By Carter Chapley
St. Louis, MO
When the final buzzer of last season sounded and eyes turned towards the future, it became clear to everyone, including Hasahn French, that this program would only go as far as he and Jordan Goodwin took them.
The big man from New York has played 68 of a possible 69 games for the Billikens and has been a staple in the starting lineup since arriving at SLU. His game can be defined by his pure strength and toughness while on the floor. There are very few in the entire country who can go toe to toe with Hasahn, and those who try and attain any success often outsize the 6’7” forward by a significant margin. Even then, the achievement is limited against the 2019 A10 all-defensive team member. Pound for pound, there are very few as menacing as Hasahn French is.
Thus far into the 2019-2020 schedule, Hasahn has risen to the occasion as a leader on the court. Averaging a double-double, setting the career record for blocks, and having breakout games including a 21-point 24 rebound game against Belmont, Hasahn has filled the void of graduating players and become a tactical x-factor for the team. He anchors the Billikens afrom a tactical perspective, and the vacuum that is left behind when he is not on the court is incredibly apparent.
But things have not been easy for French. He has been tested physically and mentally early this season and tested in ways he hasn’t been before.
On the morning of December 8th, when the Billikens had traveled to Phoenix, Arizona to play against Tulane in the Jerry Colangelo Classic, Hasahn French knew something was wrong. “I knew as soon as I got up that I was not right, I just felt horrible.”
Hasahn was experiencing flu-like symptoms that left him extremely nauseous in the pregame, but there was never a point in which he considered not suiting up for the game, “I just knew that my teammates needed me. As a leader on this team, I can’t just give up if I’m sick or if something like that is going on. I feel like I’m one of those guys that unless I’m going to hurt my team, I need to push through.”
Despite the illness, the big man played 18 minutes in the first half of the game, but he wasn’t himself. Going for an uncharacteristic four points and two rebounds at the half. Even more unfortunately, it wasn’t until halftime when the ugliest part of the afternoon had reared its head.
“After that first half, I ended up throwing up three times in the locker room.” Hasahn told me at practice after the game, “They gave me some ice, water, Gatorade, and I just went back out there, pushed through. Had to push through.”
And pushed through he did. Hasahn led all scorers in the second half with fourteen points and added nine rebounds to get his 5th double-double of the season. All while leading his team in minutes played.
Travis Ford called it a “warrior effort” post-game, whereas Hasahn just called it doing his job as a leader.
French passed his first test with flying colors proving to be both the leader and basketball force that he is. However, as it turns out, his trial was only beginning. While battling with their most challenging opponent yet, Auburn in Birmingham, Hasahn was forced into living by his word even with a significant upset still on the table.
With just over 4 minutes to play and lining up at the free throw line, Hasahn did what he does best; battle for rebounds. Now we learn, on this play, when he went up for the board and got tangled up with an Auburn forward, he came down hard. Hasahn explained that he landed “directly on the hip bone” and despite trying to tough it out and compete the pain he was experiencing was too much, and he had to leave the game.
Understanding that sometimes the best thing for his team is to take a seat is an incredibly mature mindset for a hyper competitive young man. It’s clear that to Hasahn, the only goal is to make his team better, whether that be through toughing out a crippling illness or having the presence of mind to let others take over.
The result of the injury at Auburn forced Hasahn to miss the next game the Bills had against Maryville. Even then, he was still in the conversation to play as close to 30 mins before game time and as much as his teammates probably ‘needed’ him, everyone is aware of just how vital his long-term health is. Especially considering the game was against a division 2 opponent where the result wouldn’t impact the team’s ranking. So, in this case, French helped his team by getting healthy, despite wanting to get into the game.
Hasahn has grown into the bonafide star player every highly competitive team needs. French has been front and center as part of the Travis Ford culture shift and, in many ways, is at least partially responsible for its success. Coaches can preach their process and values all they want, but if the players don’t buy-in, it won’t be very useful. Hasahn French helps set the standard in the locker room of understanding how to be a team player and how to prioritize the team’s needs for greater success.
And at every possible opportunity, he practices what he preaches. Hasahn French is a team player.