It’s the look on his face. It’s not rage filled, it’s not angry, it’s not even meant to intimidate. It is pure and unfiltered determination. The look in front of a mind thinking, “There is no way, on my watch, that we are losing this game.” From the opening tip to the final buzzer of SLU’s 62-46 season opening win over Seattle, Javon Bess controlled the game. He controlled the offensive tempo, led the effort of the dogged and strangling defense, and most importantly, led his squad by example.
Javon Bess does not scare, he does not wilt, he wants the basketball. I know it seems strange, but doesn’t everyone want the basketball? The short answer, no. Everyone wants the ball when the rhythm of the game is great, they’re getting their shots, and it’s coming easy. But there are a select set of men that want the ball when things aren’t going well. When the offense is struggling, when teammates are turning the rock over on ill-advised passes that were coached out of them in 7th grade, when things are going exactly the opposite of everything you practiced and planned, there are different breed of men that want the ball.
Javon Bess is one of these men.
The game started, sloppy basketball to be expected during a season opener on a squad with new faces in front of a raucous crowd on an adrenaline filled Friday night. That sort of thing is easy enough to slough off. The game will work itself out, right? Not for Javon Bess. After a start that included an ugly three-point miss, an offensive foul, and a turnover, Bess had enough. Off a steal by Jalen Johnson, Bess took the ball and just went. His basketball instincts seemed to take over and tell him, “No, you get to the rack and you reset this game and set a new tone. NOW.” He trucked down the right side, up to the basket, hit on the body, hit on the arm, lay-up good, tone set. The first bucket was earned the way many will be this season. Not through grace and beauty, but through will, want, and purpose.
As in everything, the future is unwritten for this Billiken’s squad, but if the rest of the squad is led by Javon Bess, and heeds his example like they did on Friday night, I can guarantee one thing for certain. You may lose to SLU, you may beat SLU, that’s a matter of basketball, a friendly rim, and good bounces at times. But, no matter the final score, if you step on the hardwood with this year’s Billikens, you will FEEL them. You won’t leave with a drip of sweat in your body, and you will know you did battle.
And that is the exact squad a town like St. Louis can rally behind.