As practices get underway for the 2018-19 season, the Saint Louis Billikens look to be a force in the Atlantic 10. After the difficult year of 2017-18 full of suspensions and “what-ifs,” SLU managed to finish strong with a record one win above .500. The controversies surrounding the program looked to be cemented in the past for the Billikens, until last week when forward Luis Santos was suspended indefinitely for an undisclosed violation of team policy. Santos ultimately decided to withdraw from the university altogether after receiving the punishment. While the Billikens have a deep enough team to overcome this setback, it is another story of what could have been for both Santos and the Billikens.
Santos, a former four-star recruit from Bronx, NY, by way of the Dominican Republic, was waiting in the wings for a breakout season after transferring from South Florida. Described by many as the most athletic player on the Billiken roster, Santos would have provided a versatile game down low and could have been one of the best low post talents in the A-10. With a 6’8”, 250 pound frame, he displayed a strong low post game as well as a quality mid-range game. In his last appearance on the court during the 2016-17 season, he appeared in all 30 games at South Florida, making 11 starts and averaging 6.2 points and 4.1 rebounds. This season, he looked to be a valuable starter in the front court, pairing with star big man Hasahn French, with what would have been one of the most imposing front lines in the conference.
Instead, Santos is out, continuing a trend that the Billikens must address coming off a season where 3 of 4 suspended players withdrew from the university after a Title IV violation. While freshman Carte’Are Gordon is more than capable of filling the void in the front court, this puts a lot of weight on a freshman who would have benefited from a slower transition into the starting lineup. While Gordon has shown plenty of leadership capabilities during his basketball career paired with a strong overall game that could have potentially surpassed Santos this season, adjustments will still need to be made to make up for the loss. Gordon has little room for error now, as a freshman being tasked with being one of the front court leaders.
Senior forward, D.J. Foreman will also have his name called again to help fill the void down low. Foreman received plenty of opportunities to showcase his talents last season, increasing his averages during conference play to 9.4 points and 4.1 rebounds when the team was shorthanded. He has similar size to Santos, being the same height at 6’8″ and only 10 pounds lighter and will provide Gordon with a veteran mentor and a skilled backup.
While the SLU front court is still deep, the Billikens lose another experienced player with a lot of potential, in Santos. Although this opens another scholarship for recruiting another top tier talent for the 2019-20 season, it is disappointing to add another story like this right before the season kicks off. While Santos will move on to either a smaller program or potentially opt for the pro circuit overseas, SLU will have to move on too, still carrying a strong lineup into what should remain a promising season. Although the Billikens face another shot of adversity going into 2018-19, they will have to put this loss behind them once again and remain confident in the team they have on the floor.