Little-used center Matt Neufeld is the latest player to transfer away from Saint Louis University.
With the season finished for all but a select few Division I NCAA basketball teams, transfer season has begun in full force, with players all over the country choosing to leave schools due to a variety of different reasons. There’s no exception to that rule for Travis Ford’s Saint Louis Billikens, as players recruited by his predecessor, Jim Crews, continue to depart.
Sophomore center Matt Neufeld became the second member of the 2016-17 squad to depart on Tuesday, joining freshman guard Zeke Moore, who had announced his plans earlier in the day. VerbalCommits.com was the first to report Neufeld’s decision to transfer.
Neufeld, a 6-foot-11, 230-pounder from Victoria, British Columbia, was a great fit for Crews’ methodical style of play (a bit of an oxymoron since that system obviously wasn’t so great), but he was a rarely-used spare piece in Ford’s system, which emphasizes quickness and athleticism. Neufeld played in just 28 of the Billikens’ 33 games, averaging 5.4 minutes, 0.9 points, and 0.8 rebounds per game. He sat out for three of the Billikens’ 18 conference games and saw very minimal action in most of the games that he played in.
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His playing time was only going to decrease in 2017-18. Big man D.J. Foreman will replace graduating senior Reggie Agbeko in the Billikens’ rotation next season, and Ford will likely utilize a more guard-heavy lineup than he did in 2016-17 as transfers Javon Bess and Adonys Henriquez (in November) and Ty Graves (in December), as well as freshman Jordan Goodwin, become eligible. Aside from just being a bad fit for Ford’s style of play, Neufeld was going to face an increasingly tough numbers game in Ford’s tighter rotation next season. Rising sophomore Jalen Johnson, the Billikens’ breakout player this year, will surely receive more extensive playing time in 2017-18, and incoming freshman big man Hasahn French could also be a factor.
As we mentioned earlier, the moves could enable SLU to make a last-ditch run at Illinois commit Jeremiah Tilmon or Oklahoma State guard Jeffrey Carroll, who may take advantage of the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule to play his senior season elsewhere. Because of the verbal commitments Ford has received for future seasons, though, it’s unlikely that they’d add both.
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Considering that Neufeld and Moore are both transferring and that the Billikens are set to get two freshmen, Fred Thatch and Carte’Are Gordon, in 2018-19, it now seems very likely that walk-on point guard Aaron Hines will receive a scholarship for his senior season. After walking on for his first season at SLU, Hines received a one-year scholarship from coach Jim Crews before the 2015-16 season. When Ford became SLU’s coach last spring, he chose not to renew that scholarship, but Hines stuck around and ended up becoming the Billikens’ starting point guard following an injury to Jermaine Bishop.
Hines started all 18 of the Billikens’ conference games, averaging a team-high 37.3 minutes per game over that period along with 8.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per contest. Despite being reduced to minimal backup duty for the season’s first month, Hines still managed to average 28.5 minutes, 6.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game over the duration of the schedule. After delivering that type of performance and receiving no tangible reward, it would be a shame if Hines didn’t get a scholarship for his final season in a Billikens uniform.
With Neufeld and Moore out of the picture, the only players remaining in the program who were recruited by Crews are guards Davell Roby and Jermaine Bishop, starting center Elliott Welmer and one of his sparsely-used backups, Austin Gillman. Hines and fellow walk-on Markos Psimitis also joined the Billikens under Crews and could be included with that group, depending on if you consider the addition of walk-ons to be legitimate “recruitment.”