It seemed almost inevitable that there would be some sort of roster change in the off-season for the Billikens. For months there were rumors about who was in and who was out. Who was staying and who was going, and for what reasons each player may have for staying or going.
KC Hankton was, at times, the central figure of such speculation. Limited minutes, and a constant nagging injury keeping him sidelined left wasting away at the end of the bench. So it makes sense that after all this time, he is the one to bow out of the Billiken ranks. The North Carolina native’s injury history and seemingly stagnant development due to such health concerns, in addition to the growing talented group of up and coming players who can fill his role, that made him the clear choice for departure.
Sometimes there’s a roster crunch, and it seems KC saw the writing on the wall and bowed out. The official word is that KC wanted to be closer to home, and I believe that. I also think that someone as injury prone and beat up as Hankton could do well in a coaching program outside of Travis Fords. Ford runs an intense practice style, high intensity, which has led to many successes, but it is ultimately not for everyone. Especially when you are dealing with injuries and need recovery. None of that makes it more comfortable when you’re not playing, and you know you aren’t going to play.
KC Hankton will be a successful college basketball player somewhere; he will catch on and succeed. As I understand it, he’s a great locker room presence, so he does not come to any program as a risk in that sense. I am looking forward to seeing what situation he lands at.
In the wake of his departure, the Billikens are left with an additional scholarship. As mentioned, this was in some ways expected though, as it seemed that even after getting the verbal commitment from Andre Lorentsson filling the ‘final’ scholarship space, the Billiken coaching staff continued to recruit intensely. The program has always maintained the mentality and internal mantra of “always be recruiting,” but it seemed like they were preparing for the inevitable.
At this moment, it is not clear as to where the Billikens will go to use their final scholarship. With the group collected, the Billikens have their best roster assembled in a very long time, it seems that they would look to add an immediate piece. Using that final scholarship to bolster the roster with veteran talent makes the most sense to me, rather than adding another high risk/high reward type project or a player who has to sit a year.
That being said, there are only so many minutes to go around. Tay Weaver came to Saint Louis with far less established talent around him and only managed to eke out a very inconsistent 16 minutes a game. With peaks and valleys along the way. With the healthy additions of Gibson Jimerson and Fred Thatch along with the recruits, there may not be much time to share. It would be understandable if a grad-transfer wouldn’t want to come in at this time and not play substantial minutes.
If that is the case and there is a freshman you could bring in that would be immediately impactful, or a transfer that could help bridge the gap once the senior group of Hasahn French, Jordan Goodwin, and Javonte Perkins are gone. Then it is understandable as to why you would go that route.
Understanding all this context, it makes the search for the newest Billiken to be quite complicated. Do you look for the best player available? Do you zone in on one type of player, and if you miss out, simply grab a grad transfer and hold the pattern until 2021? What does ‘best player available’ even mean? How do class and position influence the’ best player available’ debate?
It’s foggy, to say the least.
It appears that if the Billikens got their way, a veteran big man is the best fit for this team. While Hasahn French and Jimmy Bell Jr are quite the tandem of forwards, the depth ends right there. There are players on the roster who can help in a pinch, but it is hard to replace their size. Adding Swedish forward Andre Lorentsson and Floridian wing Markhi Strickland will assist with that depth, but they do not add the playstyle type that would be necessary to replace French or Bell in a pinch.
A true post big man to complement the current group would be at the top of my list. A veteran to make an immediate impact would be the most preferable. However, if you can add another solid piece to the long-term vision of the team that you could foreseeably be as impactful on the floor as a limited role grad-transfer, than that may be the most appealing option.
The program has made its positive opinion on the value of Grad Transfers known. In that having the scholarship back quickly is valuable. But with a growing program looking to emerge as the next consistent mid-major player on the national scene, having a constant pipeline of home-grown talent isn’t a bad thing.
Potential options on who would fill this role are still veiled in mystery. The most recent player attached to SLU was power forward High School Senior Donte Houston Jr, who ultimately opted to take a prep year and build his stock for a power 5school rather than commit to the mid-majors currently at his disposal. Beyond that, the known names of potential candidates have been quiet. Florida’s Gorjok Gak is a former Travis Ford recruit from Oklahoma State looking for a fresh start. But there has been no official word on a correspondence between the team and the athlete. Coppin State’s Brenden Medley-Bacon has received interest, but no offer has come his way.
Beyond that, it is speculation.
In recent history, Billiken commitments have come out of left field. And it seems this one will too. But what this new scholarship means is that there will be Billikens news throughout the summer, and there will be a helpful piece added, one way or another, to a potentially very successful Billikens squad.