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Saint Louis Basketball Newcomer Primer

When most A-10 fans think about exciting newcomers in the league, they think about top recruits like Rhode Island’s Jermaine Harris and Saint Joseph’s Jared Bynum, or the bajillion (based off a rough estimate) transfers Keith Dambrot has collected at Duquesne. Players like Harris and Bynum are deserving of the hype, and Dambrot is building an intriguing team in Pittsburgh, but they are not part of the best class of newcomers in the A-10. That distinction should belong to Travis Ford and Saint Louis University. Carte’are Gordon, the highest ranked incoming freshman in the A-10, Tramaine Isabell, the highest profile grad transfer in the A-10 headline Ford’s class and a healthy mix of promising freshman and impact transfers round it out. 8 new players is a lot to keep track of, especially after a year where SLU played a bunch of games with only seven scholarship players, so here’s a primer on the Billikens’ new faces.

Carte’are Gordon, F, 6’8, 240, Fr.—When Gordon signed with SLU in 2017 over Kansas and Mizzou, the St. Louis native was considered one of the top 10 players in the class of 2018. His ranking has fallen since committing, but he still has a recruiting pedigree that is rare in the A-10, having won multiple state championships, a Peach Jam championship, and a gold medal with USA basketball. Gordon is a load at 6’8, 240, and displays uncommon quickness and strength for a player his age. Coach Travis Ford has compared Gordon to Jamal Mashburn, a comparison which I’m somewhat skeptical of, but Gordon has solid ball handling skills for a player his size, and is ferocious on the boards. He has the chance to be a dominant big in the A-10 from the minute he steps on the floor. Between Gordon and Jordan Goodwin, Ford has landed the top player in St. Louis the past two years.

Tramaine Isabell, G, 6’1, 180, Sr.—After a tumultous two years under Mizzou coaching legend Kim Anderson, Isabell transferred to Drexel and emerged as one of the top scorers in the country, averaging 21 points a game on 47% shooting from the field and 34% shooting from three. Isabell will provide much needed scoring punch and shot creation ability on a team that lacked exactly that last season. Isabell, who chose SLU over Xavier and Boston College, showed that he can also be a “man for others” at Drexel, averaging 7.5 rebounds (reminder, he’s 6’1!) and 3.4 assists per game for the Dragons too.

Luis Santos, F, 6’8, 250, Jr.—Santos sat out last year after transferring from South Florida, and this year he is ready to contribute to one of the most imposing frontlines in the A-10. The former 4-star recruit averaged 6.2 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game his sophomore year at USF. Santos is an absolute beast inside, incredibly strong and with a good array of low post moves. There aren’t all that many big men in the A-10 who will be able to handle Santos on the block. Between Santos, Gordon, Hasahn French and DJ Foreman, SLU could wind up having one of the best frontcourts in not only the A-10, but also the country.

Fred Thatch Jr., G, 6’2, 195, Fr.—The second player to sign with SLU in this class, Thatch might be one of the most underrated incoming freshman in the A-10. The Sikeston native holds his high school’s records for points, rebounds, assists, steals and averaged 25 points a game his senior year. Strong and athletic, Thatch is an absolute bulldog of a player who can do it all. He’s an high effort player who should bring a lot of energy off the bench for the Billikens this year.

Dion Wiley, G, 6’4, 200, Sr.—A top 50 recruit coming out of high school, Wiley struggled with injuries for much of his time at Maryland. He averaged 5.8 points a game for the Terps last year, shooting 36% from three. Wiley is a strong guard with a solid outside shot who will bring much needed outside shooting and has the potential to emerge as a top scorer off the bench for the Billikens (assuming Isabell, Goodwin and Javon Bess start).

Demarius Jacobs, G, 6’2, 170, Fr.—A former SIU-Carbondale commit who was later granted his release and took a prep year, SLU beat out Illinois for Jacobs in the spring recruiting period. The Chicago native was one of the top scorers for the Mac Irvin Fire AAU team, playing in a backcourt with blue chip prospect and Illinois commit Ayo Dosunmu. He’s thin and may need to get stronger, but has elite athleticism, is dangerous driving to the rim, and has a nice looking outside shot. Somewhat underrated in high school, Jacobs has the potential to develop into a top player down the road and definitely has the best high school mixtapes of any SLU recruit.

Ingvi Gudmundsson, G, 6’3, 190, Fr.—Brother of Davidson’s Jon Axel Gudmundsson, Ingvi was another late addition to this recruiting class. He averaged 10 points a game for Grindavik in Iceland’s top basketball league, and is currently representing Iceland in the FIBA U20 European Championships. He has a good shooting touch and will be a solid player for the Billikens this year and in the future.

KC Hankton, F, 6’8, 190, Fr.—Hankton is a tall shooter from North Carolina with solid athleticism. He needs to get stronger, but he adds a much needed shooting element to the Billikens, especially after the loss of Jalen Johnson, who decided to transfer. Hankton could develop into a similar type of stretch four, as he has good shooting mechanics and averaged 12 rebounds a game in high school.

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  • July 17, 2018
After what seems like an eternity, passing the Crews' (hereby referred to as [dead}) years like a boulder-size, ungreased kidney stone and surviving last year's self-inflicted Title IX wound, Billikenites have a lot to look forward to this year. The main questions we have are team chemistry and in-game coaching adjustments. Plus answering the lingering question of outside production we were sorely lacking last year. The stench of [dead] appears to finally be gone. And if you think that reference harsh, how is it that a coach a few years removed from national Coach of the Year honors, is not even a blip on the national coaching search scene?
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    Billiken Rich
  • July 18, 2018
Appreciate the article. I'm starting to get a little squeamish about all the love the Billikens are getting. We have some amazing new players that have to be kept happy and molded into a team. I thought Travis did a great coaching job with extremely limited talent so far. Hopefully this year and in the future he can shed the "great recruiter but average floor coach" label put on him by the OSU fans.