Salukis frontcourt looking to prove worth

By Gus Bode

Men’s basketball team hopes inexperienced big men can shoulder load

While the SIU men’s basketball team may not be gifted with massive post players, it is loaded with athletic big men.

That athleticism should fit right in with the type of basketball the Salukis want to play.

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Sophomore guard Darren Brooks said all he is expecting out of his big men is that they take care of their business down low and keep up with the guards when they run up and down the court.

“That’s our style of play,” Brooks said. “We like to run up and down and hopefully the big guys can run with us. That’s pretty much what we’re expecting out of them, to run and rebound.”

The two most athletic of the group may be senior Jermaine Dearman and junior Sylvester Willis.

Dearman, who stands at 6 feet 8 inches and 220 pounds, is the most established of the group as he was named to the preseason All-Missouri Valley Conference first team.

In last season’s NCAA Tournament run, Dearman averaged 19.7 points and 9.3 rebounds a game in leading the Salukis to the Sweet 16, where they eventually lost to Connecticut.

Dearman said the frontcourt players don’t have to put up mind-boggling numbers due to the overall talent level of the team.

They do, however, have to get their jobs done.

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“Basically we’ve just got to keep the defense honest,” Dearman said. “If we’re scoring in the post and making the easy shots, it’s going to open up a lot of things for the guards on the outside.”

After Dearman, however, the rest of the group is relatively unproven and they know they have to show they are ready to take on their expanded roles.

“We got all different types of post guys and that should really help us going into the year,” Willis said. “We’ve got Jermaine; he’s proven himself in the league and now it’s just up to us to show the league what we can do.”

Willis and junior forward Brad Korn were both valuable reserves last season and along with sophomore center Josh Warren, who redshirted last season, will be counted on to make up for the departed Rolan Roberts.

The three are vastly different types of players from Roberts, who was described by Korn as simply being a “freak.”

Willis is the strongest and most athletic of the three and, like the big-bodied Warren, is more of a low post type of player. The 6-foot-9 Korn, on the other hand, is known more for his ability to shoot the ball and causes mismatch problem along the perimeter.

Korn said the biggest thing the three have to work on is improving their post defense, which is something Roberts excelled at en route to being named the MVC Defensive Player of the Year and swatting away 87 blocks, the second highest single-season total in SIU history.

“Rolan was a tremendous defender and a lot of his jumping and all that made up for it if he made mistakes,” Korn said. “We can’t really make mistakes so we’re working on that a lot.”

In addition to these four, other players in the frontcourt include Blake Schoen and senior walk-on LeKeith Taylor.

Schoen can play both guard and forward and is expected to be a garbage man type of player who can do all the little things that are needed to squeeze out a win.

The 6 -4, 200-pound freshman said the fact that Dearman, Korn and Willis have been at SIU for four years and Warren for three will be the biggest advantage the Salukis will have down low.

“I think our strength is experience,” Schoen said. “They saw what happened last year and what they need to get done and they know how to do it. I think that’s really going to be a big key for us.”

Reporter Jens Deju can be reached at [email protected]

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