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Team Player

Former SLU hoops star Scott Highmark on his life as a Billiken

By James Nicholson
Photograph by Pete Newcomb

Scott Highmark seems to have been on the local basketball scene forever. First it was a Missouri Class 4A state championship in 1991 at Parkway West; then he was a prominent fixture of Spoonball, the short-lived touchstone for Saint Louis University basketball fans. Now the Billiken Athletic Hall of Famer appears on Billiken broadcasts and the broadcast of the Class 4A high-school championship. A job at Citigroup Smith Barney pays the bills these days, but Highmark is still every bit the Billiken.

You seem to be living the pattern all parents of student-athletes wish for their children. [A big laugh.] You’ll have to ask my parents. In the minds of Billiken fans, you’re one of the faces of Spoonball, which by now seems to have reached almost mythic proportions. People have to remember, that team went on a wild journey. In our first two seasons [under Rich Grawer], we went 5-23 and 12-17. It was an incredible character-building time. As a high-profile former Billiken player, how does it feel to work Billiken games now? Even though I only broadcast about 10 games a year, it’s a great way to get my basketball fix. I still get nervous for the team on game days. The real difference is, I don’t get to experience that nirvana in the locker room after a big win. Or the halftime blistering after a lousy first half. Some things you don’t miss as much. How important is the on-campus arena for Saint Louis University? It’s paramount. It’s mission-critical to create a great atmosphere on campus—something that Savvis [now called the Scottrade Center] does not have. Students need to be there. They need to be visible in good seating. They need to register on TV. What’s the future for Billiken basketball? I think, perhaps, we’re in the next renaissance of growth. We’re possibly in the third inning of a nine-inning experience—and I think it’s pretty evident the fans are getting excited.