CARBONDALE — The SIU men's basketball team is pursuing its first foreign tour in 10 years, coach Barry Hinson said Tuesday.
The Salukis are looking at going to a yet-to-be-determined site in August for, potentially, three games before the 2018-19 season. They will get to practice 10 times before competing outside the United States, per NCAA rules, and can play up to five games. The NCAA only allows teams to go on a foreign tour every four years, and SIU looked at this year as a possibility for a while, Hinson said.
"This is something we've toyed around with the last few years, but we anticipated, frankly, this time period. That this was going to be the year we targeted," he said. "We have three incoming freshmen, and, essentially, everybody else back. You get 10 extra practices, with, especially, two guys that didn't get to play very much this season, one that didn't get to play at all, for that matter. All arrows pointed that this was the best thing for our program."
Hinson said the team raised enough money to play in either the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) or Collegeinsider.com Tournament (CIT) this year, but chose to pursue the foreign tour instead. The Salukis won 20 games for the second time in four years this season, finishing 20-13, and briefly considered playing in those two events after they were passed over for the NIT, according to Hinson.
"We just felt like the investment is much greater here, in that it helps us going into this next season," Hinson said.
Drake is competing in the CIT, and won its first game Monday against Abilene Christian (Texas). No Valley teams were selected for the NIT or accepted a bid for the CBI. Loyola will represent the MVC in the NCAA Tournament beginning Thursday against Miami (Florida).
SIU could return all five starters, four of which will be seniors in 2018-19, guards Marcus Bartley, Sean Lloyd, guard/forward Armon Fletcher and center Kavion Pippen. Fletcher was a second team all-conference pick and a first team all-district selection by the National Basketball Coaches Association Tuesday. Lloyd made the MVC's All-Defensive Team, and Pippen was a third team all-conference pick and made the All-Newcomer Team.
Guard Aaron Cook, a member of the league's most improved team, will be a junior next season. Cook started 32 of 33 games last season and was the team's fourth-leading scorer at 9.8 points per game.
Forward Thik Bol, who redshirted this past season with a knee injury, was a preseason All-Missouri Valley Conference second team pick. Hinson said he is progressing in his rehab, and could start running on the court in April.
The Salukis also return backup guard Eric McGill, who played in 10 games before breaking his hand. McGill is expected to get the 2017-18 season back, and could have two years with SIU beginning this winter. SIU also returns backup guard Brendon Gooch and backup forwards Austin Weiher and Rudy Stradnieks.
Hinson said he did not anticipate anyone leaving the program. Multiple players transferred in the last five years under Hinson, but no one left after the 2016-17 campaign.
"We have no anticipation of anybody leaving our squad at this time," Hinson said. "I think all of our players realize how much investment has gone into this program, specifically in these last three years, and it's time to reap the benefits from that."
The Salukis signed three recruits, all of which will be incoming freshmen. Guard Darius Beane from Carbondale High School and guard/forward Sam Shafer from Lincoln Way-East could play on the foreign tour and practice with the team beginning this summer.
Forward Amadou Fall, who hurt his knee this season and hasn't played much if at all for prep school St. Louis Christian Academy, is expected to miss the tour. Fall may not be able to practice until mid-September, Hinson said, but is still in play for potentially playing in 2018-19.