Salukis slated to play in Great Alaska Shootout

By Gus Bode

Dawgs join 8-team field that includes last years NIT champs

After sweeping the competition to begin its 2004-2005 season in sunny weather at the Las Vegas Tournament, the SIU men’s basketball team will begin its quest for a fifth straight Middle Valley Conference title in a much colder climate.

The University of Alaska Anchorage announced last week that SIU will complete the eight-team field in the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout November 22 to 26 at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, Ala.


The Salukis are guaranteed three games in a tournament that features Alaska Fairbanks, Eastern Washington, Marquette, Monmouth, Oral Roberts, South Carolina and Southern California.

Alaska Fairbanks associate athletic director Tim McDiffett said the university tries to fill the tournament field a few years in advance, but they were not able to complete the field for the 2005 tournament until having SIU commit.

“This is pretty late for us to be filling the field,” McDiffett said. “We were particularly excited to get a team of Southern Illinois capabilities at this late date.”

SIU athletic director Paul Kowalczyk said head basketball coach Chris Lowery and his staff were got the team into the tournament because they handle all of the teams scheduling.

“Chris really pushed to get this done because he felt it would be a great opportunity for the program,” Kowalczyk said.

SIU assistant basketball coach Rodney Watson said the tournament is a great opportunity for the team because it will give the players a chance to get in some early season games against tough competition.

“It’s going to be a great experience,” Watson said. “We’ve heard great things about the Alaska tournament.”


Watson said there is no individual team they have focused on because the entire field looks to be competitive.

“They are all going to be good,” Watson said. “You get in there because you have a good program.”

Coming off a win in the post season National Invitational Tournament in 2005, South Carolina is the team McDiffett said looks to be the best in the tournament on paper. But with players graduating after last season and new players coming in, McDiffett said it is too early to pick a favorite.

“The tournament is maybe as wide open as we’ve ever had it,” McDiffett said. “I think a number of teams will have a chance.”

Reporter William Ford can be reached at [email protected]