After winning the Atlantic 10 with a senior-laden rotation in 2014 the Saint Louis Billikens weren’t as successful last season, going 11-21 overall and finishing last in the conference with a 3-15 record. With their six freshmen of a season ago now being sophomores, the hope for the Billikens is that they can take a step forward and be a more formidable team in the A-10 in 2015-16.
Jim Crews’ team will have a bit of a head start on the upcoming season, as the program announced Friday its plans for a three-game trip to The Bahamas scheduled for next month. Saint Louis, per NCAA rules, will have ten practices before leaving for Atlantis August 7, and they’ll play against local all-star teams August 8, 10 and 11 before returning home.
With nine underclassmen (six sophomores and three freshmen) and just one senior (Achraf Yacoubou) on the roster, these early practices and games could help SLU as it prepares for the 2015-16 season. It’s one thing to be told how to run sets and what the coaching staff expects, but being able to apply those summer lessons in game situations should help the young players moving forward.
SLU’s greatest struggles came on the offensive end of the floor last season, as they ranked at or near the bottom of the Atlantic 10 in scoring (last), field goal percentage (13th) and offensive efficiency (last). If Saint Louis is to be a better team in 2015-16 they’ll have to be better offensively, and given the fact that the A-10 should be better than it was a season ago that’s no easy task.
The Billikens’ hope that these practices and exhibitions will help them in that regard.
With Saint Louis set to lose two front court players at the end of the 2014-15 season in seniors Grandy Glaze and John Manning, adding some depth there wouldn’t be a bad move for head coach Jim Crews and his staff. Already holding a commitment from one power forward in the Class of 2015, the reigning Atlantic 10 champions landed a second Thursday in the form of 6-foot-10 Matt Neufeld.
Neufeld’s a native of British Columbia, where was a member of the DRIVE Basketball grassroots program, and he currently attends Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, Kansas. Neufeld joins 6-foot-8 Elliott Welmer as players who are currently committed to joining the Saint Louis program next year.
Prior to joining the Sunrise Christian program Neufeld played at Lambrick Park Secondary School in Victoria, British Columbia, where he developed into one of the better prospects in the province. Neufeld has improved as a low-post presence on both ends of the floor, and he can also step out and hit the mid-range jumper.
Saint Louis currently has five front court players who will have eligibility remaining when Neufeld and Welmer arrive on campus: sophomores Tanner Lancona and Reggie Agbeko and freshmen Milik Yarbrough, Brett Jolly and Austin Gillmann.
No. 5 Saint Louis saw its season come to an end Saturday afternoon, as they fell 66-51 to No. 4 Louisville in a Midwest Region matchup in Orlando. For their five senior starters, guards Jordair Jett and Mike McCall Jr. and forwards Jake Barnett, Dwayne Evans Jr. and Rob Loe, that means they’ve worn the Saint Louis uniform for the last time.
The quintet leaves SLU as the winningest class in school history. In their four season at the school the class won 93 games, with 81 of those victories coming in the last three seasons, and they’ve also won two Atlantic 10 regular season titles and one A-10 tournament title (2013).
Following the game head coach Jim Crews discussed how proud he is of his seniors, who began their college careers playing for the late Rick Majerus. For all of the buzzer-beaters and upsets that we love this time of year, saying thanks to seniors who have given everything they have to their respective programs is also a special part of March.