Daily Egyptian

Column: Dawg talk with Dodd, where in the world is Austin Weiher?

By Nathan Dodd

On basketball rosters, role players rarely see the floor or move from their secured spot on the end of the bench.

In many situations that player is a redshirt, a developmental project or just a last resort option for desperate game situations.

That is the case for teams that carry a maximum capacity roster.

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The SIU men’s basketball team does not have that flexibility and have not for virtually the entire season.

Yet, junior forward Austin Weiher continues to warm his cushioned, maroon seat at the end of coach Barry Hinson’s bench.

The 2017-18 season got off to a rocky start for Hinson’s squad as Weiher was limited due to an offseason surgery that removed bone spurs from his foot.

Shortly after, junior guard Marcus Bartley broke his wrist. Bartley’s injury kept him out of action until Dec. 6.

The injuries piled up for the Salukis as the team received word that senior forward Thik Bol would be out for the season with a knee injury. Since Bol was reported to be near a return, the news came as a shock to Southern.

Season-ending injuries then struck junior guard Eric McGill and senior forward Jonathan Wiley.

While injuries are commonplace in athletics, the trauma that the Salukis suffered is somewhat out of the ordinary.

McGill suffered his hand injury after falling to the hardwood upon driving to the basket in a game against Lamar.

Wiley — who suffered a thumb injury earlier in the season — got back to action but then suffered the knee injury that knocked him out for the year.

In the blink of an eye, Hinson’s squad was down to nine active players. However, there are instances where only eight Salukis got playing time.

Weiher was the lone Saluki that remained seated for the majority of competition. Even behind redshirt freshman Brendan Gooch.

As an upperclassman on scholarship, I’m sure Weiher feels disappointed about being the guy that does not get to take his warmup top off until he gets in the locker room after the final buzzer.

While not the most skilled player on the roster, Weiher contributed significant minutes in the 2015-16 season.

As a redshirt freshman, he played in 31 games, averaged 10.7 minutes per game and posted a 51.3 field-goal percentage. Of any Saluki who attempted at least 13 shots in the season, Weiher’s field-goal percentage ranked second on the team.

As a sophomore, Weiher was reduced to only 7.8 minutes per game. In 24 games, he shot 43.2 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from 3-point range.

This season, the junior’s role diminished even further.

Perhaps Weiher is still recovering from his offseason surgery. Maybe Hinson is saving him as a last resort in case one of the rotation’s regulars goes down with an injury of his own.

In my opinion, since Weiher’s minute totals have decreased each season, he simply is not being viewed as an asset to the team.

In 10 games this season, Weiher failed to see game action. In the nine games Weiher played, he only averaged 3.5 minutes.

In two of SIU’ last three conference games, Hinson only used an eight-player rotation and left Weiher on the bench.

Now in Missouri Valley Conference play, the Salukis are 3-3 and have yet to play some of the conference’s top teams.

In a perfect world, Weiher contributes valuable minutes, provides a few points off the bench and gives decent stretches of defensive effort.

Weiher alone is not going provide the spark that the teetering Salukis need. He will not be a go-to option on offense or a star player. However, he will provide depth to a seemingly desperate Salukis squad.

In the past, Weiher proved that he has a solid mid-range and 3-point shot. Most importantly, he is a fresh set of legs that gives Hinson options in physical conference matchups.

Sports editor Nathan Dodd can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @NathanMDodd.

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