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Eric McGill Panola

Panola College guard Eric McGill, seen here in a photo from the school, helped the Ponies reach the NJCAA national tournament this season. McGill verbally committed to the SIU men's basketball team on April 1.

CARBONDALE — Eric McGill, a sophomore guard at Panola (Texas) College that helped the Ponies set a school record for wins this season, verbally committed to the SIU men's basketball team Saturday.

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Memphis native averaged 11.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game for the 26-9 squad. He played particularly well down the stretch, sinking 6 of 8 from the field, including 4 of 4 from the 3-point line, in Panola's win over Shelton State at the NJCAA national tournament. He scored 20 points in three of his final five games and made 14 of 25 triples during that stretch.

"I set players up and I set myself up," said McGill, who had 16 assists and six turnovers in his two games at the national tournament. "Being a shooter, it spreads out a defense. It really causes defensive players to hug you and opens up the floor for everyone, so, shooting is going to help us a lot this year."

McGill shot 43.4 percent from the field and 39.5 percent (64 of 162) from the 3-point line this season. His 85 steals led the team.

"He has a really, really good IQ, defensively. Awesome anticipation," Panola coach Grant McMillan said. "He kind of baits you into things, and then he steals it. He's long for a guard. Not crazy long, he's exactly 6-2 1/2, but he's long for a one. He was our hardest worker all season. And it wasn't even close."

McGill was rated the 61st best junior college player in the nation by jucorecruiting.com. He played his freshman year at Southeast Missouri State, where he started 13 of 27 games in 2015-16, including against the Salukis in a 24-point loss.

After Demarius Jacobs decommitted and re-opened his recruiting, McGill and incoming freshman guard Jeremy Roscoe are the only members of this year's Saluki recruiting class so far. SIU coach Barry Hinson has one scholarship left for the 2017-18 season.

The Salukis return three starters off last season's 17-16 squad: forward Thik Bol and guards Sean Lloyd and Armon Fletcher. SIU returns four other letterwinners, fifth-year senior Tyler Smithpeters, and redshirts Marcus Bartley and Brendon Gooch. Bartley, a former point guard at Saint Louis, will be a fourth-year junior this winter. Gooch, who helped Belleville Althoff High School win the Class 3A state title in 2016, will have four years of eligibility beginning this coming season.

todd.hefferman@thesouthern.com

618-351-5087

On Twitter: @THefferman

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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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