Few teams have endured Saint Louis’ challenges in recent months.
On the floor, the Billikens looked like a contender in the Atlantic 10 after beating Memphis in the opening round of last season’s NCAA tournament. Then, Kwamain Mitchell suffered a foot injury on the first day of practice in October.
He was the star in that win against Memphis last March (22 points in 37 minutes). And Saint Louis has certainly missed him.
But he’s set to return Friday night against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, per Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. That’s great news for a program that needs some.
From the Post-Dispatch:
It’s been seven weeks since St. Louis University’s basketball season began. But for Kwamain Mitchell, tonight is opening night.
SLU’s starting point guard and preseason all-conference selection, who has been out since the second day of practice because of a broken bone in his left foot, thinks he could have up to 20 minutes of playing time when SLU plays Southern Illinois University Edwardsville tonight at Chaifetz Arena.
"(Wednesday), I practiced with the guys," Mitchell said before practice Thursday, “and I feel great. I’m excited to be out there. Instead of talking on the sidelines, it was better to be talking with them while actually on the court. I feel confident I’ll be ready to contribute somewhat to the team (tonight). ... Guys came up to me after drills and said, 'Kwam, we’re glad to have you back.' One of the managers said he was excited to give me the No. 3 (water) bottle. Everybody’s excited. I’m excited."
"He wasn’t out for the full practice," interim SLU coach Jim Crews said, "but he went through it and to my eyes he looked good. I’m not the doctor, but from my eyes he looked good. What’s hard is the conditioning situation. You can condition nonbasketball in the pool, on the treadmill. There are a million ways to do it, but it’s different from basketball conditioning."
Getting Mitchell back is a big step for the Billikens, who have had to give Mike McCall and Jordair Jett most of the guard minutes in the opening part of the season and forced Crews to at times use them and others out of position.
After a rough November -- the Billikens were 3-3 -- Saint Louis has attained some momentum in December. It has won five in a row.
Mitchell returns at the perfect time. On New Year’s Eve, Saint Louis will face a New Mexico team that upset Cincinnati on Thursday night. He arrives nearly two weeks before the team’s A-10 opener against UMass on Jan. 10.
Don’t sleep on Saint Louis and its ability to compete for the conference title with Mitchell back in the mix.