Effort becomes theme for upcoming basketball season

By Gus Bode

Senior guard Justin Bocot drives past junior guard Jeff Early during SIU men’s basketball practice Thursday in the SIU Arena. The team opens its season at home Sunday as it takes on the University of Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars. Sarah Gardener | Daily Egyptian

The SIU men’s basketball team will get back to the court as it welcomes the University of Illinois-Springfield for an exhibition game to kickoff the 2011-12 season.

This will be the first opportunity for the coaches, players and fans to see the team in action as it takes on the Division II Prairie Stars at 2:05 p.m. Sunday at the SIU Arena.

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With eight incoming players, including junior walk-on guard Kourtney Goff, the Salukis will adjust to a revamped lineup compared to the 2010-11 season. Junior guard T.J. Lindsay said he plans for the team’s off-court relationship to translate to on-court harmony.

“Our team chemistry is getting stronger everyday; we’re like a family in the locker room,” Lindsay said. “We just got to bring the locker room (atmosphere) to the court and gel.”

Head coach Chris Lowery said the scrimmage will be key to find out what roles the newcomers will play on the team.

“Having different guys play with different guys; seeing who gels,” Lowery said. “We can see it already at this point, but now we have to play an actual scrimmage where we are all on one team.”

Lowery said the team needs to improve the game of its guards who are heading into the season. Last season, the team failed to have a double-digit scorer from the guard position, but sophomore guard Diamond Taylor said he could fill that role.

“I definitely think I can be that player, but whatever role the coach wants me to be, I’ll be it,” Taylor said. “I can bring all aspects to the game. I can defend, I can score when needed, pass and rebound.”

After months of being drilled, conditioned and weight trained, Lindsay said his teammates are eager to play opponents who are not Salukis.

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“We’ve been beating up on each other everyday in practice, so it will feel good to practice what we’ve learned against someone else,” Lindsay said.

While the scrimmage will be a step up in intensity from Maroon Madness, assistant coach Anthony Stewart said the game will be more about proper execution than the final score. Stewart said he knows exactly what he wants to see from his guards during the scrimmage.

“We expect them to play really hard and get after it defensively. We like to see a lot of energy, enthusiasm and hard work,” Stewart said. “We still want to win; winning is the objective of everything we do. We just want to see everybody’s effort, our continuity as a team and how we gel.”

Lowery agreed that play time is something the players need to earn.

“I think their energy and effort will determine when they come in and out; how hard you play will decide when you come out,” Lowery said.

He said how the players handle an actual game’s atmosphere is crucial as they head into the season.

“You can’t set a rotation until you’ve played a game. Sometimes, guys play better in game setting than they have shown in practice,” Lowery said. “Learning to play with people in the stands and real referees — that’s a big issue for most of our new guys.”

 

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