Just hours after SLU’s senior star was named to the Preseason First Team for the Atlantic 10 conference, the Billiken’s worst fears were recognized. Javonte Perkins MRIs showed a torn ACL in his left knee, ruling him out for the entirety of the 2021-22 NCAA basketball season.

Late in the first half of the Billikens season-opening exhibition game against Rockhurst, Perkins landed awkwardly and reportedly let out a shriek before hoisting himself up and hopping to the locker room. Javonte was quickly evaluated by team physician Scott Kaar and remained behind the scenes of Chaifetz Arena for the remainder of the game. It wasn’t until the following afternoon that they could get an MRI done on the knee, revealing the extent of the injury.

Dec 20, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Saint Louis Billikens guard Javonte Perkins (3) dribbles the ball during the first half against the Minnesota Gophers at Williams Arena. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

“We are devastated for Javonte given the hard work he put in this summer to get ready for another elite season,” Billikens Head Coach Travis Ford said in a release with the news. “Because of that dedication and the fact that he is in the best shape of his life, I have no doubt that Javonte will come back just as strong after his recovery. He has many years of high-level basketball in his future, and we will do whatever it takes to support him moving forward.”

Perkins returned to SLU to take advantage of his Covid related extra year of eligibility rather than testing the professional waters. He had only played two seasons at SLU after transferring from the JUCO ranks. 2021-22 would have been his 5th college basketball season, so it seems unlikely a return is in the cards, and even more so, it’s hard to know if it will even be possible.

The St. Louis native is now under the care of Dr. Scott Kaar, who is the team’s physician and chief health officer of the athletic department. Dr. Kaar is also an orthopedic surgeon for SSM Health specializing in Sports Medicine, specifically ACL and MCL repair.

In the wake of the announcement of Perkins injury, fans from all over the Atlantic 10 and College Basketball expressed their sadness over the news. Perkins was seen as a player who could elevate the Billikens and the entire conference through his play and the national attention it would garner. The Athletic had already declared Javonte as one of the best wing players in the country and was a consensus favorite as the A10 Player of the Year.

The Billikens now find themselves without their key star and will look to carry on without him. While Travis Ford’s Billikens have plenty of depth and some budding stars with potential for a breakout, Javonte was “the” star that helped not only raise the ceiling of potential for this team but made it so they would never be without an elite level scorer.

Once picked to finish third in the A10, behind only returning champions St Bonaventure and Richmond, The Billikens margin for error becomes much smaller. Now, with just 12 days before the season opens, Travis Ford will have to scrap the plans he had made all summer and install a new strategy for the offense. One that will look for players like Gibson Jimerson, Jordan Nesbitt, Terrence Hargrove Jr, and Fred Thatch Jr to play even more prominent roles in the team’s offense.

While Jimerson’s shooting and Thatch’s defense were commodities the Bills hoped to count on, you may see them become more versatile in their roles and become far more central to each game plan. Gibson has shown hints of talent in his offensive game outside his three-point shooting skills, and Fred’s strength has proven to be an effective tool in his slashing game. Now, you can only hope for more.

Regarding who may emerge to fill the void left behind by the St Louis native, it seems that two fellow St Louisans may fit the bill best. Terrence Hargrove is a player who got high praise from Travis Ford before Tuesday’s exhibition game, highlighting his improvements, energy, and presence in practice. He started the game and thus apparently already poised for an increased role. Jordan Nesbitt also could find himself filling the shoes of Perkins. As a three-level scorer, Nesbitt’s game most resembles Perkins but requiring a player who is essentially a freshman to fill the hole left behind by a giant seems unfair.

Depth is a real strength Saint Louis had going into the 2021-22 season. That depth will now be tested in the most challenging ways, and it is on the players who remain to answer the call of “next man up.”

If this is indeed the last time we see Javonte Perkins playing at Chaifetz Arena, he left his mark amongst the greats to have worn Billiken blue even in his short time. In the 2019-20 season, Javonte won the A-10 6th man of the year award, the first Billiken to do so, scoring 18.2 points per game in conference play. A school record. In 2020-21 Perkins was named to the All-Conference 2nd team, scoring 17.1 points per game that season. His 15.9 points per game career total is 10th in Billiken history.