With the end of every season in college athletics comes the end of several athletes’ careers.
Four SIU women’s basketball players will be honored on Senior Day on Saturday when the Salukis play Illinois State at SIU Arena in the final game of the regular season.
Guard Mercedes Griffin, forward Ariel Haynes, center Alexus Patterson and guard Hannah Shores will all suit up for their final home game this weekend. Although Shores has junior eligibility after walking on last year, she is academically a senior and will graduate this fall.
All four have played fewer minutes per game from last year. Griffin started 25 games last season compared to one this year. Patterson has averaged two minutes in five games this season, down from 10 last year.
Haynes, who is averaging 4.8 minutes per game after playing more than three times that much last year, said the Salukis’ success this season has helped her ignore that drop.
“I’ve handled it pretty well,” Haynes said. “I believe in my teammates and my coaches, and we’re having a pretty good season, so I don’t worry about it too much.”
Assistant coach Andrea Gorski said all the Saluki seniors share Haynes’ attitude because they know how it feels to toil through miserable seasons.
“They’ve been here when we’ve won five games and the years before that,” Gorski said. “A little bit of success has re-energized them. They’ve been great teammates.”
SIU averaged six wins per year the last three seasons under coaches Missy Tiber and Cindy Stein.
Griffin, Haynes and Patterson were recruited to SIU in 2011 by Tiber. Griffin transferred to SIU from Marquette where she did not see any action.
Mainly a defensive player, Griffin has played in at least 21 games in the last four seasons, but never averaged more than 7.2 points per game. She led the Missouri Valley Conference with 1.9 steals per game in conference play last year.
Haynes played in at least 29 games her first three collegiate seasons, never averaging more than 3.4 points and 3.0 rebounds per game. She said the part of college basketball she will miss most is the bonding, whether on the bus during road trips or in the locker room after practice.
Patterson earned MVC All-Freshman Team honors for the 2011-2012 season, finishing seventh in the Valley in rebounding at 7.3 per game. She started 26 games for the Salukis that year and played in all 30.
Patterson played in 26 games her sophomore year, but only started six with the emergence of junior Dyana Pierre, who led the MVC in rebounding as a freshman.
Last season, Patterson played three games because she became pregnant with her daughter. She has only dressed for 14 games this year, the last time at Drake on Jan. 11.
Shores joined the team last season after walking on before the start of the season. She got her chance to prove herself after guards Rishonda Napier, Cartaesha Macklin and Kiley Gorski were forced to redshirt. Shores led the team with 65 assists.
Shores started 18 games in her first year of collegiate basketball but has been reduced to a reserve role this year with the return of Macklin and Napier.
A player in such a position might not take the loss of playing time well, but Napier said her older teammates have taken the high road.
“They’ve handled it with class,” Napier said. “They’re all about whatever it takes for the team to win.”
The Senior Day game is at 2 p.m. Saturday at SIU Arena.
Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269.