Right before the start of A-10 conference play, reports have emerged that highly touted freshman Carte’Are Gordon is likely transferring from SLU. This is a huge loss for the Billikens, as Gordon had averaged 8.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game in 24.5 minutes per game while leading the team in blocks with 23.
This really sucks for SLU. At the beginning of the season, the frontcourt was supposed to be a strength of the Billikens. Before the season even started, USF transfer Luis Santos was kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons, and forward Elliott Welmer reinjured his foot. Now, without Gordon, SLU’s only frontcourt options are Hasahn French, DJ Foreman and freshman KC Hankton. While it always hurts to lose a player, losing Gordon especially hurts. The crown jewel of the freshman class, Gordon is a local kid who was a top-75 recruit. He talked about how SLU is the team of the whole city and how he wanted to represent his pride in his city for Saint Louis University. Having a local star freshman go from talking about that to leaving before conference play hurts like hell.
However, it’s not the end of the world for SLU. The Billikens still remain one of the favorites to win the A-10 and they are one of the most talented teams in the A-10, even without Gordon. French hasn’t played as well as he did freshman year, but he’s still an elite defender and one of the most physically imposing big men in the A-10. He can make up for Gordon’s absence on defense and hopefully his offense will improve in conference play. Foreman too has struggled a bit this year, but led the A-10 in field goal percentage in conference play last year and is a capable veteran presence. Hankton isn’t very strong, but is a great shooter and will help space the floor for SLU.
Additionally, Travis Ford can put Javon Bess at the four in small ball lineups with French, Jordan Goodwin, Fred Thatch Jr. and Tramaine Isabell. The small ball lineup has been dangerous in small samples for SLU and could give teams fits. Goodwin and Thatch are big, strong and athletic guards who can guard just about anyone on the court, and Bess can guard any player on any court in any country.
Losing Gordon is tough, but it’s not an insurmountable obstacle for SLU. It’s not like Gordon was the only thing that made SLU a tournament team. Heck, with the way Fred Thatch has played Gordon might not have even been the best freshman on SLU so far. Jordan Goodwin is a point guard in a tight end’s body who’s a constant threat to rack up a triple double on any given night. Tramaine Isabell is one of the most dynamic scorers in the country when he’s on. French was one of the best big men in the A-10 as only a freshman last year. This is still probably the most talented team in the A-10. They need to put it all together, sure, but that was the case before Gordon left.
Most importantly, the Billikens still have Javon Bess. It’s impossible to overstate just how good Bess has been in his senior season. He’s been an elite defender, capable of shutting down anyone in the country. He’s greatly improved his three point shot, shooting 37% from deep, and averaging 15.5 point per game. Bess might be the best player in the A-10 and he’s the Billikens’ leader. As long as the Billikens have Bess, they’ll still have as good a shot as anyone in the A-10 to make it into the NCAA Tournament.
Still, this really, really sucks. I, along with many other SLU fans had visions of Gordon becoming one of the best players to ever put on a SLU uniform and representing his hometown team in the NCAA tournament. Ultimately, I wish the best to Carte’Are and hope he does well wherever his next stop may be. I just also hope that he winds up watching the Billikens playing in the NCAA tournament from the couch this year and wondering what could have been if he stayed at SLU