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CARBONDALE — SIU's best men's basketball player will be back for Friday's season opener at No. 2 Kentucky, coach Barry Hinson said Wednesday.

Armon Fletcher, a preseason first team all-conference guard, missed the Salukis' exhibition win over East Central (Oklahoma) University because he was in the concussion protocol. Fletcher was in the third step of the five-step process last week, Hinson said, and has been practicing with the team. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound senior was the Salukis' leading scorer last season at 14.1 points per game and had the third-most 3-pointers (40).

Fletcher shot 48.6 percent from the field, 34.8 percent from the 3-point line (40 of 115) and 73.1 percent at the free-throw line. He is one of five returning starters for SIU.

Junior guard Eric McGill, who has been battling a foot injury over the last two months, has returned to practice and was also expected to be fully cleared by SIU's medical team on Wednesday, Hinson said.

"We think we're going to have everybody ready to go when we go to Kentucky," Hinson said. "We hope to get medical clearance this afternoon, but we're anticipating that."

McGill, a 6-2, 175-pound righty, played in 10 games last season before breaking his hand against Lamar. McGill had 15 steals and averaged 19.2 minutes a game before the injury. Hinson declined to say who would start against the Wildcats (0-1), who lost 118-84 Tuesday night to No. 4 Duke (1-0). 

Kentucky has won nine straight home openers under coach John Calipari. Tuesday night's loss in the State Farm Champions Classic in Indianapolis was the worst (points-wise) in the Calipari era. 

• Live music on the concourse: Two live bands will play in the concourse of SIU Arena before the first two regular-season home games.

Tawl Paul and The Phonics will be featured at SIU Arena for the concert series. Tawl Paul will play prior to Monday's home-opener vs. Buffalo, and The Phonics will perform prior to the Nov. 17 game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Both bands will play from 5-6:30 p.m. ahead of each night's 7 p.m. tip-off.

Tawl Paul is "high energy, house rockin', and outrageous," and is playing a pre-game concert for the second-straight year at SIU Arena. The Phonics' "repertoire pulls from old favorites by the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind and Fire," and is making its inaugural appearance as a pregame concert at a Saluki basketball game.

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On Twitter: @THefferman


Sports reporter

Todd Hefferman has covered SIU athletics since 2008. A University of Iowa grad, he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and a Heisman Trophy voter.

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