Travis Ford’s coaching staff has a mode of operations in the recruiting department. Never burn bridges, always interact in positive ways and never leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth. You never know when a guy you want will become available again, and you never know who might give you a positive recommendation in the future.
Well, that motto has again paid dividends for the Billikens.
A Top 60 recruit nationally, Memphis transfer, St. Louis Christian Academy grad, and STL native, Jordan Nesbitt announced his commitment to Saint Louis University Sunday evening. Nesbitt tweeted “Thank you Memphis nation for giving me a opportunity to chase my dreams, can’t wait to play for my hometown and do something special.”
— Jordan Nesbitt (@jneszz) April 5, 2021
The 6’6” wing guard had previously selected Memphis as his school of choice, committing to former NBA star and Tigers coach Penny Hardaway. He opted to graduate high school early and enrolled at Memphis for the spring semester to kick start his collegiate career. He appeared in three games towards the end of the season, getting 12 minutes total. He made a three in his final appearance with the Tigers in a win over South Florida for his lone points with the program.
Nesbitt was a heavily recruited high schooler and a target of the Billikens, with local recruiting guru Corey Tate leading the way. And for the longest time, SLU seemed like a slam dunk to land the coveted recruit.
At the last minute, something changed. Hardaway and the Tigers swooped in very late in the recruiting game. Sources indicated that the Billikens pumped the brakes on his recruitment and all of a sudden instead of staying in midtown the City and State’s top recruit was headed to Graceland.
But something happened at Memphis.
Jordan arrived in the Tigers program at the beginning of spring semester and didn’t get the opportunity to contribute despite—possibly– the ability to. Rumors start to swirl. Grumblings about his attitude and the like ran wild, and despite the Tigers winning the NIT this season, Nesbitt decided to enter the transfer portal.
The underlying story to Memphis’ college basketball situation is that Penny and the Tigers were significantly overextended in the scholarship department. 17 spots had been accounted for with just 13 to offer. So, change was coming one way or another and thus far, as expected, a mass exodus has started. Including Jordan.
The damning quote on Nesbitt, which has led to potentially an unjust view on his transfer comes from a Rivals article (a website that focuses specifically on college recruiting) saying, “This may come as a shock to many, but there were reasons behind the scenes why Penny Hardaway and the staff decided to part ways with the talented freshman…Obviously Hardaway and the staff loved Nesbitt as a recruit, but he made it nearly impossible for them to keep him moving forward.”
Extremely ominous and equally non-specific.
Nesbitt says that he realized right away when arriving in Memphis that something wasn’t right. “After I got there, I really just decided that I wanted to do it at home.” Jordan said in an interview on his commitment, “I feel comfortable at home. I love home. I just want to get back to home and bring something that’s going to be remembered forever.”
Buyer’s remorse? Maybe. A college kid moving away and it not being everything he thought it would be? Not exactly uncommon. But Jordan saying he’s leaving to go home, and his mind is made up would fit the description of “made it nearly impossible for them to keep him.” Either way it all lands the Billikens way and Travis Ford gets another top 60 recruit from the St Louis area named Jordan.
As a player, Nesbitt is one of the more versatile Travis Ford has had in his time at SLU. At 6’6” he possesses the size and length to cover the wings, but also has the handle, athleticism, and agility to be a guard. He rebounds the ball well, and features a promising midrange shooting game.
Most importantly to Travis Ford, he shows an energy and knack for the defensive side of the game at the high school level.
Ultimately, Jordan Nesbitt’s usage will come down to his ability to balance his offensive and defensive games. In a similar light to Javonte Perkins or Gibson Jimerson, if they become so unstoppable on offense their defensive errors become far more tolerable. If they don’t, their playing time will vary widely.
Nesbitt has all the tools to be a two-way star, and earn the time to play through his challenges, but may need some time to adjust. Factor in that Travis Ford’s defensive scheme (and expectations) often take some time to familiarize oneself to and perfect. There is a bit of a learning curve for any player to adapt to.
Additionally, if there were a criticism with Jordan’s game, it would be that he tends to be ball dominant. Primarily needing the ball in his hands to make things happen. On a team with leading scorer Javonte Perkins and point guard Yuri Collins, there may be some adapting to be done in order to fit with the current roster.
Fortunately, there is a trend of success for players who arrive early in the summer for workouts, getting a head start and succeeding more rapidly. So being a local kid, beginning the transfer process early, and adding in the fact that Nesbitt has already played with many of the players on the roster, five in total through the Brad Beal Elite program, building chemistry should be even less of an issue. Things seem ripe for success this off season in terms of getting Jordan Nesbitt caught up.
It’s hard to deny the striking similarities Jordan Nesbitt bares to a slew of recruits to come to Saint Louis since the beginning of the Travis Ford era five seasons ago. None are identical or precisely the same, but there is a sample size of this ‘vibe’ of player to join the team. Or maybe, better put, he shares some intangible attributes with other marquee recruits.
It is not an exact science, but a grouping of Jordan Goodwin, Carte’Are Gordon, Terrence Hargrove Jr, and Jordan Nesbitt all share some form of Venn diagram with each other.
All local talents, highly ranked by recruiting experts and national press, opting to stay home and play for their cities team.
Jordan Goodwin came into a far weaker program as a whole and was immediately impactful in helping to change the Bills’ culture and expectation, becoming an All-Time great in SLU Blue. Carte’Are Gordon flamed out in the locker room and hasn’t found a home long term since departing from the program. Terrence Hargrove continues to be SLU’s biggest cheerleader, all while developing into a very reliable reserve player in his second college season with an eye on starting in the future.
While Hargrove would probably be considered the lowest-ranked recruit of the bunch, he came to SLU highly touted and as hyped as any of the group but took nearly a year before he earned considerable playing time. Shocking the public at large initially.
So now you have three archetypes to work from in terms of highly touted recruits. Goodwin, Gordon, and Hargrove. In fairness to TJ, the story is not done on him, but let’s put that aside for now.
Jordan Goodwin is the definitive Billiken. He’s all you could ask for in a tentpole program redefining recruit. Gordon is the other end of the spectrum in that he flames out almost immediately. Hargrove exists somewhere in the middle in that he’s all you can ask for in a locker room guy but hasn’t been able to impact on the floor yet like Goodwin.
So, where does Nesbit fit?
He’s a transfer… that’s unique. But he’d be coming in with his traditional class had he not gone to college early…and he only played 12 minutes at his previous school. There are the whispers and gossips of behavioral issues, so the memory of Gordon’s departure is pushed to the forefront of one’s brain subconsciously. But those are unsubstantiated at the moment, making it hard to tell how much of a dog whistle that is. And his commitment to the “Team Blue” play for the city mantra is clearly on display in the statements tied to his intent to transfer, which shades closer to Hargrove and Goodwin.
The part that’s harder to tell is whether Nesbitt is Hargrove or Goodwin. Either way, it is exhilarating for Billiken fans, but it better helps define expectations for next season. Does Nesbitt come in and make an immediate impact? Or will it take some time to reach his ceiling…and if so, how long?
Impossible to know less than 24 hours after his commitment. But having Hargrove and Nesbitt in the same locker room is undeniably exciting.