Young Salukis fighting through adversity

By Gus Bode

There was a time when underclassmen on the SIU men’s basketball team were eased into roles.

But with six newcomers playing double-digit minutes, the young Salukis are getting on-the-job training.

SIU head coach Chris Lowery said the underclassmen need to separate what they’ve done in high school and what they are doing on the collegiate level.


‘They come in so highly acclaimed that they all think they can do what they did as high school seniors. The biggest thing for them to realize is that nobody cares about that,’ Lowery said. ‘For them to come in here to blend – and that’s what they need to do – blend and help us be good instead of trying to stick out and be individuals.’

After winning its first two games at home, SIU has suffered three straight losses. The Salukis’ struggles have come as they took to the road and played two neutral court games before their first true road game against Western Kentucky. Each loss featured moments of poor shot selection and defensive lapses that stifled comeback attempts by SIU.

Senior guard Bryan Mullins said as one of the team’s leaders, he has taken it upon himself to try to steer his young teammates through the early season’s adverse times.

‘There’s always going to be times in games where things don’t go your way. Sometimes guys get down about a play when we need to move on and get a stop, and I try to tell them to forget about it and move on to the next play,’ Mullins said. ‘This is a long season and guys can’t get wrapped up in one game. ‘

Even though SIU has struggled in its last three games, Lowery said he was not going to push the panic button because he was in a similar situation a few years ago.

After senior guards Darren Brooks and Stetson Hairston led the team to a 27-win season, which culminated in a Missouri Valley Conference championship and another NCAA Tournament at-large bid, the Salukis opened the next season 2-4. At that point, the odds of another conference title and NCAA tournament bid looked slim.

But a lengthy mid-season winning streak and three straight wins in the MVC Tournament sent SIU dancing again.


Lowery said he could use that experience to show the team that it had overcome adversity as recently as three seasons ago.

He said it was good to see how the team deals with the early season adversity because it allows the team to come together and coach them up.

‘We talked about it all the time, especially when Jamaal (Tatum) and Tony (Young) were younger. When they first got a chance to start when Darren (Brooks) and Stetson (Hairston) left we struggled the same way,’ Lowery said. ‘They thought it was about them and Darren never made it about him because he was a winner. It’s about wins. It’s about teamwork.’

Luis C. Medina can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 269 or [email protected].