Daily Egyptian

Salukis searching for frontcourt talent

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

Saluki men’s basketball fans may be most concerned about how the team will fill the shoes of senior guard Anthony Beane after this season, but there is another issue hiding from the limelight.

In addition to Beane’s departure, the team will lose senior centers 6-foot-7 Ibby Djimde and 7-footer Deng Leek at the end of the season. Add junior forward Jeremy Postell’s transfer, and the Dawgs are down to three forwards and one center for next season.

“We need someone to help us on the interior,” coach Barry Hinson said. “You have to try your best to have five big guys in your program, so we need to add to that.”

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The Salukis have four big men returning next season: junior center Bola Olaniyan, junior forward Sean O’Brien, freshman forward Austin Weiher and freshman forward Rudy Stradnieks. Olaniyan and O’Brien are starters, while Weiher and Stradnieks combine for just 16 minutes per game.

So far the Salukis have three commitments for next season: 6-foot-5 guard Brendon Gooch from Belleville Althoff High School, 6-foot-1 guard Aaron Cook from Westminster Christian Academy in Chesterfield, Mo., and 6-foot-3 guard Jeremy Roscoe, who attends Victory Rock Prep in Bradenton, Fla.

While these guys could all combine to help replace Beane, the big man situation has yet to be resolved, meaning the current big guys could have an even larger role next season. The team has two scholarships to potentially use for frontcourt players.

O’Brien said it would be exciting for the big men play a bigger role on the team, but the Salukis need to sign at least another forward or center.

“I think it’s necessary to get one,” he said. “A shot blocker would be nice or someone to get some alley-oops. Just an athletic big man would be nice.”

His desire for shot blocking is warranted, as the Salukis rank 320th out of 351 teams in Division I with two blocked shots per game.

Hinson said the team is open to international and major conference transfers as well as high schoolers and junior college players.

SIU’s coaching staff has started working on the issue — within the last week the Salukis have extended scholarship offers to three big men.

The first is Papa N’diaye, a 6-foot-9 forward from Quality Education Academy in Winston-Salem, N.C. N’diaye is an ESPN three-star recruit and has offers from Oklahoma, Washington State, Mississippi State and others.

N’diaye’s teammate Keith Stagg also has an offer from SIU. A 6-foot-6 forward, Stagg has received offers from Bethune-Cookman and High Point.

The Salukis have also looked into the junior college circuit that helped them land two key players, junior guards Mike Rodriguez and Leo Vincent, after five players transferred out of the program last offseason. Thik Bol, a 6-foot-7 forward out of Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa, received an offer from SIU on Monday, according to his Twitter profile. He also has offers from Wichita State, Louisiana Tech and Murray State among others.

NCAA rules mandate that Hinson could not comment on these players.

Whether or not any of these three men sign, Hinson said his staff is doing its due diligence.

“I can promise you, we’ll do our homework,” he said at his weekly press conference on Feb. 5. “Anybody that we add to this program will be an exceptionally great kid with high character.”

Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3307.

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