CARBONDALE — Sam Shafer wanted to play where he was appreciated, and never felt anything less from SIU's staff.
Shafer, a 6-foot-6, 190-pound senior shooting guard from Lincoln Way-East High School in Frankfort, verbally committed to the Salukis Wednesday night. SIU's staff attended a lot of his games, he said, called or texted almost every day, and the Salukis were the first school to offer Shafer. Montana State and Tennessee-Martin, which won the Ohio Valley Conference West Division last season, also offered. Indiana State and Drake were two schools that showed interest at one point during the process, Shafer said.
"I was just evaluating my options and I thought this was going to be the best for me," Shafer said. "I talked to my parents, my friends, and determined what was going to be best. I always wanted to go to a place that always wanted me, not settled for me. That meant something for me."
Shafer averaged 16 points per game for the 20-11 Griffins and played big in some big games. He had 30 points in a win over top-ranked Bolingbrook in February and hopes to lead Lincoln Way-East to its first regional championship this winter. The Griffins return three starters.
"My school has never won a regional championship," Shafer said. "Our school is more of a football school. Every since I wanted to change that. I just want to be the guy that changes it, so that's my main goal, to change the way people look at this school for basketball."
Shafer's verbal commitment is non-binding. SIU's coaches can't publicly comment on him until he signs a national letter of intent with the program, which he can in November.
He is SIU's second recruit for the 2018-19 season, joining Carbondale guard Darius Beane, the younger brother of Saluki standout Anthony Beane, Jr. Beane's father, Anthony Beane, Sr., is an assistant coach at SIU.
SIU coach Barry Hinson has two scholarships left for 2018. The Salukis will lose shooting guard Tyler Smithpeters, guard/forward Jonathan Wiley and starting forward Thik Bol after this season. Hinson has an extra scholarship still available for the upcoming season after Jeremy Roscoe, a former state champion at Chicago Uplift High School, did not academically qualify this year. Roscoe paid his own way at SIU in 2016-17 but didn't make the grades and transferred to Panola (Texas) College.