Ladies and Gentlemen, he’s back. Javonte Perkins announced today that he will be returning to Saint Louis University next season to play his final season of college basketball.
After deciding to use his extra year of eligibility due to COVID, Perkins was poised for a huge season before tearing his ACL in early in an exhibition game against Rockhurst. During the season, Perkins did not give any indication as to whether he planned to return or go pro after this year, and he was even given a Senior Day tribute, albeit one rife with chants of “One More Year” from the Billiken faithful.
In his two seasons as a Billiken, Perkins averaged 15 and 17 points per game respectively, emerging as an electric scorer after coming to SLU from Southwestern Illinois College. Before his injury, Perkins was perhaps the prime preseason pick for A10 Player of the Year, and widely recognized as one of the best players in the entire country. After Perkins went down, SLU still won 23 games and earned at NIT bid, in part due to breakout seasons by Yuri Collins and Gibson Jimerson, but Perkins’ skills as an elite three-level scorer and shot creator off the dribble were sorely missed, as SLU frequently found itself in minutes-long scoring droughts and lost five games in which it had a double-digit lead.
Given that Perkins’ injury occurred in November 2021, its likely he will need some time to get back to 100% after the season starts. However, his return immediately makes SLU one of the top contenders in the A10. Jimerson admirably took on the role of first option for SLU in Perkins’ absence, and his much-improved all-around game will flourish with the addition of Perkins. Yuri Collins also showed an increased ability and determination to score and that further will open up the Billiken offense. Additionally, Francis Okoro looked like an all-A10 big towards the end of the season and Fred Thatch emerged as the premier glue guy in the A10. All are slated to come back.
The Billikens last year looked like a very good team that one missing one piece that would make them an elite team and that missing piece looked a lot like what Javonte Perkins can offer. Perkins has a one of the smoothest mid-range games in basketball, and can get his shot off from almost any area of the court at 6’6. He’s long and athletic and a pure shooter. When defenses really clamp down, Perkins is one of the best in the country at creating a bucket out of nothing, whether it be from getting his own shot or off-ball movement. He also is perfect as a zone-breaker at the free-throw line. SLU sorely needed all of these things.
While Perkins will be in his sixth year of college and one of the oldest prospect, Perkins can improve his professional stock with a strong season. His age makes him unlikely to be drafted, but his offensive game and size could make him an attractive option in the G-League and potentially a Two-Way contract candidate. The performance of older prospects like Chris Duarte and Desmond Bane also show a path to the NBA for Perkins.
Meanwhile, Travis Ford and company have been suspiciously quiet in the portal. While it can be a source of frustration for certain bloggers who enjoy a steady drip of recruiting news to help them procrastinate on law school homework, it’s not a source of concern given the way Ford and his staff have operated in the past, and it’s entirely possible Ford has an ace up his sleeve to further augment the Billikens. According to Stu Durando of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, SLU staff knew Perkins was returning two weeks ago, so this news does not impact SLU’s recruiting strategy.
As it stands, SLU has either two or three scholarships available, depending on Jordan Nesbitt, who announced he was entering the NBA draft, and subsequently has deleted that announcement. SLU’s biggest areas of need are likely a combo guard who can run the offense when Collins is out, but still play alongside him, and a big man. SLU likely has room to bring in at least one more big-impact player to add to the core of Perkins, Collins, Jimerson, Thatch, Okoro and Terrence Hargrove, and also could add some veteran bench pieces or overlooked high school seniors.
SLU’s incoming recruiting class already consists of Sincere Parker, one of the top JUCO scorers in the country, and St. Louis natives Nick Kramer, out of Saint Louis University High School (in my humble and unbiased opinion the best high school in St. Louis and frankly the whole country), and Kellen Thames from Pattonville High School. Parker looks the most likely to have an instant impact, as a smooth, high-volume scorer at Moberly Area Community College. Frankly, his gaudy scoring numbers and ability to get buckets at all three levels are a little reminiscent of Perkins, though Parker stands at 6’3. Kramer is a hard-nosed guard who can really shoot the three and will bring toughness to the Billikens, and Thames is a 6’6 guard who can handle the ball extremely well for his size and was a star at Pattonville.
2022-2023 has always needed to be NCAA Tournament or bust for the Billikens, but the addition of Javonte Perkins has made it that much easier. SLU has one of its most exciting teams in years and is looking perfectly poised to make a lot of noise in the A10 next season and grab an at-large bid. One of the best scorers to ever come out of St. Louis is back in Midtown and will be wearing Billiken blue next season. Buckle up.