SLU Signs Five Players

The fax machine in the Saint Louis University basketball office was buzzing on Wednesday when the five high school seniors who had committed to the Billikens made it official and faxed in their signed letters-of-intent.

The five players — point guard Kwamain Mitchell, center Brett Thompson, power forward Willie Reed, shooting guard Femi John and forward Brian Conklin — are now officially the future of SLU basketball.

All five bring winning pedigrees to Saint Louis as well as a unique set of skills that many hope will propel the Billikens to the top of the Atlantic 10 Conference standings and get SLU back to the NCAA Tournament soon.

"The whole thing about Saint Louis's recruiting class, you have to evaluate the impact they are going to have on the future," Recruiting Director Dave Telep said on Wednesday morning. "This class is going to help the Billikens significantly in the A-10. You can't measure this class only on the rankings of the players. You have to talk about them in relation to their league. Xavier and Saint Louis come out looking really good in the league."

Brett Thompson
Thompson, a 7-foot, 260-pound center from Vienna (Ill.) High, was the first player from this class to commit to Majerus when he picked the Billikens in May over Iowa State, Alabama and Indiana.

"Brett is strong and has terrific skills at the low post," Majerus said in a press release. "I think that he is a little more advanced than Michael Doleac was at his age. Brett has terrific hands and a nice touch. He has a nice good hook with either hand around the hoop, but I like his versatility and that he can step outside and play the perimeter. He has a very good long ball, and he's like Bill Laimbeer in terms of his ability to pick, pop and separate."

Thompson averaged 16 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks per game as a junior — his high school coach, Rick Metcalf, told those numbers are deceiving because Thompson didn't play much in blowouts — when Vienna went 24-7. Thompson is rated No. 29 among centers in the senior class by but could play either power forward or center at SLU.

"He's almost impossible to double-team in the post because his passing presence is so good and he has such multi-faceted skills," Majerus said. "He goes easily to the other side of the floor with the ball, and we expect him to grow into a terrific player, both on the perimeter and in the post. The game means a great deal to him, and he has a real passion for playing."

Willie Reed
Reed was the next to commit when he picked the Billikens over a host of Midwestern schools in June. A power forward who is listed anywhere from 6-9 to 6-11, Reed transferred from Bishop Miege High School in Kansas to Milestone Christian Academy in Kansas City for his senior season.

Reed, rated No. 32 among centers in his class by, averaged 17 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks per game as a junior as Miege went 22-6 and advanced to the final four of the Kansas state tournament.

"Willie is an athletic, long and highly-skilled post player," Majerus said. "We would like to see him add some muscle, but aside from the fact that he is slender, he has a nice flow to his game. He can defend any one of four positions and maybe all five. His length and his timing change the game. He should become a dominant defender along the baseline. He gives us a shot-blocking presence. He runs the floor extremely well, and surprisingly puts it to the floor both on the block and on the perimeter for a guy who truly is 6-foot-9 and long."

Kwamain Mitchell
Mitchell, a 6-foot guard from Whitefish Bay (Wis.) Dominican High School, picked the Billikens in June over Wisconsin-Green Bay, Loyola University Chicago and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as well as interest from others.

Mitchell averaged 19.3 points per game as a sophomore when the Green Knights went 27-0 and won a state championship and averaged 16.4 points per game as a junior as his team went 21-4.

"He is someone we are looking to hand over the control of the team to, and he will make everyone around him a better player," Majerus said. "He cannot wait to get onto campus, and we cannot wait to have him here. He will provide leadership both verbally and by example. He has a tremendous work ethic. Kwamain has the potential to be one of the best point guards that I have had the opportunity to coach."

Majerus compared Mitchell, ranked as the No. 17 point guard in his class by, to former Illinois standout guard Dee Brown "with a better jump shot."

Femi John
A 6-foot-4 shooting guard from McCluer North High in suburban St. Louis, John picked SLU in June over scholarship offers from Missouri State, Northern Iowa and Southeast Missouri State and interest from schools like Purdue, Missouri and Wichita State.

"He is a great athlete who has the ability to become an all-league defender," Majerus said. "He has the bulldog mentality like Kevin Lisch. Femi is a strong rebounder and runs the floor hard. He possesses an outstanding middle game."

John helped lead McCluer North to the school's first basketball state championship during his junior season. He averaged 15.3 points per game and made 28.4 percent of his 3-point attempts.

"He has worked hard on his perimeter shooting and has made tremendous strides in becoming a 3-point threat at the college level," Majerus said. "He is an extremely committed player, and I trust that he will have a sensational season this year at McCluer North. Our fans will love him because of his work ethic and tenacity. He will be one of those guys who people will say does all the little things. He has a ton of room for improvement because he is a high-character kid."

Brian Conklin
Conklin, a 6-8, 225-pound forward from North Eugene (Ore.) High, became the fifth member of the recruiting class when he committed to SLU in July over offers from Oregon State, Portland, Portland State, Montana and Lehigh and interest from schools like Washington State, Pepperdine and Santa Clara.

"Brian reminds me of our senior graduate manager Alex Jensen because he is a physical, tough and tenacious rebounder," Majerus said.

Conklin averaged 19.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4 assists per game and was named The Oregonian's Class 5A player of the year after leading the Highlanders to a 28-0 season Class 5 state championship. He was recruited to play small forward, but will likely figure into the mix at power forward as well.

"In addition to being a skilled offensive player, Brian is an outstanding defender," Majerus said. "He was well coached in high school and is outstanding at posting up. Brian is a 4.0 student who is a heady, smart and tough player. He comes from a winning background, and we are trying to bring that winning philosophy into our own program." will have more on SLU's recruiting class following Wednesday night's home opener against Detroit at Scottrade Center.

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