Avila picks next season's destination -- SLU

Apr. 20—After rising to college basketball cult-hero status over two big seasons at Indiana State, Robbie Avila has picked his destination for the 2024-25 season.

Saint Louis University.

"I decided it was best for me to go somewhere else," Avila said Saturday afternoon on the Field of 68 podcast.

He'd been contacted by "all the Power 5" schools, he said, but there was an obvious reason for his choice of the Billikens.

"I had a lot of fun there, at lot of success at Indiana State under coach [Josh] Schertz, and decided there's no reason to go away from him," Avila concluded. SLU is now coached by Schertz, who previously coached the past three seasons at ISU.

Avila came to Schertz's ISU squad as one of the most highly rated high school prospects ever to pick Indiana State. The 6-foot-10, 240-pound Avila made an immediate impact as a central figure in the Sycamores' 23-13 finish in 2022-23.

It got better. Avila's deft passing and 3-point shooting distinguished him from most collegiate big men, and put him into the unusual role of point-center. He would take the ball to the top of the key, deliver slick passes to teammates like Julian Larry or Ryan Conwell cutting to the basket, or turn to shoot a 3, or drive into the lane for an interior basket.

"My versatility is what sticks out the most," Avila said Saturday in discussing this recruitment.

His statistics in ISU's generational 2023-24 season illuminate Avila's versatility. As a sophomore, he averaged 17.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists as the Sycamores finished 32-7 as the National Invitation Tournament runners-up.

He also shot 39.4% from 3-point range, surprising unprepared defenses that often sagged off him. Avila sank 61 3-pointers out of 155 attempts. He was one of ISU's top four long-range shooters.

Those numbers marked a jump from his freshman season, when Avila averaged 10.7 points, 4 rebounds and 1.6 assists.

Avila delivered six statistical double-doubles last season, and one of the biggest came on a grand stage — the NIT Final Four in Indianapolis' sold-out Hinkle Fieldhouse. Facing a tall Utah squad with a pair of 7-foot starters, Avila came through with 26 points and 10 rebounds as ISU eliminated the Utes 100-90. That sent the Sycamores into the NIT final, where the Sycamores lost a heartbreaker 79-77 to Seton Hall, after going scoreless in the final 3 minutes with a 77-70 lead.

Avila's trademark goggles became iconic and replicas could be spotted among the growing crowds in Hulman Center, worn by both kids and adults, and occasionally Schertz's coaches and teammates. His average-Joe style on and off the court also has made Avila a hit among national sports media outlets.

Avila joined several other 2023-24 Sycamores who entered the NCAA transfer portal after Schertz left ISU on April 6 to coach at the Saint Louis, replacing Travis Ford, who'd been there for eight seasons. Four other Sycamore starters went into the portal, including Larry, Conwell, Isaiah Swope and Jayson Kent, along with reserves Masen Miller, Eli Shetlar, Aaron Gray and Augustinas Kiudulas. Later, Kent and Larry committed to Texas, and Conwell to Xavier.

At least two other potential returnees remain committed to ISU — 6-10 freshman Derek Vorst, who filled in for Avila occasionally, and 6-7 forward Jaden Daughtry.

Gray withdrew from the portal this week to stay at ISU.

ISU promoted Matthew Graves, Schertz's three-year associate head coach, to the Sycamores' head-coaching position.

Graves is in the process of reassembling next season's team and his coaching staff, of which he added former University of New Orleans head coach Mark Slessinger as the new associate head coach.