Seniors Mamadou Seck and Justin Bocot will play their last home game as Salukis Saturday against Northern Iowa.
“As a player, you always remember your last game on Senior night,” said coach Chris Lowery. “I remember mine was here against Drake (as a player in 1994), and I remember how many points I had because you remember that stuff because it’s important, particularly as a player.”
Seck and Bocot are the only two seniors leaving the team after this season, and both players had unique paths that brought them to SIU.
Bocot came to SIU during the fall 2008 semester, but couldn’t play or have any contact with the team because his grades in high school weren’t good enough to qualify him to play on the team. Bocot said he didn’t take high school seriously until his junior year, when he realized playing college basketball was a possibility.
After he worked a custodial job his first year at SIU, Bocot became eligible during fall 2009 and started the last nine games of that season. Going into the 2011-12 season, Lowery said Bocot would be one of the team leaders, but he was suspended for four games Dec. 7 after an off-the-court issue that led to a police investigation.
Since Bocot was reinstated Dec. 22, he’s started twice, averaging 14.5 minutes per game and 4.6 points per game.
“It’s unfortunate for (Bocot) that things have gone the way they have, but we’ve given him every opportunity to be successful,” Lowery said. “It’s unfortunate because you want to see him have success with all he’s been through and all the things he’s gone through to even be a basketball player at Southern.”
Lowery said Seck has been the clear leader of the team because he’s one of the only players who hasn’t been suspended, ineligible or in trouble. Seck came to SIU after he spent a year at Southeastern Illinois College in Harrisburg.
Before his time at SIC, he lived in Dakar, Senegal, and was a three-time MVP for University Cheikh Anta Diop.
Seck said he came here in hopes of making it into the NCAA tournament.
“It’s really tough when I decided to come here, because way bigger teams that were ranked wanted me,” Seck said. “I was thinking if I come here with last year’s team, with Carlton (Fay) and
Gene (Teague), at worst we’d make the NCAA tournament.”
Seck said he still holds hope to make the NCAA tournament this year, even though SIU will be the ninth seed in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, which starts Thursday.
Northern Iowa is tied with three other teams (Illinois State, Indiana State and Evansville) for the fifth seed, and they beat SIU 58-49 Jan. 31. SIU had a lead late, but UNI finished the game on an 8-2 run, sparked by guard Deon Mitchell’s 17-point performace.
UNI’s leading scorer, Anthony James, missed the game due to an injury, but he’ll be back for Saturday’s game. He’s averaging 13.1 points per game.
Tip-off is set for 2:05 p.m. Saturday at the SIU Arena.