There’s plenty of room out there in the rafters at Chaifetz Arena.
How about the north side above the lateral line, hanging near Section 205?
This is where you can find the first two Billikens basketball banners from the Travis Ford era. A one-off trip to the NCAA Championships in 2019. One Atlantic 10 Championship made it possible.
This is it. That’s it.
It’s time for the newest one. Larger. Season seven should be a remarkable year for Team Ford, and it should be.
Ford won’t be screaming from the rooftops of Midtown, but he knows what we know. This must be his best team. The evidence was even clear in Monday night’s show against Tritons UMSL coach Bob Sundfold, which SLU won 81-58.
Bleekens are brimming with talent, loaded with experience and driven by the desire to be better than just the good.
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Great teams have great goalkeepers. They have seasoned entrees. They can reach the basket and shoot well from the outside. They bounce and defend hard. Fueled not by pre-season praise — SLU was named second in the Atlantic 10, behind Dayton — but by a determination to transform the kind of statements this group wears on the back of their new warm-up jerseys: “The flight is a prize.”
We’ll see where this trip goes, but make no mistake. The Ford team has the pieces to go places. Do you need more proof? How about this excerpt from the Sports Bible, Chris Dutch Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook.
“It’s hard to look at this team and not see the big things,” the post reads. “St. Louis is deep, experienced and talented. This is a very good combination.”
Point guard Yuri Collins on Monday was correctly named to the Bob Cousy Award watchlist, along with other nominees, for Best Point Guard in Nation Honor. If he reduces some of his sales, he can win them over. Credit to SLU athletics supporters for playing the name, image, and likeness game to keep Collins here. Tennessee came for him strong in the past off season. Stay. The investment will pay dividends.
Javonte Perkins didn’t play on Monday, as there’s no reason to rush through the ankle injury he’s dealing with, but he came back from a knee injury at the end of last season, which turned the sixth Ford team’s rising side into the sad side of the NCAA Championship bubble. . Perkins doesn’t have to lead the team every night anymore. His team improved with his recovery. He just has to contribute, and he will.
Like veteran goalkeeper Fred Thatch, big man Francis Okoro has improved as last season progressed. Okoro has quietly produced doubles in five of Pelicans’ last eight games last season, despite the doubles he has claimed.
Gibson Jimerson, who finished third in the A-10 in scoring last season, should be more difficult to guard due to more threats around him. He made 42% of the 3-point range last season. This will work, and it can get better now.
Here’s another name that should help with this far-reaching game: Sincere Parker. The shot of transferring to college junior is synonymous with his first name – right. On Monday night, he raised the game’s first triple pointer lift while dressed in an SLU uniform to trigger an 11-point wave recorded in four minutes. Parker finished with 15 billing points, sharing team leadership with Jimerson.
If Perkins goes back to being Perkins, and Parker can score like this, watch out.
Transfer access Javon Beckett quietly led Missouri to score in the SEC game last season. Like Thatch and Collins, he is a relentless defender. Don’t underestimate his potential for this group. If he played in SLU last season and repeated the scoring he put in the SEC, he would equal Collins for second in the team behind 16.3 for Jameson.
Ford started Collins, Pickett, Touch, Jimerson and Okoro on Monday. This lineup can change based on Perkins’ health and the names of the benchers (Parker!) pushing forward. Terrence Hargrove Jr. , who is flying at high altitude, angrily smashes the planks. Jake Forrester’s Active Temple Move adds depth to the front court. Two very impressive new students – Kellen Thames and Larry Hughes Jr. They are able to help, but in the best way. They have no roles waiting for them. They have to take the roles away from someone else. The internal competition in this group should simmer throughout the season. Iron sharpens iron.
We must mention two conditions.
Beginners must be kept healthy, and bad luck must explode.
SLU has paid enough bad luck taxes in recent seasons. Perkins injured his knee last season. COVID breached SLU twice in the previous two seasons to that season, destroying the offensive flow after the outbreak in 2020-21, and canceling the A-10 and NCAA tournaments in 2019-20, after the Billikens won six of their last seven games. . A 2019 NCAA match appearance shouldn’t be the goal now. It should be the beginning of the goal. If not, Ford will be underperforming with his best team yet.
Yes, Dayton is good and full of talent too. But the Bliks have spices that young pilots don’t have. It’s best to take advantage now, because the flyers will continue to grow rapidly.
During the six seasons of the Ford era, the Billikens seemingly became a team one season away from their major breakthrough.
If this were to happen, now is the time.