SLU Hoops: Breaking Down The Roster

The second season of the Rick Majerus era of Saint Louis University basketball opens with the official start of practice this upcoming weekend. With the season opener against Missouri-St. Louis on Nov. 14 at Chaifetz Arena nearly a month away, we're taking an early look at the Billikens' roster and the expectations of the eight-member incoming recruiting class.

G Kevin Lisch: A year ago, the Belleville, Ill., native led the Billikens in scoring (14.6 points per game), assists (97) and steals (38) and was honored as a third-team all-conference selection and all-defensive team pick. Lisch will once again be a go-to player for SLU and figures to have the ball in his hands often late in close games. One of the Billikens' few proven commodities returning this season, Lisch has to be a leader and step up his game more than he ever has before.
Projected role: The go-to player.

G Tommie Liddell III: The former East St. Louis, Ill., standout was second on the team in scoring at 12.3 points per game a year ago and also added 4.3 rebounds per game. Like Lisch, Liddell has been a key player for SLU for the past three seasons and will need to be on his game with a young squad around him this season. Liddell averaged a team-best 15.4 points per game as a sophomore, but struggled at times in his first year under Majerus. When Liddell plays aggressively, there are few players in the Atlantic 10 Conference who can match his all-around game.
Projected role: The other go-to player.

F Barry Eberhardt: The undersized power forward arrived at SLU a year ago with impressive credentials from his time at Coffeyville Community College, but his first year with the Billikens was filled with ups and downs. He made 11 starts and averaged 6 points and 3.8 rebounds in 30 games. Majerus talked about Eberhardt needing to slim down some to maximize his effectiveness this season and the early reports are that the Detroit native did just that. He is the biggest of four returning scholarship players this season, and the only one capable of manning the power forward spot. If he is ineffective or doesn't play hard, he'll find himself sitting on the bench in favor of one of the newcomers.
Projected role: Probable starter at power forward or first forward off the bench.

G Paul Eckerle: The St. Francis Borgia High School graduate was prepared to quit playing basketball to focus on his academics at SLU before Majerus offered him a scholarship for his freshman season. That move paid off for the coach, as Eckerle developed into a steady guard off the bench who averaged 3.8 points per game while seeing action in 31 contests. The freshman wasn't afraid to take big shots, and his 22 3-pointers ranked fourth on the team. With five guards coming in with the recruiting class, Eckerle's minutes could be reduced this season. But if he continues to improve and make good decisions, Majerus showed last year that he trusted Eckerle enough to use him late in games.
Projected role: First or second guard off the bench.

THE NEWCOMERS

C Brett Thompson: One of the first players to pledge to play for Majerus at SLU, Thompson averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds per game as a senior at Vienna High School in southern Illinois. He is the tallest player on a team that lacks height and will likely get as many minutes as he can handle from the very beginning of the season. He will definitely remind fans of the Bryce Husak era of Billiken basketball, but the Illinois native is much more skilled. Thompson will struggle likely at times this winter as he makes the transition to Division I hoops, but has the potential to be one of the better players in the A-10 at his position before too long. Majerus has a history with developing big men and Thompson will be his first project as the coach of the Billikens.
Projected role: Starting center.

G Kwamain Mitchell: A do-everything point guard from Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay, Wis., Mitchell looks like the true pass-first, offensive-minded lead guard Saint Louis has lacked for several seasons. What Mitchell may lack in a refined 3-point stroke, he more than makes up for with nifty passes that put his teammates in position for easy baskets. One of the first recruiting targets Majerus went after, and one of the early commitments, Mitchell rejected overtures when other schools try to get involved with his recruitment to honor his pledge to SLU. Mitchell may be the most ready of the eight incoming freshmen to contribute right away and will be looked at as a team leader going forward after the Lisch and Liddell era is over.
Projected role: Starting point guard.

G Ruben Cotto: A native of Puerto Rico, Cotto was a mystery player in the St. Louis area as well as the recruiting scene at this time last year after transferring to Alton (Ill.) High School from the Miami area. Word quickly spread about the high-scoring and sharp-shooting combo guard and it wasn't long before he was on the radar for Majerus and the Billikens. Cotto has to prove he can play defense at the level Majerus is going to want him to, but his 3-point shooting proficiency and deft scoring touch — he averaged 22.3 points per game a year ago — could earn him major minutes at either guard spot.
Projected role: First or second guard off the bench.

F Brian Conklin: Like Mitchell, Conklin was one of the early recruiting targets Majerus found and went after. The early reports are the Oregon native is a rough and rugged do-everything forward in the mold of Luke Meyer, but with the size to be even more effective in post. Conklin averaged 20.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game as a high school senior and has a history of knowing how to win. It probably won't be long before he becomes a Majerus favorite and if he plays well in preseason practice, you could see Conklin in the starting lineup in place of Eberhardt for the season opener against UMSL.
Projected role: First forward off the bench or starter at power forward

F/C Willie Reed: The athletic forward/center out of the Kansas City area has two major factors working against him this season — his lack of basketball experience from his senior year of high school and his slender build — but there haven't been many players in SLU's history with his combination of height and freakish athleticism. Reed will be a fan favorite at Chaifetz Arena before long for his highlight-worthy dunks and once he puts on weight and gains strength could team with Thompson to provide a big and versatile front line that will give the rest of the Atlantic 10 problems.
Projected role: Backup at the center and power forward positions.

G Kyle Cassity: A do-everything combo guard at Pinckneyville (Ill.) High School who drew attention from schools like Southern Illinois and Michigan before signing with SLU in the spring, Cassity is a skilled player who could earn playing time at the shooting guard or small forward positions behind Lisch and Liddell. He averaged 20 points and 8.1 rebounds per game as a high school senior and led his team to the state tournament. Majerus spent a lot of time recruiting Cassity last winter, so he could emerge as one of the coach's favorite players.
Projected role: Will compete with Cotto and Eckerle to be one of the first guards off the bench.

G Femi John: A teammate of Cassity's in the summers with the Gateway Basketball Club, the McCluer North product from suburban St. Louis will now be competing with his former teammate for minutes at the shooting guard and small forward spots. A hard worker, John has good size and strength and versatility, but lacks a consistent outside shot. Once he develops that, he'll become an athletic slashing guard who can knock down shots from anywhere on the floor. He will remind people of Danny Brown, who overcame an injury to become a key member of last year's SLU squad.
Projected role: Will compete with Cotto, Eckerle and Cassity for minutes off the bench at shooting guard or small forward.

G Daniel Lisch: The third member of his family to play basketball at Saint Louis U., joining brother Kevin and sister Theresa, Lisch was a late addition to the squad after previously committing to play at Division III Fontbonne University in St. Louis. Lisch averaged 9.2 points per game as a senior at Belleville (Ill.) West High School and earned notice for his tough man-to-man defense in the Southwestern Conference, the same league Cotto competed in. With the Billikens' depth in the backcourt, it looks like Lisch was recruited to help improve the team's depth, similar to Eckerle a year ago.
Projected role: Redshirt candidate.

SLU coach Rick Majerus poses with the Billiken (Jeff Roberson/AP)


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