Saluki guard Freeman taking advantage of year off

By Gus Bode

One year ago, Tony Freeman was wrapping up his junior year at the University of Iowa where he ranked third among Big Ten scoring leaders.

Now relegated to SIU’s bench because of NCAA transfer rules, Freeman said it’s been hard to stay off the hardwood, but he’s relishing the time he’s been given to prepare for next year.

Because the NCAA does not allow transfer students to travel with their respective teams, Freeman said he catches up during Saluki road trips by hitting the books.

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‘It’s kind of tough … and I want to play,’ Freeman said. ‘But at the same time, I knew what I was getting myself into when I did transfer.

‘It’s just a matter of being patient.’

The former Hawkeye transferred to SIU after playing three seasons and starting 43 games for Iowa. As a senior, the Maywood native led the team in scoring with 13.8 points per game.

Freeman also proved to be one of the Big Ten Conference’s best perimeter shooters, connecting on 38.3 percent of his 3-point shots.

The 6-foot-1-inch guard has been forced to watch from the sidelines as the Salukis’ roster was depleted because of injuries and mid-season departures.

Even though Freeman is ineligible to participate in games, NCAA transfer rules allow him to practice with the team, which has helped the short-handed Salukis.

Despite being constricted to a limited role, having the former second-team all-state player has been beneficial to the team as a whole, coach Chris Lowery said.

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‘What he brings is that he is a mature kid,’ Lowery said. ‘He’s played at the highest level and he understands what it means to play hard. He’s a great teammate right now, and that’s what we need more than anything.’

Whether it is on game day or during practice drills, Freeman has been an integral part in the everyday basketball operations.

On game day, Freeman almost serves as an additional assistant coach as he gives teammates tips and support from the sideline. In practice, he is one of the Salukis’ biggest offensive threats and better on-ball defenders.

Although the season has not lived up to pre-season expectations, Freeman said he has been able to keep an upbeat outlook.

He attributed some of that to Lowery’s presence in the huddle and on the practice court, which he said has helped ease his transition from Iowa to SIU.

‘ ‘He’s been so positive with the guys,’ Freeman said. ‘It’s just been a positive experience for me and I’m just looking forward to next year.’

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