Saluki basketball future better than present

Saluki basketball future better than present

By Tyler Davis

SIU men’s basketball ended last season with a surprising run in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament that ended in heartbreak. This year’s team is looking to build on that success, though it will be missing a big piece.

With the loss of Desmar Jackson, who is playing professionally in Argentina, the team will have to make up for the absence of its best scorer and defender. However, the team has added six freshmen, who range in sizes from 5-foot-11 to 6-foot-7.

With that athleticism comes inexperience. Coach Barry Hinson said at the team’s media day he likes how the team responds to coaching, but immaturity may be a recurring theme this season.

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“We’ve got six [freshmen]. I think all of them can make an impact at any time. All of them can go brain dead at any time,” Hinson said. “They’re going to drive you nuts and they’re going to drive me nuts, because of their lack of maturity.”

The team has one senior and four juniors, making a majority of the squad underclassmen. Hinson said the Salukis will be one of the youngest teams in the NCAA.

For some teams, a young team could bring leadership issues. Hinson said the Salukis’ leadership is in good hands.

“Anthony Beane improved so much. Every huddle, every timeout, he’s taking charge of everything,” Hinson said. “Everybody around here loves Jalen [Pendleton]. When we’re down on the practice floor—Jalen’s leading, Anthony’s leading, what I have noticed lately, Bola’s [Olaniyan] leading, and that’s been real special.”

Beane, who nearly matched Jackson’s scoring in MVC play, said he does not focus on filling the offensive void left by Jackson. Instead, he said he is focused on being a leader, and the real challenge for the Salukis is going to be stopping opponents from scoring.

“I’m not worried about scoring,” he said. “I’ve been here three years, I know what coach expects. The challenge for us is going to be defensive. How many stops can we get?”

One of the player who said he improved on both sides of the ball is redshirt freshman K.C. Goodwin. Goodwin sat out last season while he worked on his game and he said it has helped.

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“I had some mishaps, had to work on some flaws in my game,” Goodwin said. “I was able to see what I needed to do to get on the floor. My on-ball defense is better, help defense too. I’m knocking down more shots, cutting down on turnovers.”

Hinson said Goodwin will have a bigger role and he will be one of the primary point guards he’ll use this season.

Hinson also said he will not pin high expectations on this young group of players.

Saluki fans would welcome any improvement but the coach’s expectations were measured, as he wouldn’t ensure a winning record.

“I don’t think we have to [have a winning record],” Hinson said. “I’m not going to do that to a team with six freshmen and three sophomores. There’s no way in hell I’m walking in a room and saying we gotta have a winning record.”

However, with the influx of athletic talent, there is a possibility the team can be one or two games better than last year. Hinson said this team is more tailored to his style of coaching and what he wants to do as a coach.

Hinson said he will be a “mama bear” to the young team, and one of his ways of defending his players is making sure there are no added distractions.

The destination, in two or three years, is the real reason for optimism from this group. 2014-15 could be another bumpy ride. It all begins 7 p.m. at SIU Arena on Saturday against the University of St. Mary’s.

Tyler Davis can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @TDavis_DE.

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