New season equals clean slate for Salukis

New season equals clean slate for Salukis

By Tyler Dixon

 

It is no surprise the Shockers from Wichita State University were picked to win the Missouri Valley Conference, but the Salukis have some bones to pick being selected to finish eighth.

Plenty of teams in the MVC lost key players from last season, which means new players will have to step up. Two of the brightest young stars in the conference are Wichita State guard Ron Baker and Missouri State University guard Marcus Marshall. Marshall will be a leader of his team, while Baker will play a supporting role to senior guard Cleanthony Early. Early was named the Preseason MVC Player of the Year.

Advertisement

Exhibition games are scheduled for teams to get better and figure out what their weak spots are. The Salukis did not have that in their first game. SIU was pushed to its limit.

The Salukis had a few positives in the game. They were 27-37 from the free-throw line and outrebounded a much smaller University of Missouri St. Louis team.

Coach Barry Hinson said he still sees freshman Sean O’Brien as a hybrid player. O’Brien is big enough to play in the post, but skilled enough to play on the wing. O’Brien did not have a great first showing, although he had four rebounds and three assists. Hinson said O’Brien missed shots he does not miss during practice.

The Salukis have added some local talent this season with the Verhines brothers from Woodlawn and freshman Tyler Smithpeters from Harrisburg.

Bronson Verhines, a senior forward, came into the season with high expectations coming off of his last campaign. Verhines was an All- Conference and All-Region selection and was the national tournament MVP last season as Rend Lake College won the National Junior College Athletic Association National Championship.

Verhines recorded six points, eight rebounds and only one turnover, in 29 minutes on the floor. He made some nice moves with his back to the basket and moved well without the ball. The team had 16 turnovers in the game with seven coming from the post players.

Hinson said he is still going to redshirt one player this season, but he only gets one more look at them against another team in the final exhibition game. The roster is currently filled with 10 guards. Two of those freshmen guards could be redshirted.

Advertisement

Freshmen guards Tyler Smithpeters and K.C. Goodwin are candidates that could be in the running. Smithpeters needs to add more size to be able to take the physical beating of the college game and Goodwin is the only player south of 6-feet tall on the roster, but Hinson liked how he played Saturday.

It is going to take some time for all of the post players to get used to playing together. Senior Davante Drinkard is the only big man left from last year’s team. If Drinkard can stay healthy and stay on the floor, he could have a productive season for the Salukis. Drinkard played in 29 games last season, but only averaged 1.9 rebounds per game. He needs to be more physical and he could be a dominant presence in the paint.

Another issue for all teams is the new rule change in regards to fouls. It is a concern the games will be longer than they have ever been. A total of 50 fouls were called and 59 free throws were attempted in Saturday’s game, with 30 fouls being called on the Tritons and 20 on the Salukis.

Shooting from beyond the arc was not the best for the Salukis last season, but Hinson said during SIU Media Day that it had to get better.

At SIU Fanfest Hinson said only junior guard Mike Balogun and sophomore guard Hunter Gibson have the green light to shoot any 3-pointer they want. Balogun was 0-2 and Gibson did not see the floor. Hinson said this is definitely a blip and the 3-point shooting will come around.

The Salukis final exhibition game is Saturday against William Jewell College, they will then head to Columbia, Mo. to take on University of Missouri in their first regular season game. It is a tough challenge for SIU, but Mizzou only has one big man who averaged more than 15 minutes per game last season. It is an opportunity for Drinkard, Verhines and freshman redshirt Bola Olaniyan to gain confidence.

Tyler Dixon can be reached at

[email protected]

or 536-3311 ext. 269.

Advertisement