SLU Recruits Play in All-Star Game

ST. LOUIS — The future of the Saint Louis University basketball team was on display on Saturday night in the McDonald's Riverwar High School Basketball All-Star Game at Chaifetz Arena on the SLU campus.

The game featured 17 Division I recruits, including four headed to Saint Louis U. next year, and they certainly didn't disappoint. The Illinois all-stars, which included Alton point guard Ruben Cotto, Vienna center Brett Thompson and Pinckneyville guard Kyle Cassity, defeated McCluer North guard Femi John and the Missouri all-stars 108-99.

"It was fun to come out and play in front of the home-court crowd and play in the new arena," John said.

The most impressive of the four SLU recruits in the game was Cotto, a 6-foot guard, who was the seventh member of the Billikens' recruiting class to commit for next season.

Cotto scored 17 points, including a game-high five 3-pointers, and sparked a third quarter rally that helped get the Illinois side back in the game and in position to win it.

"Oh man, Ruben," John said. "He is a stud. He is a stud. I can't wait to start playing with him. Kyle's pretty good. Brett's skilled. I think if we put it all together, we're going to have a good team. We've got a real diverse group."

It's safe to say Cotto likes shooting in Saint Louis University's new arena.

"I like when I see the NBA (3-point) line," Cotto said. "I always shoot from behind it but I never have the line."

Said Thompson of Cotto: "He's just coming off the screens and knocking them down. He was unbelievable."

John, a 6-4 shooting guard, had nine points and a team-high six assists.

Thompson, the 7-foot center who was the first player to commit to coach Rick Majerus after he got the SLU job, had four points, five rebounds, two blocked shots and an assist.

Cassity, who was John's teammate last summer with the Gateway Basketball Club, missed all four of the shots he took and went scoreless, but had two rebounds and an assist.

The four players who participated in the game, four of seven players either signed or committed to play at SLU next season, showed how diverse their games are and gave a glimpse of how the pieces could fit together.

"I think we're pretty talented," Cassity said. "We've got some good guys coming in and some good guys still here. We'll be young, that's for sure, but we'll have to step up into some roles. I think we'll be all right. I think we'll hold our own."

Cotto can play either the point guard or shooting guard spot, shoots the ball well from beyond the 3-point line and can stretch defenses. John is an athletic shooting guard who can slash to the basket and projects as a strong defender at the next level because of his size and strength. Cassity, who has played basically all five positions in high school, is a 6-4 do-everything glue guy who could play the 1, 2 or 3 in college. Thompson is a skilled center who can face up and shoot it or get things done in the paint.

"I like how they play," Cotto said. "Thompson, he knows the game. He's always looking for a shooter and cutter. He has some good post moves. Femi John is competitive and very athletic. Cassity looks like he can shoot it. I just want to win in Saint Louis."

Cotto added: "We're good talent, but young. We have to make each other better in practice every day."

Thompson has watched this recruiting class grow since he committed.

"It's been a good experience to see how Majerus is compiling the group of guys based on how he works," he said. "It's coming together real nice."

With the announcement this week that four players would be leaving the SLU program — sophomores Adam Knollmeyer and Dustin Maguire and freshmen Marcus Relphorde and Anthony Mitchell — this crop of newcomers for next season will be leaned on to contribute early.

The Billikens will return just four players next season, with seniors Kevin Lisch, Tommie Liddell and Barry Eberhardt and sophomore Paul Eckerle. The rest of the roster will be comprised of new faces, mostly freshmen.

Saint Louis U. had two interesting visitors for Saturday night's game.

Kwamain Mitchell, a 6-0 point guard who signed with SLU in the early signing period, made the long drive from Wisconsin to watch his future teammates.

Also in the crowd was Billikens' recruiting target Josh Harrellson, a 6-9 freshmen center at Southwestern Illinois College who attended nearby St. Charles High School.

Harrellson plans to make an official visit to Saint Louis U. in two weeks.

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