CARBONDALE — The SIU men's and women's basketball teams were cleared to begin workouts on the court Monday.
A new NCAA rule allowed the Salukis to move from voluntary workouts to required ones Monday. Teams can work on the court a maximum of four hours a week and with their strength and conditioning staffs up to eight hours a week all the way up to the first week of classes.
Second-year men's coach Bryan Mullins said he would concentrate on getting the team back in basketball shape before anything else. The Salukis return two starters off last season's 16-16 squad, as well as four others, but have to mix in seven newcomers (sophomore Steven Verplancken Jr. can practice but has to sit out this season after transferring).
"The biggest thing is getting these guys in shape, physically," Mullins said. "They haven't been in a weight program for four months. I think the basketball stuff will come. It's getting their bodies ready to be able to go through a two-hour practice at game speed and really hard individual workouts. Their muscles can't handle the work because they haven't been in a gym in so long."
Sophomore guards Marcus Domask and Lance Jones return after starting a combined 58 games between them. Both played in all 32 games. Domask, the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman and Newcomer of the Year, averaged 13.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game as a true freshman. He shot 46.9% from the field and a team-best 39.7% from the 3-point line (54 of 136). Jones was SIU's fifth-leading scorer (9.3 points per game) and tied for second on the team with 79 assists. His 31 steals were just eight back of team leader Eric McGill.
Sophomore guard Trent Brown (32 games, 20.6 minutes per game, 28 steals) and third-year sophomore forward Sekou Dembele (10 games, 58.3% from the field) also return. Walk-on forward Will Keller played in five games last season, and third-year sopohomore guard Ben Harvey redshirted in 2019-20.
The Salukis signed seven newcomers (guard Chris Cross is a walk-on), three of them forwards. Anthony D'Avanzo, a 6-8 forward from Division II Lewis University, and Southern Utah guard Jakolby Long are graduate transfers. SIU also signed 6-8 forward J.D. Muila and 6-9 Kyler Filewich. Freshman guards Dalton Banks (6-2) and Eric Butler (6-3) signed with the Salukis last November.
Even with so many newcomers, Mullins said this July still felt a lot better than last July.
"It's a huge difference from where we were at last year," he said. "Last year's team was older, but this year's team, we have six guys who were in the program last year, and now, when you're going over and talking about what's happening, these guys can start to answer those questions and talk to the younger guys. The culture takes time to form, but you can just tell where we're starting at this time compared to last year."
The SIU women's basketball team also returns two starters, senior guard Makenzie Silvey and senior forward Abby Brockmeyer, from last season's 16-13 squad. Silvey was the Salukis' leading scorer last season at 14.8 ppg. and their third-leading rebounder at 3.5 per game. Brockmeyer (10 ppg., 7.6 rebounds per game) was SIU's leading rebounder and leading shotblocker (21 in 29 games).
Four of SIU's five newcomers are freshmen. Junior Janell Douvier, a 6-1 forward, played at Pratt (Kansas) Community College last season.
On Twitter: @THefferman
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