Although the past few years have been tough, it looks like Saint Louis is beginning to get back on track. Coach Travis Ford has brought an array of talent onto this team in the past year and change, and the Billikens are looking to get back into the race for top of the chain this year in the A-10. Further, if the Billikens can answer these upcoming questions in good fashion, they just may have a chance to do it.
1. How Good Can These Freshman Be?
While only two of the numerous new faces for Saint Louis are new to collegiate level basketball, they could have the largest impact for the Billikens this season. Guard Jordan Goodwin and Big Hasahn French were both highly respected recruits coming out of high school. ESPN placed both of them in the top 90 for their graduating class. You have to believe that if both of these guys contribute early, Saint Louis could be darn good this year.
Everything is in their favor. These freshmen will not have extreme pressure on them, as the Billikens have an array of depth they can use. Plus, they will be surrounded by talented, experienced players, making it easier for Goodwin and French to adjust to the new level of play. Not to mention, both of these guys have the intangibles of experienced college basketball players. Hasahn French will immediately be one of the most physical forwards in the A-10, and Goodwin is no pushover either at 6’3″ and 215 pounds.
Coach Ford recently hinted at the possibility of these two starting a the beginning of the regular season. Whether that happens or not, Billiken fans should be very excited about not just this year but the near future as well. The ceiling for these guys is sky-high, and with the strong depth that Saint Louis has this season, they should be able to develop their games with ease in 2017-18.
2. Is there enough playing time to go around?
Here’s a good problem for a coach to have: too much depth. That is exactly what Coach Ford will be dealing with, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the playing time. It takes time to dissect the roster, but I’ll do my best to break it down in just a few sentences.
First: the newcomers. Ford has his two aforementioned talented freshman, but he also has 5 transfers eligible and ready to step on the court, and these aren’t just any transfers; these guys can play, and have already had great success on the court. Javon Bess from Michigan State and Adonys Henriquez from UCF were the biggest transfers, and both will be looked upon as two of the main playmakers on this team. Now, let’s look at the returning players for the Billikens. They have five, and all five should get a good deal of playing time this season. Bishop, Johnson, Roby, and Welmer. all looked promising last year, especially Davell Roby, who will be considered the leader of the Billikens moving into the regular season.
Taking a look at all these names and all this talent, I don’t know how Travis Ford is going to construct his rotation for this season. What I do know is that he’ll be able to match the Billikens up with any opponent this year, and it will be exciting to watch how it all transpires. Everyone should see the floor in the early going.
3. Can the Billikens make a statement out of conference?
The Billikens appear to have the talent, and they will be tested very early in the season playing in the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden. This will be their first appearance in the spotlight as they will play the first game of the event against Virginia Tech and then face either Providence or Washington. The Billikens, for the most part, have been overlooked, only being picked to finish 7th in conference. They will be looking to make a statement early, and the 2K Classic is the place to do it. Not to mention that this will be an extreme boost for the two freshman if they can perform well in these games. A chance to shine on a big stage is exactly what Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French could use before Atlantic 10 play.
The Billikens will also be tested with a home game against Houston and an away game against Butler during the non-conference portion of the season. These non-conference games are also exceptionally important because it will allow Coach Ford to mix and match and see what lineups he likes heading into A-10 play. Any player and coach will tell you that every game is important, but for the Billikens this year, there’s a little something extra for these early season games: a chance to impress and prove the doubters wrong.