Upbeat Saluki men’s basketball Coach Barry Hinson was super optimistic about his team’s upcoming year.
Most college coaches are at the beginning of the season, but Hinson believes he has more reason than most to back up his bubbly prognostications.
“I’ve been coaching for 36 years and this is the most positive I’ve felt about my team preseason since I coached junior-high ball,” Hinson said.
Hinson outlined several factoids to back up his boasts.
“In order to be better, we have to not be the worse three-point shooting team in the Valley,” he said. “In practice, we have shot over 48 percent from the arc for the last several weeks. We are not only going to be three-point shooters, but three-point makers.”
We’ll see if the Dawgs can maintain anywhere near a 48 percentage when opposition players put a hand in the face of SIU’s shooters.
SIU returns and has acquired at least five guys who have shown in the past they can pop the three. Top among the group probably is redshirt senior Tyler Smithpeters.
Smithpeters was the leading gunner from the arc for the Dawgs in 2015-16, but got hurt the second game of this past season, he’s getting his senior year back after redshirting.
Another of last year’s redshirt-transfers, Marcus Bartley will run the team at point guard. He is a 38 percent three-point shooter. Sophomore Sean Lloyd was hitting threes at near a forty percent clip at the end of last year. One guy Hinson must get going from the arc is Armon Fletcher.
“Last year Armon started the year great, but he got hurt,” Hinson said. “When he tried to come back he had lost his shooting eye for some reason. When he’s on, he is one of our best jump shooters.”
Also coming off a redshirt season is Brendon Gooch, who was a great three-point shooter at Belleville Althoff High two years ago.
A second area of his team that has imbued Hinson with positive vibes, is the size and the length of his team.
“On offense, we have point guards who can see over top of ball screens,” Hinson said. “Last year’s point guard for us was only five feet eight inches tall and had trouble with the length of teams like Illinois State.”
Defensively, the Dawgs overall length will stymie the offenses of many shorter Valley teams.
“We can and will start a lineup of 6-4, 6-5, 6-6 at the guards and 6-8, 6-10 on the front line,” Hinson said.
A third factor in Hinson’s positive Karma is the defensive attitude of the team. Hinson reflected back to the golden 2003-2007 Saluki teams that played hustling defense and named themselves “Floorburn U”.
“This year I took the liberty to use the name that those teams used,” Hinson said. “I know the new NCAA rules will forbid us from being as physical as the original Floorburn U teams, but we can still dive on the court for 50-50 balls and take charges.
“All in all, the Valley race is wide open,” Hinson said. “I know were in this thing to win it and go to the NCAAs.”
The Salukis open its season on Nov. 4 in a 7 p.m. exhibition game with Rockhurst.