SIU women’s basketball hitting the recruiting trail

By Gus Bode

Salukis hope to land hot prospects, improve on dismal season

That’s how many consecutive games the SIU women’s basketball team lost this past season, and no one on the squad is eager to repeat that performance next year.

That’s part of the reason the Salukis are working hard this offseason, both on the court and on the recruiting trail.

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The spring signing period begins April 15 and SIU hopes to solve the many problems that plagued it last season, in which it finished last in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 2-16 record and a 6-21 mark overall.

The three areas where the Salukis had the most trouble all year long were rebounding, turnovers and shot selection, and with the departures of seniors Geshla Woodard and Holly Teague, improving those areas has become an even more pressing matter.

With the potential recruits we’ve got coming in, I think we’re going to remedy quite a bit of that, assistant coach Alex Wellmaker said. Losing Holly Teague, our starting point guard, and Geshla Woodard inside, we’ve definitely got to fill those positions and that’s namely our main concerns.

The Salukis had five scholarships available at the beginning of the season and already used up two of those in the fall when they signed Afton Gill of Carterville and Amy Hayden of Fort Wayne, Ind.

Those two recruits are not expected to have an instant impact. However, as the season progresses, the coaching staff thinks they will play an important role in replacing Teague and Woodard.

Wellmaker thinks Hayden’s shooting ability will help SIU’s poor shot selection, while Gill will be a dominant force inside and give the Salukis a boost on the boards.

One thing SIU does not have is a big player on the inside who can rebound and score at will, like Wichita State’s Angela Buckner. Because it is difficult to find a big player this late in the recruiting period the Salukis will probably be without such a player for another year.

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It’s kinda like a Blue Light Special at K-Mart, Wellmaker said. They just go like that. For our 03 class, we’re really concentrating on getting a big kid.

The Salukis have one player in mind that they plan on signing on April 15, and with the two remaining scholarships they will look to snag a couple of junior college prospects. Coaches are not allowed to talk about recruits specifically until after they officially sign.

Whoever SIU ends up signing, there is a sense among the players and coaches that next year’s squad will show a marked improvement from this season.

We’re excited for the kids we’ve got coming in for next year, Wellmaker said. With the kids we’re going to be bringing in, we feel we’ve got a good group of athletes that’s definitely gonna make us better.

Another key to success next year will be the maturity of SIU’s younger players. Because of injuries, several newcomers received valuable playing time that should help the Salukis in the long run.

Wellmaker said the freshmen and junior college transfers now understand what it takes to play at the Division I level and the experience they’ve gained this season should carry over next year.

For some of them, it was a real eye-opener because even though we did what we needed to, we still finished 10th in the league, Wellmaker said. So we’ve got a long way to go in order to get to the upper tier of the Valley.

Reporter Todd Merchant can be reached at [email protected]

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