The SIU men’s basketball team honored its seniors Wednesday night as the Salukis defeated Northern Iowa 63-57 in the last home game of the year. Although junior guard Desmar Jackson leads the team in scoring and freshman guard Anthony Beane is the team’s best free throw shooter—according to Coach Barry Hinson—it is the seniors who have meant the most to the Salukis’ attempts to protect their home court.
Guard Jeff Early has been the backbone, heart and soul of the team this season. The senior guard, who is the eldest player in Missouri Valley basketball, leads the team in rebounding with an average of 7.4 boards per game. Early is also the second leading scorer for SIU with 12.6 points per game. At 6-foot-1, he has grabbed 71 offensive rebounds this season, the most on the team by more than 20 rebounds. Coach Barry Hinson crafted a new position for Early in the Saluki’s formation called the hybrid. A position that functions as part guard and part forward. Early has thrived in his new role and has developed into a prolific rebounder for his size. He has eight double-doubles on the season and scored a career high 31 points against Miami of Ohio University Saturday. When the Salukis need a high energy, it is usually Early who delivers. He hit the game tying 3-point shot to send Saturday’s game into overtime, despite making just six shots from beyond the arc all season.
Early’s roommate and fellow Monroe College transfer, guard T.J. Lindsay has also contributed to SIU’s success in home games. In the last three games in the SIU Arena, Lindsay has connected on at least one 3-point field goal. Despite recivieng less than starter minutes (19 minutes per game), he has been consistent and is one of three Salukis to play in every game this season. Lindsay also leads the team in 3-point field goal percentage at 37 percent. In the second matchup against Wichita State on Feb. 5, Lindsay poured in 14 points off the bench in 19 minutes and connected on four 3-point bombs— including a crucial 3-ball at the end of the first half to spark a Saluki comeback. Although he hasn’t been great from 3-point land all year, his shooting touch is starting to connect at the most opportune time of the Salukis’ season—just before the MVC tournament.
Fellow senior guard Kendall Brown-Surles has been SIU’s most used perimeter weapon and has drained a team high 36 3-pointers on the year. Brown-Surles is the only senior to have played his entire collegiate basketball career as a Saluki. The Evansville native also leads the team in assists and minutes played per game as the team’s floor general. Every year Brown-Surles has played at SIU, he has seen an increase his playing time. He went from averaging less than 19 minutes per game his freshman year to 30.5 in his senior campaign. After this season concludes, Brown-Surles said he would like to re-join the team as an assistant.
The seniors who were honored have earned their celebration with their play on and off the court. The Trio is among the last to leave the gym, according to teammates, and they are the ones most looked to in pressure situations. They will have a chance to end their Saluki athletic careers in dramatic fashion if they can upset a team or two in the MVC tournament on Thursday.