Salukis finding Nebo to be effective

By Thomas Donley, @tdonleyDE

When a player who has started every game the past two seasons is limited because of injury, that absence can either lead to instability on the floor, or players taking on a bigger role to fill the void.

SIU junior power forward Kim Nebo has stepped up to fill the void in the starting lineup left by senior power forward Azia Washington, who is recovering from offseason knee surgery.

Nebo made her first career start Nov. 13 in the Salukis’ season opener, a 105-61 loss at DePaul, and has started 10 of SIU’s 17 games this season. The team is 5-2 in her last seven starts.

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She is averaging career highs with 4.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game this season, outpacing her career averages of 1.6 points and 1.9 rebounds entering the season.

Her last five games have been even better. Nebo has averaged 6.2 points and 7.6 rebounds since the start of Missouri Valley Conference play Jan. 1. She recorded her first career double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds Jan. 8 in a 75-49 win against Bradley.

“I’m being more aggressive, especially around the basket when it comes to second-chance opportunities,” Nebo said.

Coach Cindy Stein alluded to her ferocity in cleaning up on the glass.

“The best thing about Kim is the fact that she plays with so much energy,” Stein said. “She’s really attacking the boards. She’s timing rebounds well. She’s getting those extra scrappy points.”

Nebo’s teammates have also noticed her improvements.

“Her confidence is getting up, and I think that’s helped her with her game,” senior center Dyana Pierre said. “She knows her role. She plays it well. She’s learning the game as the season goes on, and you can see how much she’s improved.”

Perhaps Nebo’s biggest influence has come on the defensive end of the floor.

In SIU’s 77-67 win Jan. 1 at Drake, Nebo held First Team All-MVC forward Lizzy Wendell to 1-13 shooting from the floor for the first three quarters of the game.

“She’s playing defense real well,” coach Cindy Stein said. “Usually there’s a tough kid that you’ve got to stop, and she’ll have that assignment. She does a lot of the dirty work for us.”

For all the grit and grind on the court, Nebo has been spotless off the court. 

She was named the MVC Scholar Athlete of the Week for her performance in the opening weekend of conference play. She averaged 6.5 points and 10 rebounds in wins at Drake and Northern Iowa on Jan. 1 and Jan. 3, while earning a 4.0 GPA in biological sciences.

Stein said that although Nebo has played well enough to start the last seven games, she has not earned a permanent spot in the lineup.

 “No one is solidly entrenched,” she said. “If you’re not doing what you’re supposed to, I’m happy to take you out. As long as [Nebo] keeps doing what she’s doing, she’ll have that spot.”

Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3307

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