Basketball teams play with children as their parents purchase season tickets.

By Gus Bode

Big Dawgs play with pups.

The SIU men’s and women’s basketball teams took time out from practicing to play games and sign autographs for children at Kids Appreciation Day Saturday evening at the SIU Arena.

The children could get their hands painted, dunk on shortened hoops, go through lay-up and shooting drills, get their picture taken with Kent Williams and play Pin the Tail on the Donkey.


Some kids even went one-on-one with McGruff the Crime Dog.

“We did it to get people to know our players and the women’s players,” said men’s head coach Bruce Weber, “and recruit more Saluki fans.”

The children and their parents were admitted to the Arena free of admission. Once through the door, the kids got their hands stamped and received as many tickets as they wanted to play the games. They also received a free ticket to Saturday night’s SIU football game against Northern Iowa.

“This is my day,” said senior forward Jermaine Dearman after running the Donkey game. “I like messing with the kids. All the kids want to come and interact with me, so it’s fun.

“It’s good for the team and good exposure for women’s basketball and men’s basketball. It’s a chance to meet the fans a little bit.”

More than 300 kids were present Saturday, Weber said.

After playing the games, the children won more tickets that could be traded in for Saluki prizes including basketballs, programs and posters.


As the kids played games, their parents headed to the stands to try different seat locations before making season ticket purchases.

Each men’s season lower bowl seat costs $165 plus a donation to a Saluki charity.

Season tickets for women’s basketball cost $50, a 17 percent savings from last year.

Before the fans started filing into the Arena, the teams held their first practice of the season.

The men hope to retain their Missouri Valley Conference title and head back to the NCAA tournament.

“I think [this season] is going to be good,” Dearman said. “We’ve got a pretty good chance to win conference again this year. We just have to see how everything plays out.”

While the men look to advance farther into the postseason, the women hope to improve on last season’s 6-21 record.

“We worked really hard over the summer,” said sophomore guard Christine Perry. “We’re trying to stay positive. We have a really good outlook and we’re all really anxious to get the season started. It looks good so far.”

Reporter Christopher Morrical can be reached at cmorrical@daily