Saint Louis U. Signees Show Potential

ST. LOUIS — Three future Saint Louis University basketball players closed out their high school careers on Saturday night in the Demetrious Johnson Charitable Foundation All-Star Game at Harris-Stowe State University.

Even though Kwamain Mitchell, Willie Reed and Femi John all graduated high school already and have been enrolled in summer classes at SLU for the past few weeks, Saturday's game offered a small glimpse of the Billikens' bright future.

"Saint Louis has been struggling for a couple years," Mitchell said. "Our incoming freshmen, I'm excited for all the players we've got. I'm just trying to turn Saint Louis around."

Mitchell, a 6-foot-1 point guard from Whitefish Bay (Wis.) Dominican High School, played on the National all-star squad that defeated John, Reed and the rest of the Local team, 130-121, on Saturday night.

Femi John
Those three players, along with 7-foot center Brett Thompson from Vienna (Ill.) High School, have been fixtures in SLU's new Chaifetz Arena for workouts and open gyms after summer classes the last few weeks.

Soon they will be joined by Illinois combo guards Kyle Cassity and Ruben Cotto and Oregon forward Brian Conklin to complete an impressive seven-member recruiting class for Billikens' coach Rick Majerus.

"We might still be young," Mitchell said, "but in the next couple years we'll probably be one of the top teams in our conference."

Mitchell was one of the first players from the class to commit to Majerus. On Saturday, he showed flashes why the former Utah coach wanted him. The Wisconsin native scored only four points on two-of-six shooting, but he showed he could beat defenders off the dribble whenever he wanted to, feed teammates for easy baskets and make plays when his team needed him to.

"Kwamain's got game," John said. "I like his poise at the point guard spot. He's not too flashy, but he's real solid. He's going to be good for us, real good."

A 6-4 shooting guard from McCluer North High in suburban St. Louis, John was one of his team's leading scorers on Saturday night. He scored 16 points on seven-of-15 shooting, including one 3-pointer and one thunderous dunk off a nifty dribble drive.

John is a solidly built athlete who excels in the mid-range game, handles the ball well, can get to the basket and can make plays around the hoop because of his size and strength.

Willie Reed
The Missouri native is already learning what it takes to be a successful college basketball player and student-athlete this summer at SLU.

"It's been a good experience," John said. "We've got a lot of experience at my position, so I'm getting adjusted to the college game. Even though it's open gym, it still feels like the college game. We're just learning, trying to get better and get stronger."

Getting stronger will be a big adjustment for Reed in the next few months. The 6-11 post player from Bishop Miege High School in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, weighs less than 200 pounds. Reed is very athletic for a kid his size, but he knows he's going to have to add strength and muscle to become a big-time contributor for the Billikens in the next few years.

Reed took just two shots on Saturday and finished with four points. But two of those points, on a thunderous two-handed dunk in the second quarter, showed how good of an athlete he is and had to make SLU fans smile.

With players like Reed, Mitchell and John, the future of the Billikens will be fun to watch, so there should be more smiling at Chaifetz Arena soon.

"We've got a good freshmen class right now," Mitchell said. "We've all got potential, we all can score. We're just trying to work together. Especially with coach Majerus, we're just trying to turn this thing around."

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