The 2012 Saluki basketball season hasn’t started yet, but first-year coach Barry Hinson has already been forced to make significant changes to his team.
The basketball team has been marred with injuries since the end of last season. Hinson said at a press conference Tuesday that sophomore guard Josh Swan, who started nine games last year, will miss up to three weeks. Sophomore forward Dantiel Daniels will be out for at least five weeks and freshman forward Chase Heins won’t be available for another 12 weeks following a knee surgery.Hinson did not elaborate on the specific injuries of each player.
The Salukis held their first walk-on tryouts Sept. 5. However, Hinson said more tryouts may be necessary if more injuries occur.
“We have actually opened up the walk-on tryouts, I think, once again,” he said. “We laugh about that, but guys, that’s the truth. We are actively right now still searching for somebody we can have hopefully to help us on the practice floor, hopefully to help us possibly in a game. We can’t absorb much more.”
Hinson said freshman forward Bola Olaniyan will redshirt as a partial academic qualifyer because of NCAA rules that a student athlete is required to meet it’s minimum grade point average and SAT/ACT score. Heins will also redshirt because of the team’s injuries.
Junior guard Diamond Taylor is still suspended indefinitely for his Sept. 22 driving under the influence citation, and Hinson said he would not reinstate him solely because the team needs another body out on the court. Taylor is not listed on the 2012 roster.
Hinson said he is trying to repair and improve the team’s image.
“I’m really upset at Diamond,” he said. “I’m really upset because you know the easiest thing for me to do right now is to bring him out of suspension based on all the things that have happened. I can promise you that’s not happening.”
The Salukis finished ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference last season and won only two road games. They were also last in both free-throw percentage (64 percent) and 3-point shooting (28 percent).
SIU lost team-leader Mamadou Seck, who averaged 13.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.6 assistes per game when he graduated in the spring. However, the team will return its next top three scorers, Daniels, senior guard Jeff Early and senior guard Kendal Brown-Surles.
Hinson said the younger players will have the opportunity to prove themselves because of the injury outbreak.
Freshman guard Anthony Beane Jr. said he looks forward to the upcoming season and working with the coaching staff. His father, Anthony Beane Sr., is an assistant coach on the staff.
“My dad was familiar with some of the coaches, especially Barry,” Anthony Beane said. “He spoke very highly of them, and I see why. I’m already learning a lot, and upperclassmen like T.J. (Lindsay) motivate me. This year we should be a more athletic team, and if we contain and protect the ball, we should win a few games,” Beane said.
Senior guard Jeff Early said he will do whatever it takes for his team to win this year.
“We have to be exciting this year so that we can bring fans back to the arena. When you think about the teams in the MVC, they all have recognizable players. I want to be that guy for the Salukis,” Early said. “I’ve got to step my game up, be a leader on and off the court and stay healthy. I’m in a position on the team where everyone looks up to me, and that’s OK with me.”
Early said he realizes how important everyone’s health is to the team right now, so he has been working out less to decrease the risk of injury.
“I had to cut down on the weights,” he said. “I think all of our bodies have been taking a toll, especially since we started practicing. Coaches have been stressing the need to take care of your body the right way. They even showed us a film on recovery tips.”
With so many injured front-court players, Early said he expects to play the power forward position primarily.
“I’ll probably be playing a lot of the four hybrid, (which means) I’ll defend and be guarded as a power (forward), but I’ll still be able to play a one or two (guard) on offense,” he said. “Yeah, I’ll be going up against guys bigger than me, but I’ll have a huge speed advantage.”
The team finished second to last in both offensive and defensive field-goal percentage last season, which allowed other teams to shoot 47 percent from the field while shooting only 41 percent collectively.
Sophomore forward Antonio Bryer said he must take a more demanding role on the team this year.
“As one of the few healthy big men left on the team, I have to be more assertive and put myself in more plays. If I help set the tone on offense and defense, I believe the team will be a lot better,” Bryer said.
Hinson said he will alter the offensive scheme to improve the low shooting percentages from last year, and his defense should be familiar to his players.
“The offensive system we want to play is the one where we put the ball in the hole, and that seems to have been a problem here over the past few years. We’re going to play just like we did at Kansas and just like we did at Missouri State. You’ve got to give freedom to shooters, give freedom to your guys. Defense, we’re going to play the exact same way we played at Missouri State, and we’re going to get after people. I don’t think that defense is something that is lacking in our guys,” he said.
As a coach who has seen success in college basketball, Hinson said he has never seen so much adversity.
“This is my 32nd year to coach, and we’ve had more issues happen since I’ve been here. The Thursday after the National Championship game, we’ve had more issues in that time period than I’ve had collectively over 31 years,” he said. “With that being said, it’s OK because what it does is it energizes you every day. My assistant coaches have a saying: ‘You’ve got (to) put on your boxing gloves and come to fight every day with this group because we’ve got a battle every day.’”
The Saluki basketball team will compete in its first exhibition game Saturday against Lincoln University in Carbondale.