This morning, Saint Louis University announced that Fred Thatch Jr. would be out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL and would be forgoing his remaining eligibility, marking an end to the career of one of the most beloved Billikens ever.
Fred Thatch Jr.’s counting statistics will never stick out at you. His academic credentials are probably more immediately impressive: two degrees and counting and a host of honor rolls and other academic honors. Thatch is brilliant, maybe the smartest player in the entire conference off the court. On the court, he was just as valuable, contributing in all the ways that don’t show up on the scoresheet.
Thatch has been the consummate glue guy his entire career at SLU, immediately one of the best defenders on a team that featured Javon Bess and Jordan Goodwin. His effort level never lagged, and at 6’3, 215, he was often found skying impossibly high for rebounds or holding his own against centers several inches taller than him. Fred Thatch Jr. was both the consummate glue guy and a wholly unique player. He’s a Billiken legend, the kind that people will be talking about for decades and decades in Chaifetz Arena, around St. Louis and in his hometown of Sikeston.
Fred Thatch Jr. is also just a great person from all accounts. Thatch was one of the first people to take advantage of NIL when it was passed, not to profit for himself, but to put on a basketball camp for kids in Sikeston. Saint Louis University could not have asked for a better student-athlete to represent the school than Fred Thatch Jr., and he embraced the role, such as when he spoke at the groundbreaking of the Loughlin Family Champions Center.
Thatch was only player on SLU this year who played on the 2018-19 Billikens squad that won 4 in 4 in Brooklyn to win the A10 Championship as a 6 seed and snag a NCAA bid. Thatch wasn’t just on the team, he was on the floor and grabbed the rebound to secure the game for SLU. He was the one who dribbled out the clock and threw the ball in the air in triumph and in hindsight, it makes perfect sense. Fred Thatch Jr. is the consummate Billiken.
This, by far, is our favorite moment from Fred Thatch’s career at SLU. Who got the rebound on the missed shot that sent SLU to their last NCAA Tournament? None other than @FredThatchJr #ThankYouFred pic.twitter.com/puz4H2QhB2
— West Pine Bills (@WestPineBills) January 6, 2023
Thatch has great things ahead of him in his post-basketball career – don’t be surprised if this isn’t the last you hear of Fred Thatch Jr.—but it’s a huge loss to SLU basketball, losing a team leader and its best defender, and it’s a huge loss to fans, who no longer get to watch one of the most special players to put on a Billikens uniform.
Lastly, it feels very unfair that Thatch’s career ends like this. He’s fought through so much, most notably a serious illness that caused him to miss most of his sophomore season and he still has to manage to this day, and he still managed to give his all game in and game out. We’re talking about a player who’s so tough, he went out and drew a charge on a torn ACL! Fred Thatch Jr. deserved a triumphant end to his career. Those who weren’t SLU or A10 fans might just see the news and think, “bummer, SLU lost its 6th man,” but as the outpouring of reaction on Twitter from SLU fans and even fans of other A10 teams show, Thatch was so much more than that. It was an honor to get to see Fred Thatch Jr. compete day in and day out for the past 5 years.
Thanks Fred, for a great Billiken career!