Salukis ready to tip-off

By Gus Bode

SIU men’s basketball team takes on Mexico Club tonight in first exhibition game

FACTOID:The SIU men’s basketball team will have its first exhibition game of the season when it welcomes Mexico Club to the SIU Arena tonight at 7:05.

For the first time since the Sweet 16 loss to Connecticut, the SIU men’s basketball team will take the hardwood for a game against someone who doesn’t have “Salukis” written across the front of their chests.


And the Saluki players can’t wait.

Junior forward Brad Korn is one player who is definitely ready to go up against someone different after a summer and fall of nothing but pick-up games and scrimmages.

“We’re getting tired of this practice stuff, getting tired of seeing the same old faces,” Korn said. “Coaches are getting tired of us; we’re getting tired of them. It’s the grind of it, but we’ve got to get through it and we’re looking forward to it.”

Mexico Club, which comes to the SIU Arena tonight for an exhibition game starting at 7:05, is the team that gets first crack at seeing just how good the Salukis are this season.

Even though it is an exhibition game, SIU head coach Bruce Weber said the game is not going to be a pushover and that is just what he wants.

“Last year we lost to the Birmingham Bullets and I think that was the best thing to ever happen to us,” Weber said. “It made us wake up and we had to compete in a game; it gave us real-life game situations. It helped prepare us for the next games.

“St. Louis, on the other hand, that was our first game last year and they won their two exhibition games by 70 so then all of a sudden we go in and ‘D’ them up and they weren’t ready to play.”


Weber said in addition to national players, Mexico Club also features players who played college basketball in the United States.

Senior forward Jermaine Dearman agrees with Weber and said that even though it is essentially a practice game, the Salukis are taking the team from Mexico seriously.

“We lost last year in an exhibition game and it was a reality check,” Dearman said. “It kind of helped us concentrate and get focused and not get a big head, thinking we’re better than what we are. Basically we’ve got to go out there and play hard and work on team unity.”

Dearman and Korn are two of eight returning players from last season’s 28-8 team that tied with Creighton for first in the Missouri Valley Conference and advanced all the way to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.

Rounding out the roster are five players that will be playing in their first game for the Salukis in Bryan Turner, Blake Schoen, Tony Young, Ryan Walker and LeKeith Taylor.

In last Saturday’s scrimmage, Turner and Schoen showed flashes of being able to carry part of the offensive load, scoring 12 and 11 points, respectively.

The biggest names in the scrimmage, however, are no strangers to Saluki fans.

Preseason all-conference first team members Kent Williams and Dearman shined with Williams scoring 23 points and Dearman adding 17 points and six rebounds.

All those numbers aside, the most important thing Weber and the Salukis will get out of this game is the chance to see who is ready to contribute this season and who still needs some work before they are ready.

Korn said the game is ultimately a chance to show the Salukis what they still need to work on between now and their goal of the MVC tournament’s championship game.

“We’re not going to the Valley tournament tomorrow,” Korn said. “It’s just to see where we’re at, to see what we need to improve on for the next exhibition game and then for the opening game.”

Reporter Jens Deju can be reached at [email protected]