Oct 24, 2012
By Bill Ford
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Southern Illinois women's basketball team breaks all of its huddles by saying the same word in unison -- `Together.'
In head coach Missy Tiber's fourth year at the helm, the Salukis don't mindlessly repeat that mantra. They live it.
Tiber was asked about the 2012-13 team's identity during SIU's basketball media day. It didn't take her long to come up with what stands out about this year's group.
"This is a squad that is together a lot," Tiber said. "I think they enjoy spending time together and it's not something we have to ask them not to do."
Missy Tiber speaks during Media Day.
The team's blog is full of pictures of the Saluki players interacting with one another in various off-the-court capacities. From community service activities to football tailgates to playing `Family Feud' in the locker room, it is obvious these players enjoy each other's company.
"We get along very well," said sophomore Ariel Haynes. "The team chemistry we have is something that I've always wanted to be a part of -- having that feeling of family all the time like we have each other's backs everywhere."
Tiber and the Salukis are banking on that chemistry to help on the court. Southern has another young team this year with no seniors and just two upperclassmen in juniors Jordyn Courier and Sidney Goins. Southern will likely rely on heavy production from its five freshmen. Luckily the Salukis return four starters from last year's squad -- sophomores Cartaesha Macklin, Alexus Patterson, Mercedes Griffin and Haynes -- to help mentor the younger players.
Tiber agreed that having four starters back will be huge. The returning group had more wins last season than in the previous two seasons combined, but has also faced the adversity of several close losses.
"I think the talent is there, but part of it is understanding what it takes to win every single day. I really believe that last year there were seven or eight games that we would like to have back that we did not win," Tiber said. "This year, with some kids returning that have some experience, I think it is a different situation for us."
Tiber highlighted three areas at media day that her young team needs to improve in order to be competitive -- understanding of the game, effort and toughness.
"I think the toughest thing is, just for us as coaches to make sure that these kids believe they can win," Tiber said.