Saluki Men's Basketball in the spotlight at annual Media Day
CARBONDALE, Illinois -- Entering his sixth season at the helm of Southern Illinois, men's basketball head coach Barry Hinson met with the media on Tuesday to preview the 2017-18 season at the team's annual Media Day in the Cook Club of SIU Arena. PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT Welcome to our 2017-18 season. I am as excited today as I am when I first started coaching junior high basketball at the age of 20. I'm starting my 36th season of basketball coaching. I always said that the year that I'm not excited is the year that I get out. I couldn't be anymore excited to start a season than this year.
What excites you about this team?
What excites me is that we have a group of young men that just had the best finish that we've had in eight years. The majority of those guys are back. We have four great additions to this program that I don't think people outside of Carbondale and even some people inside of Carbondale remember that they're a part of the program. Tyler Smithpeters hurt his knee in the first game of last year. He is absolutely one of our best perimeter shooters. As evident, last year we were the worst 3-point shooting team in the league. We wouldn't have been had Tyler been healthy. We've added a point guard in Marcus Bartley, who started at the University of St. Louis. He's a 6'4'' point guard. We've added a man named Kavion Pippen who gives us size and depth in a center positon. We've added Eric McGill from Panola Junior College but he also played Division I basketball at Southeast Missouri State. Those are four people that I don't think people remember. Then you also throw in Brendon Gooch who was a redshirt freshman last year. There's five people who people don't really know about. With the guys that we have coming back, I think that's one of the reasons we're so excited.
What will be different about this team compared to last year?
I think there's going to be some different things that we do offensively. I'm not going to go into those specifically at this time. When you see our team walk out on the floor or walk through the airport, no one's going to ask us at the airport anymore if we're the SIU soccer team. We actually look like a basketball team. We have length and size also coming off the bench. If we were to throw out a starting lineup, we have an opportunity right now to throw out 6'4", 6'4", 6'6", 6'8", and 6'9". That's a pretty good line up. As I've looked over the years past, specifically with Wichita State and Illinois State, when you look at their size on the floor, that was such a dominant factor. Mike asked me, as a matter of fact, after every game with Illinois State and Wichita State, 'was length the factor?' My answer was always, yes. I think someone else's radio broadcast can ask that question about our guys and hopefully it will be.
What excites you about Marcus Bartley?
I was excited about Marcus when he was a sophomore in high school because we recruited him. We had just gotten beaten by SLU when we started recruiting this man. I think the first thing that excites me is that we have a point guard that can see over ball screens. Aaron Cook can see over ball screens. That is no disrespect to Michael (Rodriguez). Michael could do things that those guys couldn't do, he could get to the paint. The problem was that he was 5'8". I know that, I understand the 5'8'' struggles that we have in life. I can relate to those things. But now we've got Aaron Cook, Marcus Bartley and even Eric McGill -- those guys can finish inside. I think the athleticism and the size, that makes me really really excited. I think the thing is that I challenged Marcus on is I've told him, 'you've got to get 30 points a game'. Now, don't go crazy on me, I'm not asking him to do that, but he's got to get a collection of 30 points with assists and points. All of our point guards can go out and get assists for us. There's no question in my mind. I make a bold statement every year, I made one last year about Tyler and then he got hurt so I'm not going to make bold statements about individuals. We will shoot the 3-point ball a lot better than we have in the past. We will probably take more threes than we have in the past. I think for the first time in a long time, we don't have just shooters, we have makers. I think there's a big difference.
What does McGill bring to the table?
I just think he's a good player, I think he's a really good player. I'm excited about him. He's got length, he's athletic, he can shoot. This is the kid, I think you'll have to correct me if I'm wrong, who had seven 3's and 23 points against Murray State as a freshman when he was a guard at SEMO. I think this kid can help us and he can adapt to what we're doing. There's been a change, a switch-over, from junior college to Division I. I think it's a little bit more difficult that what he thought, which is a good thing. I think he'll adapt. I think Kavion Pippen is another good example. You're just going to see this man grow and grow and get better as we go. Somebody watched practice the other day after coming to the first practice and said 'by gosh, how much better has he gotten'. I think he's just a sponge. He's a kid who comes in our office everyday, he wants to watch film, same goes for Eric. These guys just want to learn. You're talking about adding guys two our program who make a difference and I think we've added two guys who will help make a difference for us.
Talk about your depth.
That's a good problem to have. Now you have a guy who gets in foul trouble or hurt, you have a guy who can help. That was our number one priority. We kept telling Kavion, every time we went to Three Rivers, 'you're our number one priority'. We have to have another big guy, you guys reminded me of that all the time, asking me if I was going to sign a big guy. The little lady in Schnucks would be remind me, asking if I was going to sign a big guy. Yes! We did! We got one and we're excited about him. WEelove him! That's not even to say the improvement that Thik Bol's made. That guy's gained 18 pounds, he's not been hanging out out at the Golden Corral, he's been eating and lifting. I think you can tell in my voice that I'm a little giddy. We've played those two in practice together and we saw some great things but we also saw some things that we need to work on. If we really wanted to go big we could go big. When you have a guy who is 6'8'' out there and a guy on the wing who is 6'7'', that's pretty good length right there. The problem that that gives us right now is defensively. In the Valley, almost everyone you run into has a 4-man. You don't see that many teams who play two big guys like that. One thing that Thik's done that he's improved on is his defense. We feel that he can get out there and guard some guys.
How has Thik Bol's offensive game expanded?
Right now, we're telling Thik, when you get the ball on the perimeter, go score. I think our fans were pleasantly surprised last year at shooting the ball from the short corner and shooting free throws. I remember vividly Loyola trying to foul him, put him on the line, and he just steps up there and makes them, right there with the crowd all over him. The one thing we've added to Thik's arsenal, and you can talk to him about this later, is that he can put the ball on the floor. He's got a two-dribble rule, but he can put the ball on the floor, away from the basket. Matter of fact, we would rather him put the ball on the floor right now and attack the basket because he's a lot better at going right or left.
Armon has continued to improve the past few years and now he comes in as your leading scorer from last year. What do you expect to see from him this year?
I expect to see Armon a completely different player this year. I have never held back on my expectations on Armon Fletcher, never have and never will. I think he has a high ceiling. Armon needs to do a better job defensively; he's got to get a little bit of Dennis Rodman in his blood. I'm not talking about off the floor, I'm talking about on the floor. He's got to become that type of rebounder that every time that shot goes up, you've got to worry about him getting on that offense glass. He's got to eat glass for us to be successful. He also needs to shoot the ball better. I mean he was our leading scorer last year, he was one of our worst 3-point shooters. He's got to shoot the ball a lot better and he has so far. I think Armon was on his way to a really phenomenal sophomore year last year, until he got hurt. And when he got hurt, I think that took him out of sync. I think he's going to have a really good year for us. I think another guy that's gonna be good for us is Sean Lloyd. Ray Giacolleti came in the other day and watched this practice and pointed at that guy and said 'He is one tough sucker.' Sean Lloyd, if you want to get right down to it, instilled the past of Floorburn U. I don't mind telling you, in the first five years that we were here, I didn't feel like we had the right to call this program Floorburn U. Bruce (Weber), Matt (Painter) and Chris (Lowery) established that and sustained it for the most part and I didn't think we had a right to do that until the very end of the season last year. Much to do with Sean Lloyd, we were able to get that back. I wish you could see, in fact I'll get Coach Clancy and you guys can take a picture of it, on the back of our practice gear, inside our locker room, and outside our locker room we put the logo of Floorburn U. This program is going back to the old days of Floorburn U. I feel confident about that. Our guys have shown it in practice and we expect to show it in games.
In the past you've said you can't play that way any more. With what the rules are, can you really play that way?
We are going to try. We've got depth now, Todd. We are going to play that way and Floorburn U does not have anything to do with fouling. Floorburn U in our interpretation means we're going to dive on the floor and we're going to take charges.
You said you're going to shoot more threes and make more threes. Is that where a majority of your points are going to be coming from?
No, this program is going to play inside-outside like it always has been. Our leading shot takers are Kavion, Thik, and Marcus. As long as our big guys are taking a majority of our shots, that means that we're gonna do good. Let me rephrase that, I said we're going to do that. I want to shoot more threes and make more threes. I won't be so bold to say we will do that, I want to do that and I think we can. Statistically, right now we've gone 11 practices and as a team we are shooting 48 percent from the three. If we shoot 48 percent from the three, we will be in here in April talking about where we're going in the NCAA Tournament and I'd like to be able to do that.
Do you see breaking up Aaron (Cook) and Marcus (Bartley)?
No question. I want to have Aaron Cook on the floor as much as possible because he is so athletic and he has slowed down now and is much more mature. He's playing within a speed he can play, he's making smart decisions, and he's definitely not a freshman anymore. You can have him imitate me today; he can imitate me as well as anyone about getting onto him. He'll tell you about that, but he's gotten a lot better.
From watching you the other day, it looks like it starts with you bring the ball in first to Kaivon. Then onto passing, shooting, or throwing it out to a three. Is that about it?
Yeah, I think you've given our offensive scouting report, but we like to play inside-outside. The best part of what you said is that they have the ability to throw the ball out. Thik and Kavion have been great passers. I think that the most improved player from throughout the spring and summer is Jonathon Wiley. Everyone has been asking me 'What are we gonna do with the absence of Sean O'Brien?' Jonathon is a different player than Sean and he can do things that Sean couldn't do and Sean did things that he couldn't do. He's improved tremendously. I'm excited about Rudy Stradnieks. Rudy's coming of age and he's in his junior year. I expect the same thing of him and Austin (Weiher); the bottle of wine has been marinating for two years, let's pop the cork, let's drink, and let's be merry and happy. I think Rudy and Austin have an opportunity to do that for us.
How close do you think Aaron has been to what you expected?
I don't think he's been close to; I think he's been exactly what we think and what we expected of him. He's a great kid. He's just a good person. All our guys are. I am so fired up about our guys. Knock on wood, we've had no issues and our guys come ready. We've had 11 practices and we've had one bad practice. It was number 8 and last year we were at number 5 before our first bad practice. Our guys have done a pretty good job.
Brendon is a redshirt freshman, do you expect him to get a lot of time?
No, I don't. Not a lot, but I think he is going to get time. He is going to play. That's what I tell all our guys. We've got 12 guys, you're all gonna play. It's like telling your kids at Christmas, even if you get coal, everyone is going to get a gift. Everybody's happy right now; everybody gets to play. We've got 12 guys. We've got 10 right now, two are out hurt, we don't have any subs in practice. We're running around like a Labrador Retriever chasing geese all day. Our tongue is out, we're worn out, but I think it will pay off. I really do. It's a pretty good analogy.
How long do you think Austin is going to be out?
Well, let's ask Austin. What do you got? One and a half more weeks? I like the way Austin thinks. I like that he's optimistic. Austin's injury is not something that is going to keep him out for the rest of the season. He's going to be okay.
You're a guard-heavy team, do you think that's reflective of the Valley in general?
Well yeah, but I don't think we're guard heavy now. You're looking in the past buddy. Come on, look in the crystal ball and to the future. We've got some size now. I don't consider Austin, Rudy, Kavion, and Thik guards. There's four out of our twelve and that's not bad. 33% of our team is not guards. In the past, it's been 90% of our team is guards, so we feel like we've got some size.
This FBI investigation that came out a couple weeks ago, what do you make of that and what effect do you think it will have on mid-major basketball?
I don't know the effect it will have on mid-major basketball. I mean, I really don't. I think what has the most effect on mid-major basketball that we need to get taken care of is the transfer, until those guys have to sit out a year. 351 Division I coaching staffs had a conference call yesterday, and that's the first thing they said. Change is coming. Reggie did a great job and he said I understand change is coming. Tell us what change is coming. We're sitting here talking about all the stuff that has gone on with the FBI and that hasn't affected us. There have been no shoe companies that have come to me and asked me about doing that stuff. Not even a barbecue company has come to me asking about that stuff. But we do have our guys being plucked by the power 5 all the time, coming in and actively recruiting our guys.
What's your take on the Valley race?
I think it's the Wild Wild West. As soon as Wichita said they were leaving, all 10 head coaches got their teams together and said we got a chance to win the Missouri Valley Conference. All 10 teams are working every day to be Missouri Valley champions. I have no idea where we'll be picked, I don't care where we're picked. Our goal is to win a Missouri Valley championship. That's what we start off every day of practice. That's our expectation. We expect to win a Valley championship. That's what we're training to do every single day.