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Bills find fill for final scholarship, German forward Marten Linssen commits to SLU

Travis Ford and his staff have made a name for themselves in a couple of ways as a recruiter at SLU. If they get a recruit on campus, it tends to be a done deal, and they love to surprise with recruits out of left field.

Marten Linssen is the newest name to come out of left field, making notice of his commitment to SLU via his Instagram saying, “Never thought I’d play at 2 schools during my collegiate career, let alone 3, but here we go. I’m proud to announce that I will finish my career at Saint Louis University!” (Notably, he is one of the very few recruits or non-official media that refers to SLU by its proper title.)

Left field may be dramatic, there was a sense of a connection floating around, but he was hardly at the forefront of potential candidates to fill the final roster spot. The coaching staff was looking for a big who could contribute, but also had a longer future with the team than just a 1-year rental. If they couldn’t get all of these things, then that’s ok, but it seems like they found the perfect combination of those assets.

The native of Dusseldorf, Germany, will be gearing up for his third school in four years when he gets to Chaifetz Arena, having played for Valparaiso before transferring to the University of North Carolina-Wilmington where he started 29 of 32 games last season. Now, in his senior year as a student, he will be graduating in May, making him immediately eligible to play with the Billikens and having two years of eligibility. He majored in International Business.

Standing at 6’8 and weighing in officially at 255 lbs, Marten is a traditional post big man. He excels offensively with his back to the basket and as a rebounder in box-out situations. He has a massive frame and could very well get bigger and stronger once he gets in with Robb Hornett (SLU director of sports performance) , who has a knack for rebuilding guys like Marten. An asset the Billikens desperately needed to fill out as their frontcourt depth was their weak link in the roster. While Hasahn French and Jimmy Bell are both extremely talented, they both have shown a tendency to get themselves into foul trouble. Adding a reliable Big Man to spell their minutes and keep the pressure on from a size perspective was vital. As I understand it, it was the coaching staff’s priority to add someone to address the frontcourt depth.

Adding the Red-shirt Junior forward will also allow the Billikens a style of play they are far more comfortable with for more extended periods. The Bills want to be physically menacing, particularly on defense, his addition allows the Billikens to spread fouls out more efficiently and keep Hasahn, Jimmy, and Marten now, from playing softer defense down the stretch.

Last season at UNC-Wilmington, Marten averaged 10.5 points per game, and 4.6 rebounds per game, starting in 29 of his 32 games as a Seahawk. In his freshman year, he saw limited action, averaging just seven minutes a game across 22 games. As a high schooler in Deutschland, he played with the Bayer Giants Leverkusen, a pro squad and member of Germany’s second division league ProA. He also played with the u18 German national team in 2016 at the European Championships, where Germany finished 4th.

What sets the German apart from other big men is his footwork and his touch around the rim. Marten uses his quick feet and precise footwork to beat a variety of defenders and get to the hoop. That same footwork also allows for him to move laterally effectively and defend the post from even the craftiest bigs. In tandem with his smooth touch and ability to finish with both hands, he is a threat to create on the inside. He has also shown an ability to stretch out that zone and make shots in the 10-15 ft range, though that part of his game is very much a work in progress.

The downsides of his game come in the form of speed up and down the floor, his lack of outside presence, and foul trouble. He doesn’t move as well vertically as he does laterally, frequently trailing behind the ball in transition. He is also a very traditional post big, he doesn’t have an outside shot and struggles to guard the ball near the perimeter. This lack of spacing might make it difficult to create opportunities for shooters.

The foul trouble he often found himself in is far less of an issue for the Billikens as his role will not be the same. While he averaged 2.6 fouls per game in just 20.5 minutes per game last season, it is unlikely he will be getting the same time on the floor. Even if he does, the asset of having Marten as a big man to add to the group of Bell, French, and maybe Diarra, makes the foul trouble of each of those players far less of a problem.

Marten will be no means be the type of player he was at UNCW, he won’t start most games, he won’t be the third leading scorer, he won’t be asked to be a front-end piece of a team. He will though, provide a valuable asset off the bench in the immediate. He will get the opportunity to improve his game, so he may be more of a central piece in his second year after Hasahn French graduates.

The addition of Linssen helps the team both immediately and maintains the long-term health of the program. We don’t know yet when he will arrive on campus, but nothing will be made official until he finishes school at UNCW, which won’t be till mid-may. When he does, he may be part of the most complete Billiken roster in recent history.

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