Majerus Talks About The Billikens

ST. LOUIS — Saint Louis University basketball coach Rick Majerus took a few minutes away from the school's Fan Fest on Monday night at Chaifetz Arena to talk about the 2010-11 edition of the Billikens.

The SLU squad was hurt by the loss of last year's two leading scorers, Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed, who were suspended from school for the semester in the days leading up to the start of preseason practice.

So the Billikens went from a team that figured to contend for the Atlantic 10 Conference championship to a squad picked to finish sixth in the league, as picked by the conference's coaches and selected media.

On Monday night, Majerus was asked how the team has looked during practice so far.

"We've kind of moved backwards to square one," Majerus said. "It's all young again. You're going to have a freshman point guard in all probability — not in all probability, you're going to have a freshman point. And you're going to have four of your 10 guys are freshmen. The thing is we're just young. We went backwards. We're going to be good next year but I don't know what we're going to be this year. We're going to be young. Young is not where you want to be."

Sophomore forward Cody Ellis, who missed the first semester a year ago but is now the team's leading returning scorer at 10.5 points per game, was noticeably thinner during Monday's FanFest.

"He's in better shape," Majerus said. "Part of it is he had mono. He's still the worst in-shape guy on the team. Now he's done a better job with his body. He's doing much better."

The Billikens return redshirt junior guard Paul Eckerle this season after he missed all of the 2009-10 campaign after a knee injury. Now the St. Francis Borgia High School product is back and looking to contribute.

"Paul is not a real good player," Majerus said. "Paul has got a big heart. It's great to have him back because of the lift he gives you in terms of practice. He's a great inspirational practice player and a great captain — it is great to have him back — but it's not as though you got (Kevin) Lisch back or something. You know what I mean? He is who he is. What I'm happiest about is he got a phenomenal MCAT score, which is the SATs of med school. He got a 33. And I'm happiest about that."

Freshman 6-foot-11 forward Rob Loe was selected to the A-10's preseason All-Rookie team. But with the loss of Reed, Loe will be asked to play a bigger role right away this season.

"It's going to be hard for him," Majerus said. "We thought we'd play him at a 4 and we thought we'd have quite frankly Willie (Reed) at the 5. We don't. So we got to play… We're all bastardized again this year because of injuries and because of youth."

That youth means that Majerus and his assistant coaches will have to do more teaching this season. That was on display on Monday night when fans were allowed to watch some practice.

"It's interesting how their energy picks up with the crowd," Majerus said. "They are a good group of guys. We got a commitment from a good player. We've got a good player (transfer Jake Barnett) sitting out. We've just got the worst enemy you can have — youth. Youth and inexperience. So we are what we are. We practice with eight or nine. We have some issues that way."

The coach was asked who had the best offseason?

"I think Cory (Remekun) has done a great job," he said. "I think most of them had a real good offseason. I think they all got better. I think they all improved. Who got the most better? I think you have to wait till game time to see that. I wish Kyle (Cassity) loved the game or would have worked with a great passion. Kyle will do whatever you ask him to do when he plays and he plays hard. But Kyle doesn't have that love affair with the game like a Lisch had where he's going to be in here. And maybe that's not the way to be either."

Cassity, a junior shooting guard, will be counted on for increased production this season.

"He made big progress," Majerus said. "We have to gang score this year, so these guys have to just score. That's just the way it is. We're going to have issues scoring points. We're going to have issues with everything. Once again we revert back to probably the youngest team in the league. We have no seniors. We have limited juniors and we're playing four freshmen. We move back instead of move forward."

When addressing the crowd, Majerus and Eckerle both said they expected Mitchell, the junior point guard, to re-enroll in school for the second semester in January. After Monday's event, Majerus was headed back home to Milwaukee to see his mother and was expected to visit with Mitchell.

If Mitchell does return to Saint Louis, he could have a similar impact to that of Ellis who joined the team in January last season and gave the Billikens some much-needed scoring and perimeter shooting.

Various media reports have indicated that Reed, the 6-9 junior forward from Kansas City, asked for and was granted his release from SLU and was looking to transfer to another school.

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