Home Basketball Billikens 2021 In Retrospect: Did this season actually happen?

Billikens 2021 In Retrospect: Did this season actually happen?

by W.E. Sauls

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper

T.S. Eliot from The Hollow Men

Few go out like Bill Russell, John Elway, Peyton Manning…most go out like Willie Mays or Shaq…stumbling across the finish line a shattered shell of what they were.

Such was the end of the 2021 Billikens’ men’s basketball season. If you blinked a couple Saturdays ago it passed you by. Only 75% of the game on TV because a meaningless boxing telecast went long on ESPN. Did the folks in Bristol not know our team was playing for their season…and a couple men for their careers?

They didn’t know and cared less than humanly possible. Our Billikens were a line on a screen somewhere. Someone probably leaned back in a chair and said, “Throw ‘em on the app to start. Just cut in after the match. I’m gonna grab a sandwich.” 

But, from their point of view, should they have even cared? Was it real? Did this season actually happen? It all feels like a dream I woke from at the end of December. The team was a top 25 squad on a bullet train to the Sweet 16. They were clicking on every last cylinder and the A-10 as a collective was shook. Then… it all ground to a halt like my hairline half way back on my skull. 

What could have been! They should still be dancing now…showing folks what the STL is all about. Wrecking “Major” Conference schools like a ‘74 Chevelle drag racing down Hall Street. Instead, they bowed out in the first round of the NIT to a 15-14 third rate program from Mississippi. This was not a fitting end to a once promising season.

And it’s over….so what now?

Goodwin and French are gone. Headed to the G-League, Europe, or Australia to chase their hoop dreams a while longer. Before we brush them into Billiken history, let’s take a few paragraphs to put their Billiken careers in perspective.

Hasahn French 

French was a defensive force from day one until he took off his jersey for the final time in Billiken blue. His senior year was a disappointment in terms of his offensive development. My gut tells me the early concussion he had hampered him more than he would ever let on. Then, as he started to round into form the season was halted for over a month due to Covid-19. From his junior year highs of 12.4 ppg and 10.4 rbg he dropped to 9.2 and 7.4 on only a touch over seven field goal attempts a game. 

In all, his standing in Billiken history is solid. He finished 22nd all-time in points with 1,178, 5th in rebounds with 982, 20th in steals with 103, 30th in assists with 217, and shattered the blocks record with 226 for his career. He made back to back all conference defensive teams in ‘19 and 20, and was 3rd and 2nd team all conference in those years as well. That’s a career to be proud of.

Jordan Goodwin

Jordan finished his Billiken career as decorated as almost anyone ever to wear the SLU across their chest. Being denied the chance to play all 30 or more games this season hurt his overall rankings in most all categories. Despite that, when he hung up the 0 jersey here is where he stood;

  • Points 11th at 1,460, 
  • Rebounds 4th at 998, 
  • Steals 1st at  225, 
  • Assists 5th at 404

Considering the Billikens lost at least 15 games over the past 2 seasons due to Covid-19, at his career averages Goodwin would have been 5th in points, 3rd in rebounds, and 1st all-time in dimes on top of being the all-time leader in steals. On top of that he went back to back 1st team defense and 1st team all A-10 in his junior and senior years. 

Is he on your all-time Billiken team? In my book my 1st team prior to J-Good was a back court of Claggett and Highmark, and a front court Easy Ed, Roland Grey and the Billiken GOAT Anthony Bonner. Who would I take off? Man…that is a tough one? Maybe put him to the 2nd team with Jordair Jett?? If those two started together no opposing PG would get the ball over half court. 

From a personal standpoint, both French and J-Good were incredibly respectful to me in every interaction we had, whether it be after a great win, or an agonizing loss. In all of those press conferences they represented themselves, their team, the university, and most importantly their families incredibly well.  

Next Year Is a Mystery

Your alpha dog is gone in Goodwin (who took the mantle from Javon Bess). So who is the guy? Who is the heart and soul of this team? Who will drag his teammates into the fight no matter what? Who has that motor? Every good Travis Ford coached team has one. I saw shades in Yuri Collins. A fellow kid from the STL who has that inner dog to go with an amazing basketball IQ that Ford loves in his guards. But, can he overcome his small frame and limited athleticism? I think so, but time will tell.

With Perkins returning along with a fading Jimerson looking to bounce back the team has a couple of true bucket getters. Hargrove got more and more clock as the season wore on and needs to make that jump to prove he is the elite player his undeniable talent screams that he is. A big addition that I’m most excited to see is Oregon transfer Francis Okoro who was “a highly touted recruit out of high school, Okoro played for Bradley Beal Elite in the Nike EYBL with Billiken teammates Yuri Collins, Terrence Hargrove Jr. and Fred Thatch Jr. He averaged 8.7 ppg and 9.0 rpg over 21 games in the 2017 EYBL.” 

Then there is Fred Thatch. The heart of a lion, fighting back from sickness that would have sent lesser men away from the court for good. He’s the kind of defender that keeps ball handlers sweating in their sleep. But, I want him to become an above average offensive player. He has shown range on occasion and the ability to penetrate, but never on a consistent basis. I want him to assert himself into every game the way Jordan Goodwin does. If he can become that kind of player the next issue of the SLU Billikens will be right back in the hunt for the A-10 and the NCAA tourney.

Until Next time…long live Goodwin to French

W.E. Sauls is a native St. Louisan, a graduate of Lonedell R-14 Elementary, and the frontman of the band Money for Guns.

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