Daily Egyptian

Six former Salukis join elite group

By Aaron Graff, @Aarongraff_DE

Six former Salukis earned the highest of SIU athletic honors this weekend. The newest members inducted into the Saluki Hall of Fame were honored at the men’s basketball game Saturday.

Running back Muhammad Abdulqaair

Abdulqaair, who spent two years at SIU, is fifth in Saluki rushing yards and third in Saluki rushing touchdowns. He said the Hall of Fame shows him he possibly could have taken his talents to the professional level, but was surprised by the phone call.

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“I honestly thought I missed my opportunity to be inducted,” Abdulqaair said. “So much time had passed. There were other people who went in before me who played after me. I kind of just thought I was forgotten, you could say.”

Abdulqaair, who has a fiancé and a 2-year-old son, does software analysis for a health information technology company.

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Men’s basketball coach Harry Gallatin

Gallatin coached at SIU for four seasons. He played nine years in the NBA and made seven All-Star teams, including the first ever All-Star game.

He said he came to the university because he, his wife and three sons wanted a different lifestyle. Gallatin said he wanted his sons to have a permanent place to call home.

“This is a special place for me,” Gallatin said. “I didn’t have any coaching experience. … I came here just as a player, an old beaten up tenured NBA player.”

Gallatin went on to coach in the NBA for five seasons and coached at SIU-Edwardsville for three seasons after that stint.

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Softball infielder Lauren Haas

Haas led her team to the NCAA tournament three times in her four years at SIU. She is third in Saluki history with 24 home runs.

She said she was surprised she made the Hall of Fame so soon after her career.

“When [former athletic director Mario Moccia] told me the news, I almost fell out of the chair,” Haas said.

Haas now works as a civilian in foreign military sales for the U.S. Navy. She is married with a 2-year-old son and is expecting the birth of a daughter in May.

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Women’s golfer Allison Hiller

Hiller was a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference selection. She won conference her sophomore year, which was her favorite memory as a Saluki.

“The first thing I thought of was that I can brag about my teammates and I can brag about my coach,” Hiller said.

She never thought about becoming a Hall of Famer.

“When you’re here you just want to play well for your teammates,” Hiller said. “You’re not thinking anything individually.”

Hiller became the assistant coach of the women’s golf team after her career. She now lives and works in Atlanta, where she is originally from. Hiller said she sees people wearing SIU clothing every now and then and she tries to make sure people are still rooting for the Dawgs.

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Gymnast Charles Ropiequet

While gymnastics is no longer a sport at SIU, it was once a top-tier program.

“We had the best par excellence program in the country,” Ropiquet said. “Seventeen first, second or third place finishes within 18 years. Sixty-six dual meet wins in a row over eight years. We had 15 national champions, 18 Olympians.”

Ropiquet was a national champion on the still rings in 1971 after finishing second the year before. He now lives in Cali, Colombia. He and his wife have a translation business.

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Baseball pitcher Bob Schroeck

Schroeck posted a 23-4 record, which is sixth best in Saluki history.

“It’s a very big honor to come back and be a part of SIU again,” Schroeck said. “It’s been 35 years.”

Schroeck, who played for coach Itchy Jones, said SIU was a top-tier program and did not want to go far across the country to play for a different stellar program.

“People asked me why I picked Southern,” Schroeck said. “It was because of the tradition. They had gone to the World Series three out of the last seven or eight years.”

Schroeck is the senior vice president of Big Heart Pet Brands, which is being purchased by Smucker’s for $5.8 billion.

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Aaron Graff can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 256.

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