Nov. 13, 2011
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - With two exhibitions wins behind it, the SIUE men's basketball team looks towards the regular season, which opens Monday at Illinois. Fifth-year Head Coach Lennox Forrester recently talked about his team's upcoming season, which features the Cougars first foray into a full Ohio Valley Conference schedule.
Q: What are your feelings as your team faces a full conference schedule for the first time?
Forrester: This is something that we've been looking forward to for a long time. We understand that getting into the regular season schedule for the first time is going to be very challenging. There are good teams, good coaches and good players in this league. It'll be nice after 16 grinding games to see where we stand. We know it is an uphill battle because of how good of a conference this is.
Q: The preseason poll picks SIUE last among the 11 OVC teams, does that provide some motivation to the team?
Forrester: It's definitely motivation for us as a staff, and also players. But that was expected too. It is more of a motivation, not because of where we were picked, but because of where we are with our basketball program now, and where we need to get to. Obviously the preseason pick doesn't mean anything but it is kind of how people view your program. Our guys are motivated regardless of where we're picked. From a coaches standpoint we know we need a lot of work to be competitive on a night-in, night-out basis.
Q: Your non-conference schedule is a tough one. What are your thoughts when developing a non-conference schedule?
Forrester: You want (the schedule) to be tough. You want to challenge your players. We're losing three seniors after this year, which means the majority of the guys are coming back next year. If you can make it tough for them this year and set it up for next year when we have postseason play then that is something that will pay off for us in the long run. At the same time we have to take care of business this year and be competitive. We want to be in position to win games this year.
Q: Are there particular games on the schedule that stand out?
Forrester: Ball State (Dec. 6) is a pretty good game. We've played them three times over the past three years. We're familiar with their system, their style, now we get them at our place. Here's a MAC school that is picked to finish in the top part of their conference. It's a challenge bringing in a school like this. Hopefully our fans will come out. It's another challenging game. The SIU Carbondale (Dec. 19) game is a huge game for us too. It's one that is good for our fans. They're familiar with Southern Illinois and the Missouri Valley Conference. It'll bring some excitement when they come here next year. Hopefully our fans will get down there too. It's a good game and a tough game for us at the same time.
Forrester also took some time to talk about the players that will make up the 2011-2012 team.
"I think this is our most talented group since we've been at Division I," he said. "Two of our better guys are sitting out because they've transferred."
Forrester on each of his other players individually:
Senior guard David Boarden
Over the years David has learned how to accept his role. He understands what he can and can't do. He's a solid student-athlete in our program. He takes care of business in the classroom, on the basketball court and in the classroom. He's a leader and he can help other guys and especially the new guys: getting them ready and focused to be better and ready to play in the games. We can use him at the five, the four or the three.
Senior guard Kevin Stineman
He knows our ins and outs. He knows what's expected on and off the floor. He should be a leader by example and also vocally. Here's someone who has put every ounce of energy and effort into our program to help us build a foundation. Hopefully we should be winning championships because of what he has helped create. He will leave our program in better shape than when he got here. He's been a complete player, in the classroom, on the floor and in the community.
Senior guard Corey Wickware
What has gotten better is his decision making. He's taking better shots. He's a very good shooter, some games he didn't demonstrate that because of his shot selection. His ball handling has gotten better. He's gotten so much better. He's practicing like a senior. We're moving him from the one (guard position) to strictly a two this year and I think that will make a big difference. We'll lean on him to score for us in several different ways.
Junior forward Jerome Jones
He's a three-four (forward) type player. He's long and athletic. He can guard a two, a three and a four. He's versatile. He shoots the ball well from outside. He can play inside-out. He brings experience, even Division I experience. It won't take him long to transition to our schedule. He's a scorer. He's going to be one of our best players on the floor.
Junior forward Derian Shaffer
He's a rebounder. He brings a lot of energy to our program and enthusiasm. He developed and has taken over a leadership role. Here's a guy that never has a bad day at practice because of how hard he works. He loves the game so it doesn't matter what time of day...he's ready to practice. He can step out and shoot it some, and he handles the ball well despite his size. He's a good athlete that knows how to play.
Junior guard Reggie Reed
He's just a solid basketball player who brings it on a day to day to basis. He competes against our guys to try to get them ready for the season. He's one of our quickest guys on the team and he's shooting the ball a lot better.
Junior forward/center Zeke Schneider
He's going to see a lot of minutes this year because of our depth inside. He needs to be a solid defender for us. He'll be someone to do the dirty work inside. Obviously he understands what's expected of him at this point. He has the advantage of experience over Darian (Shaffer) and Michael Birts. He's slowing things down and getting better.
Junior forward Mark Yelovich
The key for Mark is to stay healthy. He's biting at the bit to get going. He learned a lot just sitting on the sideline. He's improved so much that last year would have been a great year. For us to be successful we need him to stay healthy. He can do a lot. He can rebound; he can score off the dribble. He can shoot from outside and he can score inside.
Sophomore guard Michael Messer
I see him now as a veteran player. His athleticism has gotten so much better. He did a very good job in the offseason to become a better player. He's definitely a guy we're going to lean on this year. He brings a lot to the table. He's someone that does a great job filling up the stat sheet. He'll score, rebound, and have assists.
Freshman forward Michael Birts
He's a true freshman and he's learning how to play hard. He's very athletic. He can shoot a 15-footer, but he's good at finishing around the basket. He needs to get stronger. He's learning and working hard to understand our style of play.
Freshman guard, Kris Davis
He's very talented. He's a very athletic guard. He needs to learn to play a little harder. It takes time to transition to a Division I athlete. It's not just about your skill level, but how hard you play. He'll be an exciting player to watch as he keeps developing.
Freshman guard Kyle Heck
Kyle is doing a great job. He brings a lot of energy and great work ethic to our team. He shoots the ball extremely well.
Freshman forward Charles Joy
He's also learning. He's learning how hard it is, and how competitive you have to be at this level. He's an athletic wing player that shoots pretty well. His passing is getting better. He's also developing a good understanding of our style and our system. He'll be a good slasher and has good shooting skills.
Freshman forward Alex Mayfield
He hasn't practiced at all because of injuring his knee. In high school he was a tough player. He shoots well from the outside.
SIUE's season opens Monday at Illinois. The Cougars will travel to Illinois State Thursday. Both games are part of the Cancun Challenge. The teams play games in Cancun, Mexico Tues., Nov. 22 and Wed., Nov. 23.
The Cougars first OVC schedule begins Thurs., Dec. 29 when Tennessee Tech comes to the Vadalabene Center.