Last week local talk was abuzz with Saint Louis University basketball news, and we aren’t talking about the horrifying new school logo. The Billikens had just received an oral commitment from Carte’Are Gordon, one of the most highly desired recruits in the nation. This was just months after pulling off a seemingly large upset and signing Jordan Goodwin to a National Letter of Intent. Ever since SLU announced the hiring of Travis Ford as their head coach the local hoops scene has suddenly been thrust back into the limelight.
While SLU did manage three consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament from 2012-14, in which they won at least 26 games each season, it has been awhile since SLU basketball has received the kind of buzz they are generating now. And it all begins with bringing in the best local talent. They may have been a year late on getting Jayson Tatum (heading to Duke) to join his father’s alma mater but they are quickly making up ground locally with recruits and grabbing up the best local talent since they were able to bring Larry Hughes aboard back in 1997.
I have been able to watch local hoopster Jordan Goodwin, a senior this year at Althoff, up-close for the last three years. While Goodwin may not have the natural, explosive skills that put him on a McDonald’s All-American team he is by all means a player that every coach wants. Goodwin can do anything that is asked on the court; score (19 ppg), rebound (9 rpg), or run the offense (3.2 apg). A 6’4″ guard Goodwin has all the tools to be a glue type of player at the next level, just as he has been in high school, filling whatever role is needed. The Billikens snatched Goodwin away from the University of Illinois despite many saying he would choose to play there with his good friend Jeremiah Tilmon.
Once SLU nabbed Goodwin it seemed to put them on the local radar for recruits. Because just months later the Billikens received an oral commitment from Carte’Are Gordon. Gordon is a different type of player than Goodwin. Gordon is a 6’9″ uber-athletic power forward who will be in his junior year at Webster Groves. Gordon is the “next-level” type of player. He is ranked anywhere between 9th and 40th nationally and just spent the summer with the USA Basketball U-17 team. Goodwin and Gordon follow in the footsteps of another local standout; Zeke Moore, a 6’6″ forward from Riverview Gardens, in joining the Blue and White.
While SLU was picked to finish last this year in the Atlantic-10 preseason poll the future appears bright for the Billikens. In addition to bringing in Goodwin next year the Billikens also signed Hasahn French, a 6’7″ power forward who choose SLU over UMass and Minnesota. They will also have transfers Javon Bess, a starter for Michigan State, and Adonys Henriquez, from Central Florida, eligible to join the team next year. Combine that with the addition of Gordon the following year and SLU has what looks to be an exciting team coming together.
The type of SLU team that Coach Ford is bringing together is different from what we have seen in the past. In the past we have had the hard-nosed, scrappy teams with Jim Crews, Rick Majerus, and Brad Soderberg on the bench. But Coach Ford is sealing the borders and keeping top local talent at home. That will only build interest locally and in a circle of life effect, garner the attention of more top local talent. Chaifetz Arena has always been a great place to watch a game, even when the games weren’t very exciting and ended with scores such as 50-40. But in the coming years we may be seeing an exciting team that can put up points and win, bringing back memories of glory days at the Arena. This is just the start for Coach Ford at SLU, he hasn’t even coached a game yet. But he is already bringing in top talent and that is always a good place to start when building a team.Who knows, maybe one day the names of Goodwin and Gordon will join the likes of Claggett, Dobbs, and Bonner in SLU folklore. My advice to local basketball fans, get in early and jump on the SLU bandwagon before it gets crowded.