CARBONDALE — SIU's men's basketball opener at Winthrop Friday can't get here fast enough.
Armon Fletcher was added to the Salukis' injured list after he dislocated his knee in Tuesday's practice, according to coach Barry Hinson, but will travel to South Carolina. Hinson said the initial diagnosis from team doctors was to miss two weeks, but that Fletcher will be a game-time decision when SIU opens the season at the defending Big South Conference champions. The injury will not require surgery, Hinson said, and Fletcher has popped his knee out before during his career, but he is doubtful for Friday's game.
"We will travel with him, but we do not know if he'll be able to participate in our first two games," Hinson said Thursday. "We'll make that decision, literally, right before game time, and this is based on our medical staff."
Fletcher, a 6-foot-5, 207-pound junior from Edwardsville, is SIU's top returning scorer at 11.1 points per game last season. A member of the Missouri Valley Conference's Most Improved Team, he scored 10 points or more 19 times last season, and was second on the team with 47 3-pointers. His 40 steals ranked second on the team.
SIU is already down starting forward Thik Bol (knee injury), starting point guard Marcus Bartley (broken bone in his wrist) and forward Austin Weiher (foot), who Hinson said started practicing this week but is also doubtful for Friday night's game. That means the Salukis could be down to eight players in their season opener.
"If we can play him Friday, we're gonna play him Friday," Hinson said. "My gut tells me that probably won't take place, but at the same time, we're gonna do everything we can, and it will be a decision based on our training staff, but more importantly, by Armon himself."
Aaron Cook, Tyler Smithpeters and Sean Lloyd are slated to start at guard for SIU Friday night. Junior Eric McGill, a transfer from Panola (Texas) College, and redshirt freshman Brendon Gooch are the Salukis' only reserves at that position. Junior center Rudy Stradnieks will be SIU's only post reserve if Weiher can't go. Senior guard/forward Jonathan Wiley and junior center Kavion Pippen are scheduled to start in the frontcourt.
SIU hosts Division II Illinois-Springfield Saturday, Nov. 18, before going to No. 16 Louisville Nov. 21. The Salukis then play at Murray State Nov. 25 and host SIU-Edwardsville Nov. 29 before going to Saint Louis on Dec. 6.
Winthrop returns two starters off last season's 26-7 squad that advanced to the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles have eight newcomers, and feature one of the top forwards in the country in 6-8 Xavier Cooks, a preseason all-conference first team pick in the Big South. Tipoff at Winthrop Coliseum is set for 6 p.m.