The Billikens Basketball #ChatwithChaps Mailbag: Jan 11/21

I hope everyone is having a happy New Year and staying busy with the Billikens on their shut down. It’s hard to know when exactly they will be back, considering how quiet everyone around the program is. No info coming out is pretty much by design. All I know is that they are operating on internal protocols and government ones, so it’s basically worthless to guess at this point.

But they will be back! So until they come back, I am happy to take some questions and hopefully provide some direct insight! If you don’t see your question here, I will be doing more of these in the future, so write in again!

Which player do you believe has the best chance to make it in the NBA? -Matt

I’ve said this before, and while my answer hasn’t changed, my confidence in it becoming a reality has.

Gibson Jimerson is the most likely player to make it to the NBA. Think Kyle Korver or JJ Reddick. Heck, even Matt Thomas of Iowa State fame is making it as a Toronto Raptor right now. The only problem is, everyone shoots threes now. Anthony Davis takes it from deep, Joel Embiid. If you can’t shoot the three, you have to be damn special somewhere else to warrant being played.

In 2006 when JJ Reddick was drafted or 2003 for Korver, having that specific skill set made you a valued type of player. The league has gone through a renaissance of shooting, and Gibson Jimerson fits the bill for making the league in a way no one else does at this moment. At 6’5, he’s big enough to be defensively flexible and, to his credit, he has shown some nifty shot-creating abilities beyond being just an outlet, three kind guys.

The problem is he’s not growing fast enough, and that point goes for all the Billikens. Jordan Goodwin, Javonte Perkins, Hasahn French, are all more complete players than Gibson…but they are all 22 or 23 years old by now. The NBA is a young man’s league. If you have experience, you can stick around forever, but you get old quickly in college. Buddy Hield is 28 and has 5 years of experience; Jamal Murrey is 23 and has 4. Who do you start an organization around right now? Knicks fans were frustrated that Obi Toppin got drafted over Precious Achiuwa or Deni Avdija because they are 21 and 19 while Toppin is 22.

There is always a chance a player goes abroad, then comes back a vet and makes the league…but your chances diminish quickly. Gibson had the best chance but needed to make a jump right away. I don’t think he has…and now the pandemic and the shutdowns have slowed momentum entirely.

I haven’t heard much about recruiting. I know there have been a couple of local guys that went elsewhere, but is there any news on “prospects”? -Ben.

How do you see SLU’s future prognosis after missing out on Nesbitt, among other things? I was just wondering how strong of a foundation you believe they have moving forward or is that too much in the air given transfers and signings still available -Kevin.

I don’t know if I’d say the Bills have missed out on any of the prospects they’ve been connected to recently, or more so, I don’t know if I’d call it that. As I understand it, the Bills sort of took the foot off the gas, so to speak, and made that choice consciously.

The Billikens have an excellent base of talent to build from and will have plenty of talent in the folds in the next few years. Guys like Markhi Strickland and Andre Lorentsson have a future with the program. We’ve already seen how impactful the sophomore class, including Collin, Jimerson, Hargrove, and Bell, have been. That’s just to name some of the depth this team will have moving forward.

SLU’s long-term vision is to be NCAA tournament competitive every single year. They also see themselves in a unique window to go on a multi-year run of competitive success that would, in essence, raise their nation profile considerably enough to improve the talent pipeline floor.

Using this line of thinking, it’s easy to understand why SLU has concluded that filling in the roster spaces with transfers will be how they remain competitive in the short and long term. Especially considering how transfer rules are becoming less stringent, the Billikens are looking to go all-in on the transfer market and will use the three scholarships they will have available to them to do so.

I’ve heard from multiple sources that confirm this line of thinking. While it’s certainly possible they use the scholarship on an incoming freshman, the apparent prime directive is going to the transfer market.

I will touch on this a little deeper in the mailbag, but Marten Linssen’s addition is a kind of proof of concept in the sense of this.

Jimerson is a RS FR. Every NCAA fall and winter athlete gets an exemption this year. What year does he graduate? -Mike

Graduate or leave SLU? Cause while he will be a Red-Shirt Freshman again at the start of next season, he will, in all likelihood, actually graduate at the end of that season, maybe earlier if he was on the same academic plan he was on last year. Fred Thatch could graduate as early as this summer should he choose to.

I don’t know the specifics, but hypothetically, a situation where should one or both of these individuals want to play out their potential six years at SLU between this year, not counting for Covid, and their hardship waiver last year…they would have to enroll in a second master’s degree or a Ph.D. just to be full-time students.

Why isn’t Jimmy Bell getting any PT? Is he still getting into game shape, or are there no minutes for him with French and Linssen playing well? -Kevin 

It’s a little bit of both. Jimmy not getting caught up to speed physically and tactically while he had out undeniably slowed him down. Now the problem for him is that Martan Linssen has been so effective in his role, there aren’t many opportunities for him to get his feet wet. When he was starting a year ago, he got three-five minutes a night to figure out his game to start every half…now he’s getting seven minutes a night on a good night.

Linssens arrival and adaptation to the program’s system so quickly impressed everyone, from the coaches to the fans alike. While he’s got obvious places to improve (19 fouls for third on the team only behind guys with 100 more minutes than him is a problem), he has been an immediate above replacement level addition to the team. He is proof of sorts of the value of transfers in the immediate…the growing pain time and severity are greatly diminished compared to that of a first-time D1 athlete.

What would you think of the idea of teams being able to decline fouls (like football declining penalties)? For example, a player gets fouled while passing to a teammate who ends up making the shot. The scoring team would then be able to take the points instead of the foul. -Max

OK, this is fun. I don’t know if there is a vehicle for effectively accomplishing what you’re suggesting, but the idea of “playing advantage” like in Soccer would be interesting.

It ultimately complicates end of game situations, but it would make some situations more fun. Fouling on the fast break would either require a truly physical foul, or a player could just fight through it and get the two points.

I don’t hate the idea of messing with fouls. But I don’t know if we are quite there yet, Max.

Demarius Jacobs currently has a 71/75/71 split line – and plays strong defense. Do you think Travis will alter his rotations in A10 play to give DJ more time? Who loses out – Jimerson? -Patrick

I mean, it’s kind of already happening. He’s definitively the 6th man on the roster and is playing in all the key moments down the games’ stretch. In the NC State game, Jimerson was pulled for Jacobs, and DJ played the rest of the game, ultimately turning the tide and getting SLU the win.

Right now, he’s averaging 17 minutes a game, with Jimerson getting 22 and Thatch getting 13. That’s the 5-6-7 man right there. But after his breakout performance at Minnesota, Thatch is likely to get more, averaging 20.5 over their last two games. But Thatch plays a different role, so he might not be relevant in this conversation.

Gibson and Demarius occupy a similar role in the scheme and will likely get closer to being equal time…or going back and forth based on in-game performances. Will Demarius start? No, probably not. This coach went 30 games last year with Javonte Perkins on the bench to start games. If TFord has found his rhythm, he’s sticking to it. But we may be looking at a baseball like platoon situation between the two.

How would you rate the Billikens season so far and how do you see the rest of the season playing out? I know that is difficult to predict, but maybe how do you see the A-10 rankings to end, and how many teams do you think will make the tournament? -Kevin

So full credit to Kevin, he asked this question before the team shut down and the ability to prophesize about how the A-10 season would go was far simpler. But I can still answer some parts of this question.

The Billikens Non-Conference season deserves a very solid A. Winning at Minnesota or blowing out KC is likely what gets you to an A+. But 93% is still an A, and I don’t think you can be too disappointed with that. They got the opportunity to see what they have in some games, and they put themselves solidly in the At-Large spot for the NCAA championship. You always have to perform for the entire season to get there, but you’ve done essentially all you can in the Non-Con to make yourself a tournament team.

No, this team very much has places to grow. Honest to god, I think the team that won the final five games of the season last year probably beats up on this team right now. They have to find their edge. They still look slow, lost, or confused in some defensive schemes. The offense looks lost without Yuri having the ball. Hasahn hasn’t found the rhythm, Javonte is experiencing a sophomore slump. Credit to Demarius Jacobs and Jordan Goodwin; they look better than ever. But as a team, they are still working it out. The Travis Ford experience is about building for March, and this shut down is a pretty devastating slowdown. However, I still think this team will blossom into their own.

A-10 rankings I have no clue about because I find it VERY hard to believe that Saint Louis plays all 18 games, and someone else probably doesn’t either. So, until the A10 decides how to do standings, I can’t say. If it’s win percentage, SLU can very much win the league, with Richmond the Bonnies and VCU following in some order. If it’s games in the win column, SLU is looking at a 3-6 seed.

The A-10 is going to get two bids. The conference champion and an at-large. If SLU wins the tournament, I can’t see the committee not giving the A-10 another bid. The conference is, without a doubt, better than a one-bid league, and no matter how cannibalistic the conference is, they will give it one more. But that’s it. Until the Conference raises the competitive floor by cutting bait with Fordham et al., or a handful of programs truly separate themselves into an elite category year-after-year. The A-10 will eat itself.

Carter Chapley
Carter Chapley

Carter Chapley has burst onto the scene becoming one of the most trusted voices in Billikens Athletics and beyond for Scoops with Danny Mac.

Starting at the University News, Carter joined Scoops in 2019 and has provided coverage primarily on Saint Louis University Athletics, including Basketball, Soccer, and Baseball. He has also written on such major events as the NCAA Tournament, Arch Madness, the NHL All-Star Game, the founding of STL City FC, and the NCAA reaction to the Covid-19 Pandemic.

You can find Carter more on Twitter at @ChapleyMedia where he will always be talking Billikens, Sports, and More!