Ford’s seventh season at SLU needs to become banner year for Billikens basketball

There is plenty of room in the Chaifetz Arena beds.

What about above the suspended north line near Section 205?

Here you can find the first two Billikens basketball banners from the Travis Ford era. A once-in-a-lifetime trip to the 2019 NCAA Tournament. One championship in the Atlantic 10 tournament made it possible.

That’s it. That’s all.

It’s time for a new one. Bigger. Season seven should and should be a banner year for Ford’s team.

Ford won’t shout it from the Midtown rooftops, but he knows things we know. This must be his best team. The evidence was also evident in Monday night’s exhibition against UMSL coach Bob Sundvold’s stubborn Tritons, which SLU won 81-58.

The Billikens are loaded with talent, rich with experience and eager to get better.

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Great teams have great guards. They have experienced starters. They get to the basket and shoot well from outside. They go back and defend fiercely. They didn’t come with preseason accolades — SLU was picked second to Dayton in the Atlantic 10 — but this group was determined to live up to the words emblazoned on the back of its new warmup jerseys: “The journey is the reward.”

We’ll see where this ride goes, but make no mistake. Ford’s team has parts that go places. Need more proof? How about this excerpt from Chris Dortch’s Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook Bible?

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“Looking at this team, it’s hard not to see big things,” the publication said. “St.Louis is deep, experienced and talented. It’s a very good combination.”

On Monday, guard Yuri Collins was named to the Bob Cousy Award Watch List along with other candidates. If he cuts down on some of his turnovers, he can win it. Credit goes to SLU athletics supporters for playing the name, image and likeness game to keep Collins here. Tennessee came on strong this past offseason. He stayed. Investments pay dividends.

Javonte Perkins didn’t play Monday because he’s not rushing a foot injury, but he’s back from a season-ending knee injury last year that left Ford’s sixth team on the woeful side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. . Perkins no longer leads the team every night. As he recovered, his team improved. He just needs to contribute, and he will.

Like veteran guard Fred Thatch, big man Francis Okoro improved last season. Okoro has slowly averaged double-doubles in five of the Billikens’ last eight games, despite the double-teams he required.

Gibson, who finished third in the A-10 in scoring last season, has more threats surrounding Jimerson and should be more difficult to defend. He shot 42% from 3-point range last season. It works and it might get better now.

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Another name that could help with this long-range game: Honest Parker. A shot that transferred to a junior college – a synonym for his first name – is true. On Monday night, he hit his first 3-pointer in an SLU uniform and scored 11 points in four minutes. Parker finished with 15 points for the Bills, tied for the team lead with Jimerson.

If Perkins is Perkins again and Parker can score like that, watch out.

Transfer arrival Davon Pickett quietly led Missouri in scoring in SEC play last season. Like Thatch and Collins, he is a relentless defender. Don’t sleep on this band’s potential. If he repeats the scoring he put up in the SEC last season for SLU, he would tie Collins for second-highest on the team behind Himerson’s 16.3.

Ford started with Collins, Pickett, Thatch, Jimerson and Okoro. This list is subject to change depending on Perkins’ health and the name of the bench going forward (Parker!). High-flying Terrence Hargrove Jr. should crash the boards with fury. Energetic Temple transfer Jake Forrester adds depth to the frontcourt. Two impressive freshmen — Kellen Thames and Larry Hughes Jr. — are capable of helping, but in the best way possible. There are no roles waiting for them. They have to take someone else’s roles. The internal rivalry within this group should be simmering throughout the season. Iron sharpens iron.

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We need to specify two conditions.

The key starters need to be healthy, and the bad luck should be humming along.

SLU has paid its fair share of woes in recent seasons. Perkins suffered a knee injury last season. In the two previous seasons, COVID cut SLU twice, disrupting the flow of the offense after the outbreak in 2020-21 and canceling the A-10 and NCAA tournaments in 2019-20, with the Billikens winning six of their last seven games. . Matching a 2019 NCAA Tournament appearance shouldn’t be the goal right now. This should be the beginning of the goal. If not, Ford will still underperform with its best team.

Yes, Dayton is good and talented. But the Billikenders don’t have the spice the young Flyers do. Apply now because Flyers will continue to grow quickly.

Through six seasons of the Ford era, the Billikens have been a team that is one season away from its big break.

If it’s going to happen, now is the time.

SLU basketball players take home a championship belt during their daily routine

Travis Ford expressed his displeasure with the outcome of SLU's basketball exhibition


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