Although the SIU men’s basketball team failed to improve upon the previous year’s conference standing, the 2012-13 Salukis are not the same team they were last season.
The team improved its performance in many areas on the court, as well as in the classroom.
SIU came from one of its worst seasons in school history when Barry Hinson took the reigns as Saluki head coach. During the 2011-12 season, SIU amassed an overall 8-23 record with a 5-14 conference record. The team was an abysmal 2-11 in away games and finished 0-4 in neutral-court games. The Salukis finished 6-8 at home in 2011, which was the only time they finished with a sub .500 record at home since 2000.
In Hinson’s first season, he improved the overall record to 14-17. His arrival restored pride at SIU Arena as he led the Salukis to a 9-4 home record.
The fact that SIU men’s basketball saw consecutive losing records may upset some, but perspective should be shed on the whole season.
As soon as he was hired, Hinson inherited all the problems others left for him to repair in Carbondale. The charges brought up against the 2011-12 basketball team for incidents such as bike robbery and battery with an Airsoft gun damaged its image and may have decreased fan support. However, Hinson’s guidance and programs — such as his life skills program — helped increase his team’s moral responsiveness.
The Salukis finished with a cumulative 2.947 GPA, the highest since the athletic department began tracking team GPAs in 1990.
Attendance records also show an increase. During the 2011-12 season, SIU basketball — former Saluki coach Chris Lowery — averaged 3,299 fans per home contest. Hinson’s debut season raised that average to around 5,007 fans.
The Salukis could not manage to win many close home games in 2011 because of lack of leadership and accountability. In contrast, Hinson has challenged his players to hold themselves to a higher standard. Even in the first-round MVC tournament loss, Hinson sat players who took selfish shots and weren’t playing team basketball.
After a Jan. 9 Wichita State loss, in which junior guard Desmar Jackson scored 28 points, Hinson criticized the player for tardiness and procrastination shortly after Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall called him “quite the talent.” Hinson said he would give the junior transfer until the Jan. 12 Indiana State matchup to prove he deserved to be on the team. Jackson not only started that game but also scored a career-high 29 points.
The 2012 team’s seniors played a more vital role to the Salukis than the year before. Senior hybrid forward Jeff Early entered the season as an undersized 2-guard with an awkward shooting form. Hinson’s decision to place Early into the hybrid position helped him develop into the nation’s best rebounder for players 6-foot-1 and shorter. Early was also named the MVC’s most improved team captain. Fellow senior T.J. Lindsay was the team’s best perimeter player and led the team in 3-point shooting percentage (38 percent). Senior guard Kendal Brown-Surles was the team’s lone point guard and led SIU in both 3-pointers and assists.
Hinson’s decision to dedicate the season to his seniors allowed other team members to rally around the upperclassmen. Although Brown-Surles is the only four-year Saluki senior, Lindsay and Early have gained leadership roles with their play on the court.
The Salukis increased scoring production is perhaps the most improved area for the team. When Hinson was hired, there were predictions that he would bring a Kansas-style offense to Carbondale and light up the scoreboard. Hinson, however, quickly reminded the media that he has been traditionally a defensive minded coach. He proved his defensive prowess early in the year when he defeated teams with bigger and longer lineups than the Salukis.
Hinson’s offensive scheme improved the team’s scoring efficiency as SIU progressed from ninth in field goal percentage (41 percent) in 2011 to just being just .001 percentage points from third in the conference this seasonThe Tip In With Demario Phipps-Smith