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I went on the SLU campus today to watch pickup action among eight current or incoming Billikens, two former Billikens, and a few others, including some non-coach athletic department staffers.

First of all, I met a couple of staunch Billikens fans. First I met fellow poster bart (holla back, bart! -- it was good to meet you). Then I met Carl Eisert. I'm sure some of you SLU alumni and boosters (and other posters) know him. Who and/or what doesn't this guy know? The guy talked my ear off and I could hardly concentrate on the action! Bart told me that the guy is a walking historian of Billikens sports. Everyone -- EVERYONE -- who walked by knew Mr. Eisert. He's not into computers and message boards, so he's most likely not reading this (but I know stuff gets to him, anyway), but I'm going to say this, anyway. Carl, it was good to meet you and talk hoops with you.

Now, about the games!

There isn't much I can really tell you about some pickup action other than general observations -- that may not be newsflashes. First of all the former Bills that "suited up" today were Dave Fergerson and Justin Love. Ferg played ball in Norway and Love in China(!) In my opinion, Ferg and Love dominated the play (to my chagrin), and the only one of the current Billikens who seemed to be able to play with them was Josh Fisher (all three were always on the same team, and I don't think they ever lost).

The other seven current Billikens were Reggie Bryant, Anthony Drejaj, Tom Frericks, Bryce Husak (left early), Justin Johnson, Floyd McClain, and Izik Ohanon.

Darren Clarke wasn't there. Bryce, Darren's roommate, told me that Darren has a sty in his eye and can't see. I don't know how long Capital D will be out of action. I told Bryce to tell Darren I say his nickname is "Capital D." Chris Sloan wasn't there and has rarely been at the scrimmages. The talk is that he has an internship that keeps him away. Ross Varner and Phillip Hunt were the other missing Billikens (Ian Vouyoukas is in Thessaloniki, as you know, and Brandon Morris is finishing up juco).

Don't take too long to read this segment! Fish takes the ball to the hole with authority, and he pushes the ball up the floor.... It was good to see McClain in action. He looks good, is apparently finally healthy with no lingering nagging injuries, and I expect him to play and contribute this year.... Bryant will be a force -- not on Love's level, but still a force.... Izik still has trouble finishing in traffic, but if he gets a clear path to the hoop, look out!... JJ doesn't seem to be focused out there in unstructured scrimmages. Carl told me he performs better with a coach "motivating" him.... Frericks can score better than Kenny Brown. He didn't play that long today -- he's nursing an ankle injury he suffered in scrimmage Thursday.... AD is going to be pushed if he wants to play as much this year as last year.... I saw nothing to make me change my mind about Husak's readiness to play

On my way out, I encountered Melvin Robinson and had a good, long conversation with him. He lamented that many people around Saint Louis University (fans) treat him with much malice after all these years. Some even load the woes of the entire program on his shoulders (according to him). If anyone out there reading this still harbors a grudge against the Big Chill, please LET IT GO! People shouldn't be giving Melvin such grief when they see him these days. He left the program 12 years ago -- it's history. He was a young man whose coach was making him miserable, and he decided he had to leave. I can't blame him for that. When I was around that age, I transferred away from one college (Lake Forest) to UMSL (back home) because I felt uncomfortable, and I endured a lot less (I guess) than Melvin did. Based on what Melvin told me, Rich Grawer was no saint in the whole ordeal. I won't retell Melvin's "last straw" story now, but I will say that if it had been me, I would have left, too.

Melvin's son, Damien Smith-Robinson, is 11 years old and is 6-3 already. Melvin said he wears a size 17 shoe, and the doctors expect the young man to grow to around or over seven feet and wear a size 21 shoe! Melvin said his son currently says he wants to go to SLU like his dad did. He thinks Damien will consider going straight to the NBA out of high school, but he's going to encourage him to go to college. If the young man does decide to go to college and attend SLU, that would be great (in my opinion -- some people might still harbor hard feelings towards Melvin then), but that's seven or eight years down the road.

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Great report!!

What time frame do the guys meet up to play? What about the members here who are not students anymore...any trouble getting into Simon?

The Melvin info was interesting...I'm sure there are a lot of those type of stories tat noone has ever heard.

And your info about Carl was dead on. I met him when I used to work at a movie theatre...he'd talk your ear off about everything. A very genuinely nice man.

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I think I got there between 4:15 and 4:30, and they had yet to organize play. I think they started in the neigborhood of 5 p.m. (give or take five to ten minutes).

As I'm not a SLU student, alumnus, or rec center member, I'm happy that they listened to my request and let me in without making me buy a daily guest pass. Maybe it helped that I had on a Billikens hat. I don't know if they'd let 15 to 20 people do it, but I'm sure they understand that it's only because the Bauman-Eberhardt (did I spell that right? Heck with it: West PIne!) is closed, and they don't hassle the public about admittance there.

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I'm very excited to hear that McClain is looking healthy and can contribute next year. From what I hear, he is very athletic which is definetly something this team needs. Based on the limited time we saw Floyd play, I remember him having an ugly shot. How did it look yesterday? Also, did he show signs of the athleticism we have all heard about? Thanks for the report!

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It's good to hear that Floyd is doing well. If I may add a few questions, did he look like he was in playing shape? I thought I remember that he had put on quite a bit of weight while he was injured. Also, how many years of eligibility would he have left - two? If Floyd can stay healthy enough to become a contributor, it could have a big impact on this team.

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Nice report, thicks. Sounds like a very raw group that needs the time on the floor together as a team we have all been talking about. Floyd McClain's progress report sounds good as well ... if for nothing mor ethan trying to get a handle on just what, if anything, this guy will ever provide. I hope he's healthy enough all year to finally get a chance to show what he's got.

Given that Fisher is the only current Bill getting a high mark on your report, I am still inclined NOT to set my sights too,too high.

Patience will indeed be a virtue.

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Thicks, good to meet you yesterday. A couple of short comments on yesterdays scrimmage. I was not surprising that guys playing in Europe look at bit better than current roster players. Playing pro ball in Europe or anywhere is quite different than being in college. No classes, no papers, no exams. Much, much more time to practice team wise and to work on individual skills. I couldn't believe how much Mo Jeffers improve after his first year in Europe.

I agree Reggie is going to make somethings happen this year. He's streaky and needs to stay concentrated on defense. How about his block on Love on that one drive! Reggie seems to be a streaky shooter but when he is in the groove he will score. Yesterday was the first time I Tsaw Frierichs. He is one beefy dude. He did run the floor pretty well. After playing against Tom one on one yesterday for much of the scrimmage, I'm sure Bryce is starting to quickly learn the difference between high school and college ball. Tom is a load.

P.S. Josh told me that Marque played in a week long tourney in Germany recently and will has offers from Europe. I wish him well.

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no way carl is triangle and too. carl is a true blue pure billiken fan that would never ever take the billikens name in vain the way tri did quite regularly.

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Thick, those of us who have been around watching the program for years know that Grawer was very inflexible and one of the reasons he ultimately was let go was because he was chasing to many players away. The funny thing was that he recruited a few players with some issues and then was not willing to alter his approach - just simply expected them to be like everyone else. I hold no grudge against Melvin or Grawer. Both did what they thought was best. I hope the athletic office/dept. treats any past player even if they left for whatever the reason as part of the family. I agree - anyone who is still upset with Melvin needs to get a perspective.

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I have no problem with the Big Chill at all, and thought that he had some decent minutes in his all too short Billiken career. If his son turns out to be a player, then I hope that Big Chill had enough good memories that he steers his son to SLU.

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thicks, it is unfortunate that Melvin feels the way he does about Rich Grawer and some SLU fans. Live is too short!

Personally, I felt Melvin had more NBA potential than 98.0% of all Billiken freshman recruits. You talk about unfulfilled potential (my expectations for MR) and Melvin is near the top of my list. With the money being paid in the NBA and in Europe, Melvin left millions

on the table.

On certain days I have the occasion to remember one of my favorite Proverbs...somewhere in Chapter 18....goes like this...."Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight". (or something like that.)

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while i have no ill feelings anymore towards big mel, i find it hard to believe that coach grawer ever asked melvin to do anything that wasnt in the best interests of melvin long term. if melvin couldnt see that, i am sorry. grawer seems to be as good of a person as it gets.

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Floyd looks healthy, but I can't say he's in playing shape. He didn't wow me with athleticism, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. He just didn't really have the opportunity. I can't comment on the form of his shot, but he did miss a few and hit a few (including a three-pointer). I believe he'll play and contribute.

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I can guarantee that Carl is not Triangle and Too, willie. I hope you're just making a joke.

First of all, Tri claimed to have attended Arizona; Carl attended SLU. The guy bleeds, eats, drinks, sleeps, and breathes Saint Louis U.

This is the kind of thing that pushes Carl's buttons, though. The first part of our conversation was about how incensed he was that, as someone told him, some negative statement about a Billiken and his name were connected on some message board. He said that he's not into computers and doesn't even have an e-mail address, so there's no way it could be him. He also talked about how it's wrong for a poster to make statements and attribute it to someone else. It was obviously a sore spot for him.

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Although I completely agree with the statement that Grawer was very inflexible and this was probably one of the reasons he was let go. One could make an argument that he was the best recruiter out of our last 4 coaches( although honestly it's too early to include Sodaberg) You'd have to agree that he got some of the best local talent to come to Slu during his reign.

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Why is Rich Grawer portrayed as such a saint while Melvin Robinson is villianized?

Melvin said that Grawer was a very caustic person who would talk about players and their mothers, making snide comments like (an example by me, not a direct quote), "Your mama could rebound better than you!" Grawer, based on Melvin's description, strikes me as a taskmaster/drill sargeant type of the same mold that made Norm Stewart and Bob Knight. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, good or bad, but it is a personality style that doesn't suit everyone. Melvin told me that the last straw was when he was sick and the doctor had even told Grawer (in a conference including Melvin and his Mom) that Robinson should sit out practice for a day or two. Well, it so happened that when practice came around, Grawer made Melvin suit up and take part in the opening suicide. He couldn't get through it fast enough in his condition (sick), so Grawer put the team through it again. Sick (literally), tired, and fed up, Melvin said what was on his mind (though he can't remember what he said), and quit.

Grawer apparently rubbed other players the wrong way a few times too many. Carlos Skinner and McGlother Irvin also left that season. Were they all in the wrong? Melvin said that Skinner had been contemplating leaving even before he decided himself to leave and it was because of Grawer's ways. According to Melvin, Grawer didn't know how to interact with African American young men from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Melvin also said that he knew Grawer would be toast after that season even before he left. He said that Debbie Yow tried to persuade him to stay. I guess for a young man living in the moment, it was too hard for him to get through three more months of that man.

I suppose some of the people I'm responding to in this part of the thread may have been being sarcastic and/or wanted to hear the story rather than accept my generalizations. Well, there it is.

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...to get the best talent if you can't keep those players around and find a way to motivate them to play well without alienating them?

Also, if Grawer brought in the best talent, it doesn't show in the Bills' NCAA Tournament appearance ledger.

Look, I've met Rich Grawer, and I don't have anything against him. But apparently, his philosophy of teaching/coaching didn't mesh with the learning styles of the players he was working with. As a future teacher, myself, I'm going to have to be very cognizant of the learning styles of my students and what motivates them and adjust my teaching style to suit them, unless I want to flunk a lot of students, which would anger my principal (boss) and probably cost me my job. But I'm a teacher, not a flunker.

The reason Grawer isn't coaching at all anymore is probably that he realized that his style wasn't working but he wasn't willing to change. I have no problem with that. I asked him why he didn't go back into coaching, and he told me that he didn't want to go back into coaching and that he was happy doing what he was doing (he's the athletic director at Clayton High School).

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You'll just have to take my word for it (I have no reason to lie).

McClain did miss a couple of threes, so he missed more than he made. Keep in mind that he did hit a couple of threes as a freshman.

I'm not saying McClain will be great, but he looked good yesterday and I believe he'll get some clock.

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thicks, since I'm not a lawyer, I don't know what qualifies as "admissable evidence". I will leave that question up Nark or BillikenLaw.

Looking back over this thread I didn't see where anyone called Grawer a saint or Melvin a villian. I'm puzzled by your wording!

With eight members of my extended family being teachers, including one living in my home, I wish you good luck in that very important and valuable profession.

Hopefully in the future, if two of your students get into a scuffle when your back is turned, that you will get both sides of the story before handing out disciplinary measures.

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grawer's ncaa record is more indicative of the conference the billikens were in than their actual worth. imo, bonner's last two seasons were teams that would have been in the ncaa with the schedule and conference the billikens are in now. runner-up finishes in the nit is proof they were at least very close talentwise.

if i remember correctly, the mid-western cities conference sent only one represenative each season and that was xavier. i seem to remember one of those seasons the billikens won like 26 or 27 games. just not in the right place at the right time. all the more reason it is important the billikens not end up now in the mvc or horizon conference.

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>thicks, since I'm not a lawyer, I don't know what qualifies

>as "admissable evidence". I will leave that question up Nark

>or BillikenLaw.

You may be joking, but I'll respond as if you're not. This is the court of public opinion, so you don't have to be a lawyer to decide whether or not you will accept "evidence."

>Looking back over this thread I didn't see where anyone

>called Grawer a saint or Melvin a villian. I'm puzzled by

>your wording!

tseugnekillib, you said, "thicks, it is unfortunate that Melvin feels the way he does about Rich Grawer and some SLU fans. Life is too short!" Later, you said, "On certain days I have the occasion to remember one of my favorite Proverbs...somewhere in Chapter 18....goes like this....'Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight' (or something like that)." Roy said, "i find it hard to believe that coach grawer ever asked melvin to do anything that wasnt in the best interests of melvin long term. if melvin couldnt see that, i am sorry. grawer seems to be as good of a person as it gets." To me it seems that both of you are taking Grawer's side and questioning Robinson's feelings. That's why I responded by telling Melvin's side of the story in more detail.

For the record, the Living Bible paraphrases Prov. 18:17 as, "Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight." (KJV: "He that is first in his own cause seems just, but his neighbor comes and searches him." NIV: "The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.") As far as I'm concerned, the story of Grawer and many SLU fans who hold a grudge against Robinson is "first," and I'm presenting Melvin's side of the story to set the record straight. However, nothing I'm saying is intended to make Grawer out to be a bad man. I'm just saying that any SLU fans who are making Melvin feel uncomfortable whenever he makes an appearance on campus should stop because his reasons for transferring out seem reasonable.

Shoot, there are some SLU fans who make Grawer feel uncomfortable whenever SLU comes up as a topic of conversation because he was fired for "running players away," but what I've said is that Grawer's philosophy of teaching/coaching didn't mesh with the players he had to work with but he was unwilling to change it. I don't feel I'm blasting him by saying that. It's just that he didn't find his niche in coaching at SLU, though other coaches with similar teaching styles HAVE found their niches (Bob Knight at Texas Tech; John Chaney at Temple; probably a number of others I don't know about). It has been, and still is, my opinion that Rich Grawer was a good coach who should still be in coaching, but Rich said he's more comfortable not being in coaching. I hope that I'm able to express different sides of a story without letting too many of my personal feelings intrude.

>With eight members of my extended family being teachers,

>including one living in my home, I wish you good luck in

>that very important and valuable profession.

Thank you. I sincerely appreciate that.

>Hopefully in the future, if two of your students get into a

>scuffle when your back is turned, that you will get both

>sides of the story before handing out disciplinary measures.

I'm going to be a high-school teacher. If two students are involved in a fight and I don't see how it happened, both students get referred to their principal's office and the principal will decide on the disciplinary action. I get your point, though, and will say that I believe I have been and will be fair to all involved. Sometimes, though, a teacher must act first and ask questions later. That may mean that while one student gets in trouble immediately, the other student gets in trouble after the teacher has had time to investigate and ask questions of both parties.

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Lets get this straight.

Grawer was a great coach, he was a disciplinarian though. My father and I were very close to the Grawer program and I truly believe that Grawer didn't run anybody off that that any other would have as well.

I don't know how Melvin thinks he takes the brunt of criticism for SLU's predicament. I don't blame him for anything. Grawer was on his way out whether Melvin stayed or left. If Melvin was uncomfortable with rich so be it, but you can't just coddle certain players like that. Melvin wanted special treatment, he wasn't going to get it from Rich and he did not get it anywhere else either.

More than anything I feel sorry for Melvin. He had a ton of natural talent, he could have had quite a pro career with a little more work. There is no doubt in my mind that if Melvin would have stayed with SLU he would have been a first round pick. Melvin did not want to work though, he listened to the wrong people namely Floyd Irons, the coach Arizona St and the group around him. They never looked out for his best interests and he suffered because of it.

Look Melvin is what in his early 30s. What is he doing now? Did he say what his profession was. I doubt if he is playing pro ball anymore. He and the people around him ruined any chance of him being successful at bball. If he would have sucked it up and stayed at SLU and ignored the leeches around him he would be a backup in the league right now instead of giving some woe is me routine to a total stranger at a billiken scrimmage.

Finally as is typical Melvin only thinks of himself. SlU ruined him, Rich was too tough on him. He has been told his whole life that it was everybody elses fault. I hope he figures out one day what personal responsibilty means.

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>I don't know how Melvin thinks he takes the brunt of

>criticism for SLU's predicament. I don't blame him for

>anything. Grawer was on his way out whether Melvin stayed

>or left. If Melvin was uncomfortable with rich so be it,

>but you can't just coddle certain players like that. Melvin

>wanted special treatment, he wasn't going to get it from

>Rich and he did not get it anywhere else either.

Anecdotal evidence -- all ways around. Of course you don't blame Melvin for anything, but that doesn't mean there aren't others who do. Melvin feels that there are some fanatical supporters of SLU who give him a hard time whenever he shows up on campus. Who are we to argue with his perceptions?

Second, going back to Melvin's "last straw" example. If the doctor says the player is sick and should sit out a practice or two, how is it "coddling" the player to let him rest, just shooting free throws on the side for one session? There's a difference between "not coddling" and being an out-and-out jerk.

>More than anything I feel sorry for Melvin. He had a ton of

>natural talent, he could have had quite a pro career with a

>little more work. There is no doubt in my mind that if

>Melvin would have stayed with SLU he would have been a first

>round pick. Melvin did not want to work though, he listened

>to the wrong people namely Floyd Irons, the coach Arizona St

>and the group around him. They never looked out for his

>best interests and he suffered because of it.

I can't really respond to that commentary. I will say, though, that I get the sense that Melvin questions some of the decisions he made back then. But hindsight is 20/20 and people in their early 20s don't always make the best decisions. Also, based on your later commentary, I don't think you really feel sorry for the man at all; rather, you feel sorry that you missed out on seeing what you expected from him as a ballplayer. The thing is, he didn't really want to play basketball and started only because his mother really wanted him to. It wasn't until he got to SLU and started doing well that he developed some self-confidence and began to enjoy playing the game.

>Look Melvin is what in his early 30s. What is he doing now?

> Did he say what his profession was. I doubt if he is

>playing pro ball anymore.

Melvin is 33, and he plays professional basketball overseas.

>He and the people around him

>ruined any chance of him being successful at bball.

Not only is he in professional ball overseas, but he also played as a backup for the Milwaukee Bucks for three years.

>If he

>would have sucked it up and stayed at SLU and ignored the

>leeches around him he would be a backup in the league right

>now

Melvin admitted that much during our conversation.

>instead of giving some woe is me routine to a total

>stranger at a billiken scrimmage.

That is a biased and incorrect characterization of the nature of the conversation.

>Finally as is typical Melvin only thinks of himself. SlU

>ruined him, Rich was too tough on him. He has been told his

>whole life that it was everybody elses fault. I hope he

>figures out one day what personal responsibilty means.

Now you're putting words in the man's mouth, and you weren't even there to hear what he said. And I can't figure out how you got that out of my narration! Also, I think Melvin thinks of his son a lot and doesn't just think of himself. Another thing: I guess Rich Grawer had Melvin's best interests in mind and wasn't thinking of himself at all when he ignored a doctor's advice and pushed Melvin when he was too sick to go and then insulted him as if he were a red-headed step-child.

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