SLU Freshmen Expected to Produce


“They’re going to play, we just don’t know which ones yet.”

Those were the words of Coach Jim Crews at A-10 media day. And after filling 9 of his 17 roster spots with freshmen, Coach’s prediction is obvious. With just over a week left until the first exhibition against Harris-Stowe, let’s run down “which ones” have the best chance.

Brett Jolly: Jolly is the highest ranked commit for this class, according to the scouts for ESPN. He finishes around the hoop with great strength and consistency. At 6’10” with an even longer wingspan, he has a knack for shot blocking. He’s the 21st century-version of a big man. More Kevin Garnett than Kareem. He’ll spread a defense out with his impressive shooting ability, and a decent pump-fake to drive. His rebounding and post moves leave a little to be desired. Overall, he’ll play early and often.

Davell Roby: Quick guard out of Memphis with athleticism that isn’t afraid to take the ball to the hoop with aggression. Good jump shot, and very good vision. He’s versatile enough to play the PG, SG, or SF in a smaller lineup. He’ll be a part of the carousel of freshmen guards at Coach Crews’ disposal, and minutes could be hard to come by with talented players like Miles Reynolds and Marcus Bartley ahead of him.

Austin Gillman: Another versatile big man for the Billikens. Along with Jolly, he can spread the floor, and keep drivers out of the paint. He’s extremely skilled in the post. Although an inch taller than Jolly, he’s twenty pounds lighter. And even though that helps his versatility, he’ll need to beef up to be a real impact. With senior John Manning most likely starting at center, Gillmann will come off the bench as a 10-15 minute/game contributor.

Milik Yarbrough: Athletically, he’s a freak of nature with an exceptional wingspan and vertical, and is quite possibly the best athlete on this roster. He can attack the rim with vengeance, and when his shot is going, it’s as good as anyone’s on the team. He’s a beast near the rim, and could catch a lot of SLU fans by surprise. His aggression reminds me of Lance Stephenson, and a little edge could help this team. By the end of the year, he’ll play big minutes. As long as he can raise his basketball IQ.

“They’re going to play, we just don’t know which ones yet.”-Coach Jim Crews

Miles Reynolds: Reynolds is the most college-ready of any of the freshmen. Having played a national schedule with Whitney Young High School (alongside Jahlil Okafor) out of Chicago last year, and then playing on Mac Irvin Fire, one of the top AAU teams in the Midwest, Reynolds is used to the bright lights and big pressure. Miles is everything you want from a point guard. He leads the offense, and allows it to run its course, then attacks when necessary. Not necessarily great at anything, but good at everything. He’ll play big minutes early on, and most likely start.

Marcus Bartley: Speed kills, and this guy has it. Great potential at PG, and will be competing with Miles Reynolds especially for the point guard spot. He explodes on defense into passing lanes, and runs the transition offense as good as anybody. When you watch him, it’s hard not to think of Steph Curry. Not necessarily the shooting, but his vision and quickness is unmatched. At the very least, he’ll split time with Miles Reynolds.

Aaron Hines: Local walk-on from Parkway North. Good, not great, athlete. Even at 6’, 175 lbs., he shows a lot of courage at the rim. Needs work on his passing in order to get a chance at contributing. Not man minutes will fall his way this year, but he could become a nice 3rd option at point guard in the years to come.

Stephen Leazer: A 6’4” walk on with range. And I mean RANGE. But that’s about it. At 6’4”, he’s too small to play down low, and not nearly fast enough to be a guard. He needs a lot of work on both sides of the ball to promote himself to a 3-point specialist by his senior year.

Grant Hollander: The final walk-on, Hollander comes out of the prestigious Chaminade High School basketball program here in St. Louis. There, he averaged 8 points per game and shot near 40% from the behind the arc. He’s the most talented walk-on, and has the best chance to play out of the three of them this year. Not going to be a starter, but could pick up additional minutes towards the end of games that could translate into decent playing time in 2-3 years.

What’s been the clearest is that whichever freshman that figures out and buys into the Billikens’ defensive system will find his way onto the floor quickest. “We’re trying to get good at one thing [defense], not 13 different things.” It’ll be hard to follow up last year’s defense that ranked 19th nationally in points allowed. Overall, don’t expect the freshmen that play early will be the ones that play at the end. “This takes a little longer time. It’s a slower process [than previous years.”