't high enough. If he can improve his ability to get the ball in the basket from everywhere, lookout."
Projections: 5.5 points per game / 3.5 rebounds per game / 1.0 assist per game
23 - K.C. Hankton - Sophomore, 6'7 215 lbs.
An interesting addition to the roster last year, Hankton showed effectiveness in short spurts, and looks to get more regular oppurtunities to play this year.
Obviously for those of us who followed the Billikens last year, Hankton was bothered by injuries making it hard for him to contribute like he could have as a freshmen, but it is likely to see him as a 3 point specialists whos spots up in the Billikens offense this year.
Outside of that, he still is raw. Not the defender he needs to be for this level, really just a short stint guy.
"He shows a knack for positioning on rebounding and hopefully added enough to his frame not to get pushed around underneath. If he can physically hang, he has good potential as a stretch forward because of his nice stroke from outside."
Projections: 3.0 points per game / 1.0 rebounds per game / 0.0 assists per game
24 - Gibson Jimerson - Freshman, 6'5 200 lbs.
An exciting young guard out of Florida, Gibson might be best all around player in this recruiting class. Extremely early to make this claim, but there is a lot to be known about the young man and it is all exciting stuff.
A product of the travel ball circuit, I would look for the three star recruit Jimerson to struggle for playing time early but be a key contributor down the stretch late in the season.
His ability to shoot will likely get him a lot of playing time as well for a Billiken team that struggled to find a consistent long range threat last year. I wouldn't be shocked to see him as a 6th man for a scoring boost every 5-10 minutes in the rotation.
"Possibly the best pure shooter we've ever signed. Last comparable player would be Drew Diener in terms of size and shooting but Jimerson has more all around ability and shoots at a much higher volume."
Projections: 4.5 points per game / 2.5 rebounds per game / 0.5 assists per game
32 - Jimmy Bell Jr. - Freshman, 6'10 270 lbs.
Another young big man, Jimmy Bell Jr. gives us an exciting look at the future of this program. Just for a second, consider Diarra, Bell, Collins, and Hargrove as Juniors. Collins dishing out to Hargrove with Diarra and Bell patrolling the paint. And Jimmy is still building himself.
As Jimmy detailed to myself and Zac when he came on the podcast, he has been in the process of trimming down his weight to make himself more effective on the court, and so Jimmy is still trying to figure out both the style and type of player he will ultimately be.
Presumably, from what I can tell, he will fit the Hasahn French mold of a dedicated work horse. Maybe more of a bruiser than a finesse guy, but who's to say that hasn't been developed.
While Jimmy Bell may not be an immediate contribuor this year, I do expect him to provide quality minutes off the bench for the Billikens. Ultimately, it will probably be a back and forth with Diarra and Bell taking turns as the second big on the court with Hasahn French, but most likely Bell will be the second true post option for Travis Ford.
"On paper he looks like a freshmen big man project, but Ford has been raving about how ready he looks. If he's actually ready to go, that's a huge mitigating factor for any concerns about getting in foul trouble."
Projections: 1.5 points per game / 2.5 rebounds per game / .5 assists per game
Let us know what you think in the comments below.