Awards, awards everywhere

By Gus Bode

The SIU men’s basketball team was projected to finish second behind Creighton in the preseason poll.

Creighton held up its end of the bargain.’ SIU, well, not so much.

But it doesn’t mean the Salukis are a talentless squad.’ In fact, they might enter Arch Madness as the Valley’s most dangerous team.


And this is where my personal awards banquet begins:

  • Saluki guard Kevin Dillard rightfully earned the MVC Freshman of the Year award.’ He was SIU’s MVP and I’m not sure where the team would be without him.’ Whenever Southern needed an offensive outburst, Dillard was the one who stepped his game up and was the go-to-guy in the guts of a game.’ Even when Bryan Mullins was healthy.’ It won’t be long before Dillard is winning some Player of the Year awards.
  • Tony Young is the team’s most valuable former player.’ He edges Brad Cole and Chris Lowery in this department.’ Young, who is only one season removed from his playing days, has really toughened the Salukis with his practice regimen in practice.’ Did I mention he is a former player?’ TY has worked wonders with Ryan Hare, and if No. 25 can figure out a way to play his aggressive style of defense without fouling, he might follow in Mullins’ footsteps as the MVC Tony Young Defensive Specialist of the Year award.
  • Oh yeah, since five of the last six years SIU players have won that award, maybe TY should be the namesake.
  • SIU’s coach of the year is Rodney Watson.’ Thought I was going to go with Chris Lowery?’ Too easy.’ Watson is a very important member of the bench … which is why he has been at SIU since the dawn of time.’ And a part of me hopes he never leaves. Watson is always good for a quote, but he’s even better when it comes to breaking down basketball players, plays and concepts.
  • Wesley Clemmons is my Sixth Man of the Year.’ He might not be the most talented player on the court, but does all of the small things it takes to win.’ He plays solid man-to-man defense.’ He hustles.’ He dives for balls.’ He breaks cameras — not purposley though.’ And most importantly for this team, he gets it.’ He gets The System.’ And if you look closely, it’s starting to rub off.
  • Carlton Fay is hands down the most improved player — not only on this team — but in the Valley.’ He was an absolute non factor last season.’ But this season he opens up with a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double and goes on to average 10.5 points per game.’ Last season he averaged 2.4 ppg.’ So next season he should average at least 18 points per game.’ Simple math.
  • The new John Q. Hammons Arena is the best venue in the Missouri Valley Conference.’ At least, to the ones I’ve been to.’ I liked Indiana State’s Hulman Center because I got to sit courtside behind Chris Lowery.’ I liked Evansville’s Roberts Arena because of its birds-eye view.’ But the new JQH has an amazing press room with great food and a very accomodating Sports Information Director.’ Yeah, an SID gets a shout out in a blog.’ So does Lambert’s, the home of throwed rolls, which is minutes away from the arena.
  • Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich is my favorite quotable coach.’ There’s something about his drawl and his b-ball IQ that makes me care about the things he is going to say.’ He seems like an awe-shucks kind of guy who appreciates his time with the media, rather than dreading it.’ My favorite quote from his: ‘You’ve got to understand, 50 percent of the schools that take the floor tonight lose.’
  • He’s not on Rick Pitino’s level just yet, but Chris Lowery earns the Valley’s Best Dressed Coach of the Year award.’ C-Lo has worn some pretty classy suits, eye-pleasing tie-and-shirt color combos, and even eye glasses.’ Lowery edges out Indiana State’s Kevin McKenna, who like me, has a penchant for sweatervests.