Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Lt. Col. Chay M. Derbigny will become commander and a professor of aerospace studies for Air Force ROTC Detachment 205 at 10 a.m. Friday, June 28, at Saluki Alumni Plaza, located between Woody and Pulliam halls on the SIU campus.
Murphysboro native named commander of SIU Air Force ROTC 
By Carly Gist, News Editor • July 15, 2024

Lt. Col. Chay M. Derbigny will soon take over as commander and professor of aerospace studies for Air Force ROTC Detachment 205 at Southern Illinois...

Marcus Domask (left) and Lance Jones (right) during a Purdue-Illinois game Jan. 5, 2024 at
Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana. Photo credit to Illinois Athletics.
Three Former Salukis set to play in NBA Summer League 
By Ryan Grieser, Sports Reporter • July 13, 2024

As the NBA 2K25 Summer League kicked off on July 12, three former Salukis began their professional basketball careers.  Though none of them...

SIU chancellor, Austin Lane, poses for a portrait in his office on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020 in Anthony Hall at SIU.
SIU leadership gets bonuses, salary increases from Board of Trustees
By Carly Gist, News Editor • July 11, 2024

Three proposals received approval by the SIU Board of Trustees regarding salary increases for university officials at the July 11th meeting. The...

A rebuild year is ahead for Saluki men’s basketball 

Saluki+basketball+players+work+on+drills+in+preparation+for+the+upcoming+season+Oct.+4%2C+2023+at+Banterra+Center+in+Carbondale%2C+Illinois.+
Nicole Fox
Saluki basketball players work on drills in preparation for the upcoming season Oct. 4, 2023 at Banterra Center in Carbondale, Illinois.

The roar of the Dawg Pound and the swish of the ball hitting the back of the net are two sounds that bring Saluki fans to their feet each November when basketball season returns to the Banterra Center.

After a tough end of the season last year, having lost to eventual champion Drake in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, Saluki men’s basketball is ready to kick it into high gear and end this season with a banner of their own hanging in the rafters.

At the end of last season, a few key players for the Salukis including Lance Jones, Marcus Domask and Dalton Banks entered the transfer portal. Jones and Domask both transferred to Big Ten schools while Banks remained in the MVC transferring to Illinois State.

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With Jones and Domask transferring, graduate student Trent Brown is the only player remaining from head coach Bryan Mullins’ first year at the helm.

“As much as things have changed over the years, the principle and identity of who we are and what we want to do remains,” Brown said. “People will always come and go but coach Mullins has done a tremendous job getting each group to push in the same direction towards the same goal: winning.”

Going into his fifth season playing under Mullins, Brown has become almost an extension of his coach. Whether it be on the court, in the locker room or outside of basketball, he knows what Mullins expects of the team.

“Trent means a lot to me,” Mullins said. “In terms of echoing what I’m saying on the court, off the court in terms of his behavior and how he works. He shows up early every single day and leaves late. Those are things that allow the new guys, the freshman, to understand what it takes to be successful at this level. He represents all those things for us.”

Brown said having been with the program so long, he is expected to set the right example and help the other guys understand what it takes to be a part of the program, but the guys that coach Mullins recruits make it easy on him.

“They are a bunch of great guys with the right mindset…It’s never too much of a struggle to get them on board,” Brown said.

His natural leadership capabilities, top of the line work ethic and who he is as a player and teammate have earned him respect in the program.

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Looking forward to this season, Mullins’ expectations for his team, as always, are high. He expects them to be one of the hardest playing and toughest teams out there.

“There’s always gonna be ups and downs through the season but you know, our goal hasn’t changed, our goal’s to win the championship and play in the NCAA Tournament,” Mullins said.

With the season less than a week away, the Salukis are focusing in on trying to be more connected on the defensive side of the floor, and making sure that everyone understands where they need to be at all times. Offensively, they are looking to clean up their execution.

“We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the ball, so that’s going to be a big emphasis for us over these next couple weeks,” Mullins said.

Towards the end of last season and summer workouts, there were a few injuries on the team. Clarence Rupert, Xavier Johnson and Troy D’Amico were all out with injuries at points in the summer, and Cade Hornecker and Sheridan Sharp will miss time to begin the season.

In past seasons, Brown has struggled with injuries here and there. One thing that he is focused on as the season comes to a start is keeping his body healthy and prepared for the long season ahead.

While the Salukis have lost a few key players from last season, returning guys like Johnson, Rupert and AJ Ferguson have stepped up and grown into their roles in preseason.

“Those guys have really done a good job in terms of understanding that their roles are going to be increased. Even our freshmen have stepped up as well,” Mullins said.

Those freshmen, Sharp and Kennard Davis, have been recognized by their coachability and work ethics. The same can be said for incoming transfers Jovan Stulic and Trey Miller.

Stulic is a 6-foot-6 grad transfer from Little Rock. In his senior season at Little Rock, he saw action in four games before missing the rest of the season with a foot injury.

Prior to his injury he was the lone player on his team to play in all 28 games, starting 15 of them. In his junior year, Stulic shot a team best of 43.8% from three-point range and 63.9% from the free throw line.

“Those guys have done a great job in terms of understanding it’s a process and… every program does things differently in terms of teaching things,” Mullins said about this year’s recruits.

Mullins said that this year’s class has done a great job of picking things up, not only on the court, but in the locker room and outside of the Banterra Center.

It’s often hard for teams to lose long-time key players not only for their skill but for their part of the chemistry of the team. Jones and Domask were a big part of the team for four years, and losing them has been a big change for some Salukis.

“It took me a second the first week of summer workouts to get used to not seeing those guys’ faces. I had never known or seen the program without them,” Brown said.

Team chemistry is something that the Saluki men’s basketball program takes pride in. Spending time together on the court and outside of basketball is something that Mullins makes sure happens.

Character is the number one thing that is looked at in the recruiting process here at SIU. Finding guys who have similar mindsets and makeup allows the team to be close because everyone is about the same thing.

“Throughout the summer, we do team bonding things and then throughout the fall, the more time that we get right now with each other, you know, we always make sure that the guys are spending off the court time with each other as well,” Mullins said.

Losing some familiar faces is not something the Salukis are going to let hold them back this season, with their eyes set on an MVC Championship, which would be their first since Mullins’ playing days in the mid-2000s.

“My personal expectations are aligned with what it was as a team. I want a banner. Plain and simple,” Brown said.

The Salukis will be kicking off their 2023-24 season on Monday at Banterra Center against Kentucky State, with tip off at 7 p.m.

Staff Reporter Joei Younker can be reached at [email protected].

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