Soderberg faces comings and goings with basketball roster

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Brad Soderberg is probably an excellent juggler by now.

In his first few months at the helm of the Billikens, Soderberg has had to juggle the Billiken roster for next season with several recent arrivals and departures. Since the spring, the Saint Louis University basketball team inked four new players, which helped offset the departure of three Billikens who have made the decision to transfer.

Most recently, the team announced the departure of point guard Randy Pulley and the signing of 6′ 2″, 190-lb. point guard Anthony Drejaj (West Orange, N.J. / Seton Hall Prep). Pulley is leaving the program for academic reasons and is now looking at junior colleges as his next option.

Drejaj is one of the four new Billikens expected to fortify the team and help fill the void left by Pulley and the others who have left the program.

As a senior in high school, Drejaj received several accolations, including being named a sixth-team All-state selection, and was named to NJ Hoops’ Top Defender and All-Hustle teams. According to NJ Hoops Newsletter, Drejaj was the top uncommitted senior at the end of the academic yer.

“Anthony comes from a strong high school program where he was a tough, tenacious performer,” Soderberg said in a release. “He has good size and the type of frame to be successful in Conference USA, along with the ability to score and defend. He will help raise the intensity level of our entire team with his style of play.”

Drejaj is anticipated to contribute offensively and defensively to the Billiken squad. During his senior year, Drejaj averaged 14.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 4.5 steals per game.

In June, the team announced the addition of 22-year-old international student Izchak Ochanon brings years of international experience under his belt, including limited playing time with the Hapoel Jerusalem team this past year and the silver-medal-winning Israeli Under-20 National Team in the 2000 European Championship.

“Izchak is a 6′ 9″ player who can operate inside or outside, and has the potential to be a starter for us. He can shoot (the ball) from the perimeter, handle it out on the floor and pass it,” Soderberg said in a release.

Just days after the annoucement of the addition of Ochanon, Soderberg announced freshmen John Seyfert was granted a release to transfer. Seyfert expressed a desire to play closer to his home in Montana, though his destination is not yet determined.

Early in June, former Villanova guard Reggie Bryant announced his decision to transfer into the Billikens’ program. Because of NCAA rules, Bryant will sit out the 2002-2003 season and will have two years of eligibility beginning in the 2003-2004 season.

Last season at Villanova, Bryant averaged nine points at 2.3 rebounds per game. He was second in three-point shooting, with 54 threes, and was 38.6 percent from outside. Bryant achieved a career-high 19 points against Temple in a quarterfinal loss in a National Invitation Tournament.

“Reggie is an important player to us because he’s a proven scorer capable of stepping into Marque Perry’s shoes after Marque graduates,” Soderberg said earlier. “Reggie averaged nearly double figures last year in the Big East, where shots don’t come easily or uncontested.”

One week after the news of Bryant’s transfer came, the Bills announced that guard Jason Edwin will also leave the program for academic reasons. Edwin will attend a junior college next year and would like to return to the Billikens for the 2003-2004 season.

Edwin led the Billikens offensively last season, averaging 9.2 points per game and starting 18 of 31 games.

Edwin’s decision to leave came three weeks after Soderberg signed his first recruit, Justin Johnson (Merrilville. Ind. / Merrilville). The 6′ 8″ forward was a Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-American and a member of Hoosier Basketball’s preseason first-team All-State squad.

“Justin is an appealing player because he is a big body who can move out and hit the perimeter jump shot, and he also has a sound low-post game,” Soderberg said in a release.

Johnson originallycommitted to Kansas State during the 2001 early signing period but was released from his letter of intent due to changes in the Wildcats’ spring roster.