Javonte Perkins is a star.
Opening up the preseason tournament with an offensive masterclass, Perkins reminded us why last year’s team was so successful late in the season. Ever since the JUCO product discovered his offensive prowess, he and the Billiken offense have only gotten better. He showcased his ability to finish at the rim, his soft touch from the midrange, and a pretty stroke from deep. Most importantly, he demonstrated veteran poise and a calming presence from the free throw line, where he was able to ice the game against a supremely talented LSU side. Very few, if any Billiken players have ever been able to score with the ease and/or efficiency that the St. Louis native brings to the court. Despite relying heavily on his mid-range J, Perkins shot 62.5% from inside the arc this weekend. Perhaps even more impressively, JP was 8/13 from deep, good for a mouth-watering 61.5%. The unparalleled combination of volume and efficiency is typically reserved for All-NBA talents, not mid-major 6th men. For the majority of the first half against SIUE, Perkins’ point total outpaced the Cougars, but his 26-point second half against LSU solidifies his status as an A-10 POTY contender, and dare I say it: A potential All-American.
Improved shooting adds a new dimension to the offense.
Gibson Jimerson’s offensive importance could not have been made more apparent than it was this weekend. The spacing provided by the young sharpshooter has completely transformed this offense, evidenced by the 85 points tallied against LSU. Not only does Jimerson make his shots, his mere shot making capability opens up the floor for the likes of the aforementioned Javonte Perkins and company. It’s not all about Jimerson, however. Albeit a 2-game sample, Saint Louis is shooting nearly 82% from the charity stripe in this moment in time. With the impending return of Hasahn French and a larger sample size, that rate will undoubtedly decrease. But given the fact that this same unit shot 58% over the course of last season, there is reason for excitement. Terence Hargrove Jr. buried multiple triples against SIUE, and his refined shooting form could be something to think about as he progresses in his young career. Although Jordan Goodwin made an abysmal 14.3% of 3PT shots over the weekend, the offense is opening up better looks for him, and I have confidence his shot will see marked improvement this season.
The best is yet to come.
Saturday’s victory against LSU will be an impressive one by the time the committee reviews SLU’s resumé come March, as the Tigers throttled SE Louisiana on Monday and will give their non-Billiken opponents fits all season. But one has to wonder how the game would have transpired with the simple existence of Hasahn French in the Chaifetz paint. French has been a menacing force on the glass and at the rim on both sides of the floor during his career, and there were many plays during the LSU game in which the Tigers took advantage of his absence. Few other teams will have the luxury of playing a French-less Billiken squad this season, and the gravity of his talent will exalt this talented group to even higher heights. To a smaller extent, the same can be said for Fred Thatch Jr, who we’re still yet to see get regular playing time due to injury. When healthy, the additions of French and Thatch will add depth and high-caliber talent to this burgeoning offensive juggernaut. You know what’s the scariest part for the Bills’ opposition this season? Their defense is even better. The high-energy, rugged defensive teams of the past few years didn’t disappear with the sudden emergence of high-flyers and sharpshooters. French and Thatch are both heralded for their athleticism and defensive prowess, and the transformative presence of Hasahn will be quite tangible when he suits up again in the near future. Get ready Billiken faithful. This team is just getting started.