Travis Ford’s second season as Billiken’s Head Basketball Coach was about progressing the program in the right direction. Finishing the 2016-2017 season with a record of 11-21 placing them 11th in the Atlantic 10, there was only one direction for the program to go. The 2017-2018 season was a huge step forward for the program finishing the season with a 17-16 record including making it to the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament. In the third year of the Travis Ford era the Billikens are no longer looking at a rebuild, they are looking at a potential league championship and NCAA bid.
The Billiken’s will have three of their top four scorers returning in So. Jordan Goodwin, Sr. Javon Bess, and So. Hassan French. Joining the three headed SLU monster will be highly ranked transfers former Maryland guard Dion Waley and former Drexel guard Tramaine Isabell. Both will add depth to an already stellar A-10 lineup. Waley, once a top 50 recruit, shot 36% from behind the arch last season while averaging a career high 4.4 ppg for Maryland. Isabell has had a much more impactful career in college hoops. Beginning his career at Mizzou Isabell didn’t establish himself much until transferring to fellow A-10 competitor Drexel in 2017. Isabell not only doubled his minutes played but also his output, averaging 21 PPG to go along with 7.5 RPG. Both players will be eligible to play right away under the grad transfer rule.
The Billikens suddenly have experience at guard to complement numerous freshmen and a seasoned frontcourt that formed the identity of last season’s team. Adding the veteran guards solidified the teams depth but the biggest offseason pick up for the SLU Billikens is local product Carte’Are Gordon. The four star recruit that played his high school ball at Webster Groves will be looked at to make an immediate impact for the Billikens. Choosing SLU over basketball powerhouses like Kansas and I guess Illinois has put the Billikens in a rare situation, having a talented player that can bring national attention. Gordon also brings the size that seemed to be the biggest problem for the young team in 2017. Pairing him with rising sophomore Hassan French should make for a troublesome tandem for any mid- major.
Travis Ford will enter the A-10 season in a very different place than he began his first two seasons. With the decline of St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island and Dayton the Atlantic 10 is up for grabs. Ford has amassed a group of talent that should be able to make noise in the conference, so much so that many different preseason polls have the Billikens as the favorite to win the conference and put themselves in a position for an NCAA tournament bid. While I love that the Billikens are looking to be relevant the fanbase needs to take it slow with their high expectations. Ford will deal with the transition of new faces coming together on the court. Basketball is a team game and it will take time for the transfers and young core to come together. Don’t be surprised if they stumble out of the gate only to recover in time to win the conference.
SLU will be a fun team to watch this season, Ford has already established the modern basketball trend of position less basketball. No numbers, no positions just great athletes that can fill in the lanes and have multiple purposes. This team will be fun and this season will be worth the price of admission.