Salukis bigger stars off court than on

By Tyler Dixon

For the second time in less than a month, the SIU men’s basketball team found itself in the national spotlight and it had nothing to do with play on the court.

The infamous rant after the Murray State University loss and now the team getting stuck on the interstate coming back from Bloomington on Sunday have each been on several media outlets.

The publicity for the school could be seen as good or bad; good because it takes away from the team’s 4-11 record on the court, bad because people now assume our coach is crazy and the team made the wrong decision in driving home.

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Regardless, Hinson said after the game against the Redbirds his team would have a different starting line-up when it plays at Loyola University Wednesday. The Salukis have played the same starting five the last several games.

Four players have started every game for the Salukis this season. The three guard spots are sophomore Marcus Fillyaw, sophomore Anthony Beane and senior Desmar Jackson. Senior center Davante Drinkard has played the five spot all season, the other postposition has been taken by three different players.

Freshman forward Sean O’Brien has been the starter since the Chicago State University game. It is obvious that the Salukis need another scorer besides Jackson. O’Brien could be that scorer.

O’Brien is long and athletic and can be the hybrid player that Jeff Early was for SIU last season. In two Missouri Valley Conference games, O’Brien is averaging 13.5 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game.

It will not be O’Brien that is losing his starting spot in Wednesday’s game.

Drinkard’s minutes have been diminishing all season and freshman Bola Olaniyan has been playing well and his raw talent is through the roof. Olaniyan needs to improve his movement and his hands. He is an aggressive player and when he sets a screen, the opposing player is not getting through him.

Beane has been struggling in the first two games of the MVC season. He is only averaging 1.5 points per game in 33.5 minutes. Beane is a player that must step up, even though he is a sophomore, he is a veteran on the team. He is a dismal 1-for-10 from the field in his last two games and has only attempted three free throws.

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Sophomore guard Jalen Pendleton is continuing to strive off of the bench and does not need to be in the starting line-up. Pendleton is a spark. He is built like a fire hydrant and can push defenders out of the way. Pendleton has a gift, if he wants to get to the basket, he will get to the basket.

It is apparent the team is struggling this season, but the future looks bright for the Salukis. They will lose Jackson, who is a phenomenal scorer, but with already three players signed for next season, the team is on its way up.

A bold statement is in two years the Salukis will make the NCAA Tournament. Many key players will be seniors and the cohesion that Saluki fans have been looking for will be there.

After heading to Chicago for conference newcomer Loyola Wednesday, the Salukis welcome the Evansville University Purple Aces and its star DJ Balentine to SIU Arena Saturday at 3:05 p.m..

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