Well-rounded recruiting class gives Billikens a strong base to build on

Jim Crews has put together a commendable recruiting class in his first official season at SLU

ST. LOUIS -- Saint Louis University coach Jim Crews had a difficult challenge when he hit the recruiting trail during the off-season.

With the Billikens set to return five seniors this season, including four starters, the coach basically had to rebuild the foundation of a SLU program that has made back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances.

Saint Louis is expected to sign five players during the early signing period, which begins Wednesday: guards Miles Reynolds, Davell Roby and Marcus Bartley and post players Austin Gillmann and Brett Jolly.

"Overall, I would say this recruiting class is towards the top of the Atlantic 10," said Ben Weixlmann, a recruiting analyst for Scout.com who focuses on the A-10 and covers the Billikens. "It's a bit hard to quantify exactly, but there are three three-star prospects in this class according to Scout.com rankings. With Mike McCall Jr., Jordair Jett, Dwayne Evans, Jake Barnett and Rob Loe all departing the program after this season, the Bills restocked with three guards and two big men. With one more scholarship left to use, SLU will likely wait on the entire basketball landscape before deciding how it would like to utilize the final spot."

Weixlmann rates SLU's recruiting class third in the Atlantic 10 behind only VCU and Saint Joseph's.

Reynolds, Roby and Bartley are all rated as three-star recruits by Scout.com and, with the starting backcourt of McCall and Jett exhausting their eligibility this winter, could be counted on for early contributions with the Billikens.

Reynolds is a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Whitney Young High School in Chicago. He committed to the Billikens last month after narrowing his decision to SLU and LSU. He could be the kind of sniper on the perimeter that the reigning Atlantic 10 Conference champs have needed.

"I think Reynolds is a good shot-maker off the catch and a pretty good shooter," said Evan Daniels, Scout.com national recruiting analyst. "He has some skill but I think he's definitely a two guard. I think he's a nice perimeter threat as far as shooting goes."

Roby and Bartley are both 6-4 combo guards.

Roby, from White Station High School in Memphis, is a strong-bodied guard who can get to the basket, Weixlmann said. He's more of a slasher than a scorer from the perimeter like Reynolds.

"With Roby, he's 6-foot-4 with pretty good ball skills," Daniels said. "I've seen him play both on and off the ball. Good passer. He lacks a real consistent perimeter jump shot. That's an area for improvement. But he's got good skills, he sees the floor well, competes and plays hard on both ends of the floor."

Daniels said Reynolds and Roby are two nice pieces to add to the mix.

"I think they both went to the right level and can be contributors at that level for Saint Louis," he said. "I think those are two solid gets for them. I think they can both contribute and help those guys."

Bartley, a senior at MacArthur High School in Decatur, Ill., is the true point guard of this recruiting class. He is described as a thin but skilled ball handler who can run a team.

Bartley won't necessarily be counted on to take over right away with redshirt sophomore point guard Austin McBroom, a transfer from Central Michigan, already on the roster. But Bartley should be skilled enough to contribute early if the Billikens need him to.

Reynolds, Roby and Bartley will add to a backcourt next season that is expected to return McBroom, redshirt junior Achraf Yacoubou (transfer from Villanova) and current freshman swingman Mike Crawford.

Gillmann, a 6-11 center from nearby Oakville (Mo.) High School, and Jolly, a 6-10 post player from Blair Academy in New Jersey, are two skilled developmental big men who won't necessarily be counted on for early contributions because of the returning post players on SLU's roster.

The Billikens are expected to return a pair of current juniors next season in starting forward Grandy Glaze and 6-11 reserve center John Manning along with freshman forwards Tanner Lancona and Reggie Agbeko. Those four players will allow time for Gillmann and Jolly to get stronger and develop.

With one scholarship available, Crews and his coaching staff can now wait to see what develops with his team's needs for the future. The Billikens will monitor recruits they are still pursuing along with guys who might emerge this winter from the high school and junior college ranks and Division I players who might want to transfer.

This recruiting class won't earn headlines as one of the best in college basketball, but Crews succeeded in replenishing the roster with the kind of underrated talent that has helped the Billikens win in recent seasons.

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com.

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