Any discussion about the 2020-21 Saint Louis Billikens has to start with their two all-conference candidates, Hasahn French and Jordan Goodwin. Together, they were the only teammates in college basketball to average a double-double in 2019-20, leading Saint Louis to a 12-6 record in the Atlantic 10, complete with five-straight wins to end the year. With both of them returning to Saint Louis after testing the NBA Draft waters, the Billikens will be no worse than preseason No. 2 in the conference and will appear in just about every preseason bracketology projection.
Before the Atlantic 10 tournament was canceled, the Billikens had a real shot at earning the league’s automatic bid (remember, they lost twice to Dayton by a combined eight points).
French is an absolute beast and could be a tight end in the NFL with his enormous frame. The 6’7, 245-pound forward averaged 12.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. Just seeing him in front of the hoop could keep opponents out of the key.
His partner in crime, Jordan Goodwin, goes all-out in the backcourt, to the tune of 15.5 points, 3.1 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. He was also one of the best rebounding guards in America, averaging 10.4 RPG. He just needs to improve on his 53.8% free throw shooting — something the entire team should be working on.
But it takes more than just two players to send a team to the dance, and Saint Louis’s supporting cast is both deep and talented. That starts with Javonte Perkins, who was the team’s second-leading scorer and is the reigning A-10 Sixth Man of the Year.
It’s almost unfair to open with French and Goodwin and not discuss Javonte Perkins. He was the hidden gem for the crew and the team’s go-to player down the stretch. He attended Southwestern Illinois, a junior college, for two years before joining the Billikens last season. One game that stands out from last season is when Perkins took over at St. Joe’s. French and Goodwin weren’t playing great, so Perkins stepped up and dropped a casual 33 points, including timely shots. Last season he averaged 15 PPG on 44.3% shooting, 35.1% from three-point land, and (look carefully), 76.8% from the charity stripe — all while coming off the bench in 30 of 31 games.
Gibson Jimerson is on track to return from a broken foot that sidelined him much of last year, Yuri Collins will be back at the point, and Terrence Hargrove Jr. is a phenomenal athlete ready to step up his minutes.
Similarly to Perkins, it took some time for Collins to get in his grove because he was only a freshman. However, when he broke into it, his passes were next-level. You would catch him throwing no-look half-court dimes, dishing marvelous ally-oops, or even driving to the rim and finishing with a saucy left or right hand.
In addition to Collins, incoming sophomores Terrence Hargrove Jr. and Jimmy Bell Jr. also have futures filled with potential: Not only do they share “Jr.” in their respective last names, but also swagger. Bell, the mammoth 6’10, 270 pounds forward, is extremely hard to guard when he uses his body and quick feet to his advantage in the post. He presented flashes of a nice mid-range, and when he can develop that, one word comes to mind: excitement.
As for Hargrove, this flashy dunk comes to mind when thinking about his freshman campaign. It wasn’t often when Hargrove was in his rhythm and carrying a chip on his shoulder. But, I would fully expect him to morph into a serious and outstanding player once he grows older.
Finally the best name on the team, Gibson Jimerson.
Jimerson was also a freshman last season who played only in 10 games due to a foot injury occurred during a practice in December. Jimerson can certainly hit the long-ball at an exceptional rate. In the games he played last season, he averaged 10.8 points per game and shot the ball 42.9% from behind the arc. Against Tulane, he scored 22 points, including six three-pointers. Points can come really fast for Jimerson, whether it’s beyond the arc, draining mid-range, or even driving to the rim. He also brought home two A-10 rookies of the week awards in December before his injury. Let’s not forget about his strong defense. The 6’5 guard is efficient on opponents because his lengthy arms are hard to get around, and he can make up for lost ground with speed.
Head coach Travis Ford also grabbed UNC Wilmington grad transfer, Marten Linssen, who will be charged with backing up French. Last season Linssen started 29 games while averaging 10.5 points per game, 4.6 rebounds, and finished second in the CAA with nearly shooting 60% from the field. Linssen is immediately eligible and will have two years of eligibility.
The Billikens also welcome two high school recruits in Andre Lorentsson and Markhi Strickland, the latter of whom is from IMG Academy, the highly touted prep program in Florida. And for the 2021-22 season, Saint Louis snagged former Oregon player Francis Okoro. The former four-star recruit will be a huge piece in a couple of seasons. He is super athletic and has a similar build to French.
New number, new start let’s go!!! pic.twitter.com/5oefCwS1Ti— Francis okoro (@francisokoro05) April 24, 2020
The more you think about the Billikens, the scarier they seem going into next season. Saint Louis is expected to finish in the top two in the A-10, potentially be ranked and go dancing. Bringing back both French and Goodwin, as well as several exceptional role players, makes this team extremely deep and threatening to their opponents.