#127 Southern Illinois: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #127
Conference Rank: #6 Missouri Valley Conference
2009-10: 15-15, 6-12
2009-10 postseason: none
Coach: Chris Lowery (124-74 at Southern Illinois, 124-74 overall)
Southern Illinois lost three starters and a key reserve off of a team that was, yet again, disappointing. However, this could be a case of addition by subtraction. The Salukis have had success in the not so distant past because of their defense. That philosophy seemed to disappear over the last couple of seasons and the success or failure of the 2010-2011 team will depend on their defense.
Key Losses: F Anthony Booker, G Kevin Dillard, C Nick Evans, G Tony Freeman
Defense is nice, but somebody has to score and not turn the ball over too. Coach Chris Lowery is on the hot seat and he went the junior college route to try to bolster his team immediately. The backcourt gains a point guard in Mykel Cleveland and a shooting guard in Troy Long. Ernest Watson is a quality small forward and power forward Mamadou Seck will give the team some much needed depth in the frontcourt. Those four are all junior college transfers and all four of them will be given every opportunity to play right away…and in the case of Cleveland, he will almost have to be ready to take over the point guard position. Redshirt freshman forward Jordan Myers and guard Diamond Taylor will also suit up for the Salukis after sitting on the sidelines last season. The only incoming freshman is power forward Davonte Drinkard.
Despite all the additions, this is not a team that lacks experienced players to build around. In fact, this could end up being an extremely deep team. In the backcourt Justin Bocot, John Freeman and Jack Crowder are among the players who will battle for starting jobs. Bocot was one of the bright spots on the team last season and will likely turn into the go-to-scorer for the 2010-2011 squad after averaging 9.1 points per game a year ago. Freeman, a 6-5 senior, is not much of a shooter or a scorer, but he is a decent rebounder off the wing and a tough defender. Crowder never really got an opportunity to show his stuff after transferring in from the junior college level, but he is a tough wing who can battle on the glass.
Along with Bocot, senior forward Carlton Fay is the only other returning starter. Fay is a dynamic scorer who the opposition has to cover both inside and outside. Fay knocked down 38.1 percent of his attempts from long range last year and his offense can really stretch out the defense. Yet, without an interior scorer, Fay is much easier to handle. SIU hopes Gene Teague can be that scorer. At 6-9 and 285 pounds, Teague certainly looks the part. As a freshman last season he earned 13 starts and averaged 6.1 points and a team high 4.6 rebounds. And all of that was in just 17.0 minutes per game. If he can stay on the floor longer, which is a relatively big if due to conditioning, injury and foul issues, the Salukis may have found their interior scorer for the next three years.
Who to Watch:
If Teague can clog the lane, the group on the perimeter should get some open looks. And they have to knock them down. Without Kevin Dillard and Tony Freeman, that may be an issue. Bocot and Fay will hit their fair share of long balls, but the key may be the development of sophomore Kendal Brown-Surles. Brown-Surles started off his collegiate career with a bang, connecting on four of six three-pointers in the season opener. After that the numbers were not nearly as impressive. However, he did have a strong finish to the season and could turn into a fine shooting guard and a more than capable backup point guard.
Brown-Surles may end up starting at the point if Cleveland is not ready for the job or some of the other newcomers need to find a spot in the starting lineup. Southern Illinois certainly needs to find some depth in the frontcourt and some consistent scorers on the perimeter, but the most important thing is defense. And Coach Lowery may finally have enough bodies to have the luxury of forcing his players to play tough defense every trip down the floor. If they do, Southern Illinois will exceed expectations and get back to the postseason.
Projected Post-season Tournament: CBI/CIT
Projected Starting Five:
Mykel Cleveland, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Kendal Brown-Surles, Sophomore, Guard, 4.1 ppg
Justin Bocot, Senior, Guard, 9.1 ppg
Carlton Fay, Senior, Forward, 12.0 ppg
Gene Teague, Sophomore, Center, 6.1 ppg
Next Top 144 Teams