After winning four of its first six games, the 2012 men’s basketball team appears more talented than advertised.
But how good could the team be if more of its recent recruits were playing in a Saluki jersey?
SIU has rebounded well this season despite a lack of size at the post positions. Senior guard Jeff Early leads the team with 8.5 rebounds per game in his first season playing the hybrid position. The 6-foot-1 guard is usually defended by larger post players, but he somehow manages to out-hustle opposing team’s big men.
Imagine how the team would play with its full stable of post players led by a healthy sophomore forward Dantiel Daniels, who said he still isn’t in 100 percent condition after his Nov. 17 return to the court against Benedictine-Springfield. Daniels led the Missouri Valley Conference in blocked shots last season, and his production led him to an MVC All-Freshman team honor.
The sophomore forward has yet to reclaim his excellence from the previous season, as he averages fewer than three rebounds per contest so far. If he were healthy coming into the season, Daniels would be the Salukis’ premier big man, as he’s only 6-foot-5. He would be able to develop at a much more rapid pace because he would spend more time playing in coach Barry Hinson’s brand new Kansas-style offense.
With junior guard Desmar Jackson and senior guard Kendall Brown-Surles’ improved shooting from the perimeter, Daniels would add a more consistent post presence if he were back in shape.
Freshman forward Bola Olaniyan was recruited out of Richmond High School in Indiana. Orignially from Lagos, Nigeria, the freshman would be a rebounding monster for the Salukis if not for an NCAA qualification stipulation that effectively made him redshirt his first season. The 6-foot-7 forward has been impressive in this season’s practice. Early said Olaniyan is one of the best offensive rebounders he has witnessed, and he attributes this year’s rebounding success to the freshman.
Early also said it is through Olaniyan’s rebounding effort against him in practice that he has become a much improved player and rebounder.
Former Saluki center Gene Teague would also be a valued addition to the basketball team’s rotation of frontcourt players. Teague transferred to Seton Hall University last season and is playing quite well for the Pirates this year. He is the team’s leading rebounder and second leading scorer in his first season with Seton Hall basketball.
If Teague were still in a Saluki jersey, he would be a junior and possible team leader. He would lead a vaunted Saluki post attack and provide length at a position that doesn’t exist on the current roster.
Junior guard Diamond Taylor is perhaps the best player the Salukis are without. Taylor was highly recruited out of Bolingbrook High School and was tabbed an SIU basketball savior when he transferred from Wisconsin in 2010. He is a versatile 2-guard who can score from the perimeter or slash to the lane.
With both him and Jackson at the wing position, the Saluki perimeter game would be as dangerous as its post.