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Perkins will return to SLU for extra season

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Amid speculation that Javonte Perkins would return to use his final year of eligibility at St. Louis University, point guard Yuri Collins was asked at the end of the season what impact the 6-foot-6 wing might have on the Billikens.

“Top 25 for sure,” he said.

Time will tell if that lofty prediction is realized, but Perkins at least will give SLU a fighting chance after announcing Monday that he will play in 2022-23 after missing last season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Perkins was considered a top Atlantic 10 Conference player of the year candidate before the injury. He averaged 17.1 points during the shortened 20-21 season and 15 his first season at SLU after transferring from Southwestern Illinois College.

Perkins likely will place the Billikens among the favorites in the Atlantic 10 next season when combined with the team’s other expected returning players, including starters Collins, Gibson Jimerson, Fred Thatch Jr. and Francis Okoro.

He is considered arguably the best pure scorer at SLU since Larry Hughes in the late 1990s because of his ability to shoot 3-pointers, get to the rim and make mid-range jumpers anywhere on the floor.

“When someone shoots as well as he does, you look for every opportunity to get the ball in his hands,” Hughes said of Perkins in 2020. “Since retiring (from the NBA) and watching the (SLU) program consistently, he’s the best I’ve seen.”

Perkins shot 45.3% in his first two seasons at SLU. He made 36.3% of his 3s and 79.7% of his free throws, often controlling the ball in the final minutes of tight games.

He was honored at SLU’s senior day recently and the crowd broke into a chant of “One more year.” Perkins is not expected to be playing until after July, which would be the ninth month of his recovery.

“I am excited to stay with ‘team blue’ for another season and represent St. Louis University and my city,” Perkins said in a statement. “I’d like to thank the SLU medical staff, who has been working with me daily in my rehab. I am going to continue to work hard this summer and can’t wait to be back at Chaifetz Arena in front of our great fans.”

Perkins was not available to comment further.

SLU already is known to have a tough nonconference schedule that will include games at home against Memphis and Boise State. The Billikens will play at Auburn and in a multi-team event in Connecticut with Providence, Miami and Maryland.

Adding to his comments about Perkins recently, Collins said, “Just look at what we did this year. It would be crazy if everyone did return. It would be a show for sure.”

SLU was 23-11 and finished fifth in the A-10, with a 12-6 mark. The Billikens reached the semifinals of the conference tournament and lost in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.

Perkins set the career scoring record at SWIC but needed some time to get rolling at SLU in his first season. However, he emerged as one of the A-10’s top scorers the second half of the season while coming off the bench.

The breakthrough game that caught everyone’s attention came at the start of the 2020-21 season when he scored 32 points in a win over Louisiana State. That was the season that saw the Billikens reach the national rankings before fading after more than a 30-day shutdown because of a COVID outbreak.

His return will bring together the program’s two best scorers of recent years. Jimerson emerged this season to pick up the scoring slack and average a career-best 16.3 points.

Meanwhile, Jordan Nesbitt’s situation has yet to be addressed. The freshman guard announced last week on social media that he planned to enter the NBA draft pool without saying if he was leaving open the possibility of returning.

Then over the weekend, Nesbitt deleted the posts about the NBA, but there has been no information regarding his plan.

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