Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bess Stresses Defense for Billikens

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bess Stresses Defense for Billikens

Article excerpt

At an age when kids want to prove themselves on the basketball court by scoring, Javon Bess had another favorite pursuit, one most young players don't easily embrace.

Many years later, as a senior for St. Louis University, that dedication to work without the ball in his hands is paying big dividends.

"Defense is something I've always hung my hat on, even when I was younger," Bess said. "It's just something I take pride in -- trying to stop the best player on the other team. I tried to guard the best player probably starting in middle school."

SLU's 6-foot-6 small forward made the all-defensive team in his first season in the Atlantic 10 as a junior. He'll start his senior season as a member of the preseason A-10 all-defensive team and a second-team all-conference selection.

His defense doesn't come with flashy numbers. Jordan Goodwin averaged more steals last season and Hasahn French blocked more shots. But coach Travis Ford has promoted Bess as the team's defensive stalwart.

Bess just wants to be that defender who frustrates a high-scoring opponent. Big and physical, he can be a handful for scorers at most any position.

"I think he's the best defender in our league," coach Travis Ford said, "and one of the best defenders in the country."

Originally signed by Michigan State, Bess did a little bit of everything last season, leading the Billikens in scoring with a 13.3 average and ranking second in rebounding (7.4), assists (2.2) and steals (1.2).

He was among the national leaders in free-throw attempts most of the season and finished attempting 211 or 6.4 per game.

Bess did it all while leading SLU in playing time, a development that grew largely out of the team's shortage of players and Ford's desire to squeeze every ounce of energy out of his most well-rounded player.

"His greatest strength is his tangibles -- his approach to the game," Ford said. …

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