After winning 28 games and the Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament titles a season ago, No. 13 Saint Louis had two personnel losses to account for. Gone were two of their three double-digit scorers in Cody Ellis and Kwamain Mitchell, and those certainly aren’t departures to be glossed over. However the Billikens did return four of their top six scorers, led by forward Dwayne Evans Jr., and for that reason Jim Crews’ team was expected to once again be right in the middle of the Atlantic 10 title race.
Evans (as he did last season) is leading Saint Louis in scoring, but if there’s a key play to be made late the ball will most likely be in the hands of fellow senior Jordair Jett. And against La Salle that was the case with Jett using a flat ball screen at the top of the key to get to the basket, finishing with four seconds remaining to give the Billikens the 65-63 win. Saint Louis has now win 16 straight games, establishing a new school record.
Jett finished the game with a season-high 25 points to go along with four assists, connecting on nine of his 14 shots from the field and shooting 7-for-9 from the foul line. And he epitomizes this Saint Louis team: not much flash, but certainly not lacking for results either. Saint Louis shot just 2-for-13 from beyond the arc against La Salle but they were able to make plays inside, scoring 42 of their 65 points in the paint.
La Salle was slightly better in this category, scoring 44 points in the paint with Jerrell Wright (21 points, eight rebounds) and Steve Zack (15 points, 13 rebounds) both being productive interior options, and the Explorers remained in the game throughout for that very reason. But guards Tyreek Duren (14 points) and Tyrone Garland (six points) combined to shoot just 7-for 21 from the field, with Saint Louis’ perimeter defense forcing challenged looks for much of the afternoon. And in the end, it was Jett who proved to be the difference-maker.
Saint Louis is off to the best start in school history, and their win streak is also a program best with SLU’s last defeat coming against No. 4 Wichita State back in December. With their ability to defend Saint Louis has the potential to be a tough out come March, and when the chips are down they’ve got a player in Jett makes all the right decisions.
The transformation is complete.
On Friday afternoon, Precious Achiuwa, a top 15 prospect in the Class of 2019, announced that he has committed to play his college basketball at Memphis, joining one of the best recruiting classes in the country and affirming that Penny Hardaway will enter the 2019-20 season with a preseason top 10 team.
Achiuwa, one of the top combo-forwards in the class and the kind of athlete that will make him an attractive player to NBA GMs, joins No. 1 player James Wiseman and fellow four-star prospects D.J. Jeffries, Lester Quinones, Boogie Ellis, Damion Baugh and Malcolm Dandridge in Penny’s first real recruiting class as Memphis head coach.
The Tigers also add Rayjon Tucker, arguably the nation’s top grad transfer and a potential NBA player in his own right.
As we wrote earlier this week, Penny is building an absolute monster in Memphis.
Grant Williams announced on Friday morning that he will be staying in the NBA draft after an All-American junior season with Tennessee.
Williams averaged 18.8 points, 7.5 boards, 3.2 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals this past season, helping lead Tennessee to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and on a run to the Sweet 16, where they lost in overtime to Purdue.
This is probably the right decision for him to make. While he is somewhat undersized and limited athletically, Williams is such a smart and savvy players. He really understands how to pass, he can defend multiple positions and, most importantly, he has a skill-set that should allow him to be able to contribute as a role player at the next level, particularly if his three-point stroke is as good as it has looked in postseason workouts.
Williams is slotted in at No. 19 to San Antonio in the most recent NBC Sports mock draft.
Tennessee will now have to play the waiting game with Jordan Bone, who is still undecided on his status. The Vols currently sit 22nd in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.
Clemson is adding a former top-50 recruit to its roster.
Texas Tech transfer Khavon Moore has pledged to coach Brad Brownell and the Tigers, he announced Thursday.
The 6-foot-7 Moore, a former four-star recruit, played just 2 minutes last season for the Red Raiders and saw his season shutdown amid medical concerns due to lingering issues from a broken leg he suffered in high school. The plan was for him to seek a medical hardship redshirt for last season, which could allow him to still have four years of eligibility remaining at Clemson after sitting out the upcoming season as a transfer.
The Tigers went 20-14 last season and missed the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in nine seasons under Brownell.
Texas Tech, meanwhile, continues to build a monster even with departures like former high-profile recruit.
John Beilein isn’t the only loss Michigan sustained this week.
Jalen Wilson, a top-50 guard in 2019, has requested out of his National Letter of Intent with the Wolverines, he announced Thursday.
“Due to the sudden head coaching change, I have requested my release from The University of Michigan, and will re-open my recruitment,” he wrote on social media.
Beilein’s decision to leave Michigan for the NBA and the Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the college basketball world earlier this week, and there’s little surprise to see it shake the Wolverines’ recruiting class as the head coaching position remains vacant and Michigan conducting a search of its next coach.
Wilson, a 6-foot-8 forward, is now considering Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma State and Florida along with the Wolverines, according to 247Sports. The Texas native suddenly becomes one of the most desirable players left available ahead of the upcoming season.
Cole Bajema, a top-150 wing from Washington, is the lone remaining signee in Michigan’s 2019 class.
LINCOLN, Neb. — Former Tennessee forward Derrick Walker is transferring to Nebraska.
Nebraska announced Wednesday it has added Walker to its roster. Nebraska officials said Walker will sit out the 2019-20 season before playing for the Cornhuskers. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Walker entered the NCAA transfer portal after averaging 0.8 points, 1.1 rebounds and 5.3 minutes for Tennessee this past season. The 6-foot-8 Walker averaged 1.9 points, 2.2 rebounds and 8.8 minutes as a freshman in the 2017-18 season.
Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg said in a statement, “Derrick is a physical player who gives us skill and versatility in the post.”