Saint Louis University Director of Athletics Chris May rolled out the red carpet to former Vashon alumni and Saint Louis University all-time leading scorer Anthony Bonner and a slew of others on Saturday night.
However, in a very surprising gesture, SLU also honored East St. Louis’ own Tommie Liddell III as one of their all-time greats by inducting him into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame last weekend.
Liddell, who starred for the Billikens from 2005-09, was recruited by then-Billiken head coach Brad “Lost in Space” Soderberg, who is now an assistant at the University of Virginia, and Angres “AT,” Thorpe now an assistant at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.
They also recruited Belleville Althoff’s Kevin “Honey Badger” Lisch, forming arguably the second best Billiken backcourt of all time, behind only Billiken greats Roland Gray and Monroe Douglass. Gray and Douglass amassed 3,757 points for the Billikens, compared to 3,238 points for Lisch and Tommie Liddell III.
The 6’4 swingman played for the late Dennis Brooks at East St. Louis and spent his senior year of high school at Hargrave Military Academy that has produced such legends as Coach Larry Brown and former St. Louis Rams wide receiver Torry “Big Game” Holt. In addition, he also played with the prestigious St. Louis Eagles AAU Basketball Club.
“That senior year of high school at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia really changed my life and made me mature as a young man,” said the soft-spoken Liddell.
“My support system was strong, and my determination to play at the collegiate level made me buckle down and do what I needed to do to get to Saint Louis University.”
Liddell’s career started off like a blaze as he earned freshman All-American honors in some publications.
Many Billiken faithful wouldn’t know how impressive Tommie Liddell III numbers were, since he had the ball taken out of his hands after late Billiken head coach Rick Majerus took over at SLU in 2007.
Both Liddell and Lisch were performing at All Conference levels in the Atlantic 10 under Soderberg. However, both Tommie Liddell III and Kevin Lisch’s play diminished under Majerus.
It’s important to note for those of you who may be thinking I’m picking on the late coach. In previous articles I’ve often praised his X’s and O’s ability. However, I was one of his biggest critics when it came to treatment of his players, assistants and support team.
A couple of things that I still remember about Majerus during his tenure were the disdain he had for the local talent that Billikens supporters wrapped their arms around, which led to the famous quote about the “618 Backcourt,” referring to Lisch and Liddell: “They didn’t ask for me, and I didn’t ask for them.”
Or the time he ran off sensational guard Rueben Cotto from Alton High school because he thought one of his recruits Kwamain Mitchell was going to transfer.
Or last but not least on senior night Saint Louis University administration having Liddell and Lisch saying farewell to the Billiken faithful after the game in a conference lost to LaSalle in front of an empty building.
But Director of Athletics Chris May and the athletic administration showed their love for Tommie Liddell III and his family on Saturday night. And the numbers TL3 put up during his career proved them right.
Liddell finished eighth all-time in scoring at SLU behind some former players who would make your mouth water regarding the company he’s with. In order, Anthony Bonner (1,972), Erwin Claggett (1,910), Roland Gray (1,880), Monroe Douglas (1,877), Scott Highmark (1,703), Kevin Lisch (1,691), Kwamain Mitchell (1,575) and Tommie Liddell III (1,547).
In addition, Liddell finished his career currently number at No. 8 all- time in rebounding (740), No. 2 in minutes played 4,306 total, first in average minutes played 34.4min ppg, currently tied for sixth all- time in games started with 121, fourth all-time in 3-point field goal percentage at .454 percent (49-108). He also averaged an astonishing 6.9 rebounds a game as a freshman.
It was a night of reflection and great memories for Tommie on Saturday night, exchanging congrats and gratitude from many, including longtime Billiken broadcasters Bob Ramsey and our own St. Louis American sports editor Earl Austin Jr. during the halftime ceremony.
In addition, both former Billikens and NBA players Anthony Bonner Larry Hughes showed their appreciation to the local hero staying home like they once did and playing for the Billikens.
Tommie’s mom Diane Rhodes was all smiles seeing her son walk onto the court at halftime as the Billiken crowd made a thunderous applause when her son name was announced over the public address system.
“I am so honored being here tonight to honor my son achievements at Saint. Louis University,” she said. “It has been such a great weekend for Tommie and our family.”
I was so proud of one off the all-time great East St. Louis Flyers on Saturday night at Chaifetz Arena and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Finally, he got the send -off that he deserved from the Saint Louis University basketball community.
Hats off to Director of Athletics Chris May, and the basketball family at Saint Louis University.