By Carter Chapley
St. Louis, MO
Since coming to St. Louis, new Billiken grad transfer Tay Weaver has come to learn some important lessons about the city’s culture. He enjoys a well-made toasted ravioli, doesn’t care for IMO’s but recognizes its value, he rides Lime scooters around campus and the city, has been up the arch and, in a more SLU specific example, says his favorite spot to eat at is Fieldhouse…despite how “pricey” it can be.
Dujuanta (he prefers Tay) Weaver is a Kentucky native who is all in on making St. Louis his home. He credits how beautiful the city is, and how much bigger it is than where he was before as major reasons for why he ultimately chose SLU. It also doesn’t hurt that his Mom feels good about him being there.
The five-foot ten-inch guard comes to SLU after spending the previous three seasons at Eastern Kentucky. He completed his bachelor’s degree in education and has started a master’s degree program at SLU in the same field. He started 76 games for the EKU Colonials and made 121 three-pointers in that span.
As a graduate transfer student, Tay comes in as the new elder statesmen of the locker room. While he is obviously not the longest tenured player, he is certainly the oldest on the roster being nine months older than Hasahn French. For a program that, just a year ago, was anchored by seniors, to only have the one highlights just how different this season may be.
The recruitment of Tay Weaver came together extremely quickly and speaks to just how rapidly things can change for programs. Just less than two weeks elapsed between when Coach Travis Ford and his newly minted Assistant Coach Ford Stuen were informed of the players availability and hypothetical interest, and his eventual visit and commitment days later. The speed of the process was necessary as Tay was a highly sought-after transfer player. He had already received scholarship offers from New Mexico State and Arizona. He had also been in touch with Vanderbilt the same day interest came from SLU.
When asked why he picked SLU over some of these more prestigious schools, he points towards the program’s commitment physically and his respect for Coach Ford. “They train harder. They train right. They worry about your body a whole lot, and Coach Ford really cares about getting in shape. Of course, they (SLU) won last year, so they know what it takes to win”.
On the court Tay plays a frenetic style of basketball. His energy seems at times endless and his speed is matched by very few. So much so that some in the program have already taken to calling him “The Flash”. Despite being only 5’10” he makes up for it by bringing the kind of defensive intensity Billiken fans have been getting used in the Ford era. He is also one of the most unique offensive players in the country. Last season at EKU, Weaver took 279 shots…237 of which were three-point attempts.
When looking for a comparable, Tay would most like to compare himself to Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, “I study his game a whole lot. I’m a very positive guy. I’m very competitive, I wanna win. I’ll do whatever it takes to win. I wanna lead my team, whatever little thing it is, like whether it’s guarding the fastest guard, or coming up with the last steal, or make that big shot. Whatever I need to do.”
Weaver is an excellent add on the court. He adds depth at the point guard position, and a confident true shooter into the mix. Something that was very much missing in last year’s squad. The addition of Weaver, along with other new Billikens like Freshmen Gibson Jimerson, and JUCO standout Javonte Perkins add a new dynamic to the offense that will look to help create opportunities for the likes of Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French who will benefit from the new added spacing.
The aspect coaches and trainers appreciate most is Weavers intangibles off the court. Having a veteran to add into a core group that includes 5 freshmen is a valuable resource. “He adds a dimension to our team outside of basketball. The kid is just energy, the guys love him. He’s a yes sir no sir guy…he shows our younger guys how to do it.” Assistant Coach Ford Stuen said about Tay, “He has added pop to our team that we hadn’t dreamed of. We had thought he may have been just another piece guy who can shoot the ball, but he’s exceeded all of our expectations thus far.
The Louisville natives’ impact on the locker room is already seeing an effect. But he is not someone who seeks to be center of attention. Tay carries himself with a quiet confidence and prefers to lead by example, “I felt like I needed to do that, it’s what older guys do. Obviously, Coach Ford did tell me that he wants me to lead… so that’s what I’m trying to do. Be in the gym early, going hard, do every work out, and be respectful to my teammates and coaching staff.”
The character and leadership Tay displays has has already resulted in positive steps in his game, and for his teammates. He credits Billiken Junior Jordan Goodwin with making the transition into the program so seamless, “He’s been showing me the ropes” Tay says “I’ve kinda been his shadow and he’s kinda been mine. We’ve just been piggybacking off each other”.
Tay enters SLU as the final puzzle piece of the 2019/2020 roster. While there is, or was, another scholarship available for another recruit the Billikens have opted to award that scholarship to (now) former walk-on Jack Raboin. With that, Tay is the last player to join the Bills ahead of this season. It is clear the intention was to add maturity to the locker room considering its young core. So, while Tay’s on court successes are yet to be seen, his impact on the programs culture and success moving forward are already starting to take shape and pay dividends.