ST. LOUIS — When the NBA Draft is held Thursday night, don’t expect to hear the names called of any players from Saint Louis University.
But that’s not a surprise, nor does it mean the end of their hoop dreams. By this time next week, in fact, Dwayne Evans, Jordair Jett and Rob Loe all could have jobs in the NBA. Temporary jobs, anyway.
After the two-round draft, NBA teams will go shopping for free agents to fill out rosters for next month’s summer leagues in Las Vegas and Orlando, and the Billikens grads make prime candidates. Of the three, Loe is the most likely to get an opportunity because 6-foot-11 forwards who can shoot 3-pointers remain a hot commodity in the NBA. Evans is fighting the "tweener" size and Jett’s lack of an outside shot could hurt him, but the success they had in college as well as their makeup could earn them a shot in the summer leagues, one league talent evaluator told FOXSportsMidwest.com.
All they are looking for is a chance, too, said SLU assistant coach Calbert Cheaney.
"The summer leagues are a great place to go because all the coaches and all the front offices will be there," Cheaney said. "If you make a good showing, you’re going to get an opportunity to try out (in the fall). And if you have a great showing in training camp, they might keep you."
Even if they don’t land an NBA tryout, the three are expected to land a job playing basketball somewhere. Loe hails from New Zealand and could end up in a pro league Down Under. He also is expected to remain a fixture on the New Zealand national team. Holding a British passport enhances Loe’s chances of playing internationally because he will not count against any quota of American players with which most leagues operate.
With the SLU seniors moving on, Jim Crews’ program will take on a decidedly different look next season. After being one of the only teams in the land to start five seniors, SLU will be breaking in a new lineup as well as welcoming six freshmen.
"They’re going to be a tough act to follow," Cheaney said. "That was the winningest group to ever come through here in 100 years of Saint Louis basketball."
Cheaney said all the newcomers will be on campus next week for the second summer session. They are allowed to work six hours a week with the athletic training staff and two hours a week with the coaches until practice begins in October. By then, Crews and Co. should have a sense of what kind of game they will play.
"We have six freshmen with a lot of potential," Cheaney said. "If they develop that potential, we’ll be pretty good. On the perimeter, we should be bigger and longer, maybe more athletic. We’ve got a great group, but it’s going to take time."
A physically imposing, defensive-oriented team last season, Cheaney says it’s too early to know how the Billikens will play next year. The coaches are using the summer to evaluate and figure out if next year’s team might be better suited to a different style of play.
The Billikens return three players who saw significant minutes last season, guard Austin McBroom and forwards Grandy Glaze and John Manning. Two sophomores, Tanner Lancona and Reggie Agbeko, also gained enough experience to be counted on to contribute in 2014-15.
The sophomores-to-be aren’t the only members of the program who will feel more at home next season. So will Cheaney, who was a late-summer hire in 2013 and spent the year in St. Louis while his wife and two children remained in Indiana.
"It was tough," he said. "You have a wife and family you love, it’s like you lost your right arm. But now they’re here and everything is fine."
Twenty-one years ago, Cheaney had a different draft experience from what the Billikens are expecting. He spent draft night in the green room at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., as one of the players expected to be taken in the lottery. The then-Washington Bullets had told Cheaney they would choose him with the sixth pick if he wasn’t taken in the first five. He wasn’t and the Bullets did, making his draft night as smooth as the lefty jumper he used at Indiana to become the Big Ten’s all-time leading scorer.
Cheaney went on to play 13 seasons in the NBA, averaging 9.5 points with a season-best average of 16.6 in his second season. "A fruitful career in the NBA was all I could ever ask for," Cheaney said.
Dozens of college players are asking for the same, even though most — including three Billikens — will have to take a different road to get there.