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

Dominique Martinez-Powell | dmartinez_powell.photography
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Column: It’s time to give Marcus and Lance their flowers

Lance+Jones+%28right%29+and+Marcus+Domask+%28left%29+during+a+Purdue-Illinois+game+Jan.+5%2C+2024+at+Mackey+Arena+in+West+Lafayette%2C+Indiana.+Photo+credit+to+Purdue+Athletics.
Lance Jones (right) and Marcus Domask (left) during a Purdue-Illinois game Jan. 5, 2024 at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana. Photo credit to Purdue Athletics.

The 2023-24 SIU men’s basketball season didn’t exactly go according to plan.

Between confounding losses and a highly disappointing end to the season, culminating in the departure of former head coach Bryan Mullins, it was certainly a year to forget. Many fans were left upset with the result of the season, the coaching change, or both.

It’s also worth remembering that many fans were upset heading into the season due to the decisions made by Marcus Domask and Lance Jones to leave SIU and instead play at Big Ten powers Illinois and Purdue. To me, it’s a disservice to their legacies as Salukis to be angry or disappointed with their choices.

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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.

Let’s start with Domask. In no particular order, here are some of the accolades that he earned at SIU: ninth in career scoring, first in career minutes per game, ninth in career threes, First Team All-MVC, two-time Second Team All-MVC and two-time MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Year. An all-time Saluki.

Not far behind, here’s Jones’ Saluki legacy: third in career threes, fifth in career steals, two-time Third-Team All MVC, two-time MVC All-Defensive Team. Jones also led the MVC in steals during his senior season. Another all-time Saluki.

By the end of their careers, both had achieved everything that they needed to, or really could, at SIU. They graduated as Salukis and had their on-court senior night recognition. The only thing missing from their resume is a deep run into March basketball, something that both were likely hungry for.

Some would argue that a 2023-24 Saluki team with Domask, Jones and a much improved Xavier Johnson would be a contender for a Valley championship run had the former two stuck around. But for as great a player as Johnson was this season, much of his improvement can be traced to an increase in opportunities after Domask and Jones left.

We saw what a team with those three would look like in 2022-23, when the Dawgs were eliminated in the MVC tournament semifinal by eventual champion Drake. That season, Johnson took roughly four shots per game while Domask and Jones were responsible for a majority of the offense; the same way that Johnson was responsible for much of the ’23-24 team’s scoring. He was not asked to be the guy in ’22-23, and likely wouldn’t have the following season had his teammates run it back.

Nevertheless, with their senior season over, it seemed that Domask and Jones were destined to say goodbye to Carbondale in the spring of 2023. They had already put in their four years at SIU and had opportunities to play on a bigger stage for better teams.

The news that Domask would be transferring to Illinois was heartbreaking for Saluki nation, but not unexpected. While fans could wish he stayed, they should also be happy for him. Domask has had the chance to play in the powerhouse Big Ten conference, and many more people have seen what he had already shown so many Southern Illinois faithful: that he’s one of the best basketball players in the country.

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Marcus Domask (right) and Lance Jones (left) during an Illinois-Purdue game March 5, 2024 at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois. Photo credit to Illinois Athletics.

Domask also got a chance to take advantage of more NIL opportunities, and I will never fault a player for going somewhere to capitalize on themselves. Universities make enough off of them already; if the athletes can’t explicitly get paid by universities, they should have some way to make money off of their talents.

Jones was in a very similar situation and went to an even better team. The argument for why he should go is nearly identical to that of Domask. Fans may be sad, but they shouldn’t be upset he left.

By leaving, Domask and Jones were able to show why they are the players that we thought they were. Each had signature moments this year that won their team games. Domask’s 33 points against FAU at Madison Square Garden and his triple-double (only the tenth in NCAA tournament history) against Morehead State have made him a topic of national conversation. Jones had 26 points in an overtime thriller vs Northwestern, in which Purdue scored over 100.

Now both are in the Sweet 16, wearing the jerseys of their new schools while still representing Southern Illinois at a level it hasn’t reached in 17 years. As they look to continue their postseason runs, everyone from national media outlets to local fans will be talking about how the Salukis produced two Power Five stars.

Instead of complaining that they left, Saluki fans should embrace and celebrate the success Domask and Jones have had at a high level. I would argue that their legacies at SIU are even stronger now than they would have been had they not transferred. We got to see that both are truly great players against some of the best competition in the country. They showed why what they did as Salukis could translate to the biggest stage.

As Saluki faithful, we should be cheering for Marcus and Lance all the way.

Sports reporter Ryan Grieser can be reached at [email protected]. To stay up to date on all your southern Illinois news, be sure to follow The Daily Egyptian on Facebook and on X @dailyegyptian.

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    Bill RoeMar 29, 2024 at 7:45 am

    you stated the case perfectly. Outstanding. Both committed to SIU and gave SIU four years of the best. It is not what could have been, it is what it was. As a saluki fan, I take great pride in both of those gentlemen. And Johnson, stepped up when given the opportunity. As you stated, that opportunity may not have come had they stayed. we fans can certainly be fickle. Part of the game. It has always amazed me, for the price of admission, I can referee, coach, second-guess, be a critic.—— Everything but shoot the ball. It is a great game. Thank you again for stating the situation as it is. hope you stay using your writing talent.

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  • B

    Barb WoolardMar 29, 2024 at 7:19 am

    Well said!

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