Guard play essential in Valley league play

Submitted by Carbondale Times on

Chris Barron
Carbondale Times

The second half of the summer semester starts Monday and finally JUCO center recruit Kavion Pippen has arrived on campus. That’s good news to Saluki fans, who have looked with trepidation at this past year’s three big-man returnees and felt the roster needed another impact big besides Thik Bol.

But, though the Dawgs now have two guys (Bol and Pippen) who can defend SIU’s goal, it is fact-based, conventional wisdom that modern day basketball is guard-oriented.

“I’ve been in this league for 13 years and everyone’s always had great guard play,” said SIU coach Barry Hinson in a recent Daily Pantagraph article.

Oddly enough, even Missouri State University head man Paul Lusk, who will have one of the better big man scorers in the Valley this coming season, agrees with Hinson on the MVC being a guard-driven league.

“You have to have great guards overall in college basketball,” said Lusk. “Ultimately, you have to have great guards making plays.”

Indeed, five of the top 10 2016-17 scorers in the Valley this past year were guards. The leading scorer for the Dawgs last season was point guard Mike Rodriguez (12.9 points per game). Junior guard Armon Fletcher is also back for SIU.

Three other returning guards have potential. Sophomore Sean Lloyd had a breakout season this past year scoring 7.6 points per game and developing a shooting 35 percent from three-point range near the end of the season. Also coming back from season-ending injuries is redshirt senior Tyler Smithpeters.

In the 2015-16 season, Smithpeters shot 41 percent from three and should score more if he stays healthy. Also, sophomore Aaron Cook was a good scorer in high school. So he will up his point per game average if Hinson has anything to say about it. And it just so happens Hinson has had something to say about it. In a postseason interview, he gave us a clue about what he would like to surround the big man combo of Bol and Pippen with.

“I’ve always said that when we get to a point we could play three point guards at one time, we will try it,” said Hinson.

Those point guards have to be able to not only get the ball to those bigs, but also score the ball. Top candidate to start of all recruits is Eric McGill of Panola Community College. McGill averaged more than 12 points a game for Panola this past season, but showed potential of being a great scorer at the end of the season in the JUCO National Tournament. He scored more than 20 points in two separate games at said tournament. You could see him starting when the season begins this coming November. 

However, Hinson was not totally done stocking great scoring guards. This past weekend, Hinson brought in Caleb Nero for a campus visit from Tulsa Memorial High School, where he scored 24 points a game.

Hinson knows where his basketball bread is buttered — guard play. If Nero signs, be ready for a Saluki scoring banquet in 2017-18.