Saluki lineup full again

Saluki lineup full again

By Joe Ragusa

Drinkard, Brown-Surles get back on the court against NIU

The Salukis have their full complement of players, thanks to the return of Kendal Brown-Surles and Davante Drinkard.

Brown-Surles and Drinkard played for the first time this season Dec. 17 when SIU took on Northern Illinois in DeKalb, but they returned under different circumstances. Brown-Surles was inactive for the first six games of the season because of academic issues, while Drinkard was redshirted before the season began by head coach Chris Lowery.


“I was just happy to be back and help. Even when I was out, I just wanted to help the guys keep their energy up and stay focused,” Drinkard said.

Lowery said they removed Drinkard’s redshirt because the team needed more depth at the forward position and it had nothing to do with academics, despite reports by ESPN during the Diamond Head Classic that said otherwise.

“That’s what we said all along. Obviously, academics is something we can‘t talk about (with Drinkard), like we can with Kendal,” Lowery said. “We wanted to redshirt (Drinkard), and that’s what I stated. But he wanted to play, and he saw how we were struggling inside, so we made a decision.”

Drinkard said his grades weren’t in great shape going into the fall 2011 semester, but they weren’t bad enough to warrant a suspension.

Instead, Lowery put the redshirt on Drinkard, making him inactive for the entire season. According to NCAA rules, Drinkard would have had an extra year of eligibility, but because he played in a game this season, it’s like he never had the redshirt to begin with.

“I was perfectly fine with (being redshirted) cause I thought I needed to redshirt my freshman year, but I wasn’t able to,” Drinkard said. “It gave me a lot of time so I can work and get better, and develop more as a player.”

Brown-Surles’ situation was simpler: Because his GPA was below the NCAA minimum requirement, he wasn’t allowed to play or travel with the team.


“(My grades) were basically right there, borderline, but they were right under,” Brown-Surles said. “I didn’t take responsibility and handle business off the court, and that was on me. I can’t blame nobody else but myself, so that’s why I had to miss a couple games.”

Brown-Surles said he found out he had a 3.0 GPA for the fall 2011 semester when his grades posted Dec. 17 early in the morning, but because the team already left for DeKalb to play Northern Illinois, he said he had to hitch a ride with one of the team managers.

Lowery, a cousin of Brown-Surles, said the junior guard has dyslexia and is a part of the Disability Support Services program at SIUC, which provides academic and programmatic assistance to students with disabilities such as dyslexia, according to the SIUC website.

“(Brown-Surles’) return has helped because, No. 1, it gives you an older guard that’s been there before,” Lowery said. “I think those things can help. But he’s got to show more leadership. That’s something we’ve struggled with all year.”

Brown-Surles has only started two games since he returned, but he’s second on the team with 25 minutes and 7 seconds per game. Meanwhile, Drinkard has started four games, but only averages 16 minutes per game.

SIU is 3-4 since both players returned.

With Brown-Surles, Drinkard and senior guard Justin Bocot back after the December police investigation into him closed with no charges filed, Brown-Surles said they finally have the roster the team needs to be successful.

“We got all the pieces to the puzzle,” Brown-Surles said. “Everybody has a role, and when everybody’s contributing and doing what they need to do, we’re a hard team to stop.”