Marcus Fillyaw steps forward as Salukis' vocal leader

    Marcus Fillyaw scored career-high 17 points versus Saint Louis.

    Marcus Fillyaw scored career-high 17 points versus Saint Louis.

    Dec. 13, 2013

    By Tom Weber

    CARBONDALE, Ill. - One of the big question marks on the Southern Illinois men's basketball team heading into the season was who would take over the point guard spot, which had been occupied the last three years by Kendal Brown-Surles?

    Sophomore transfer Marcus Fillyaw seized the reigns at the beginning of practice in October and hasn't let go. The Topeka, Kan. native has started every game this season, leads the team in assists (23) and is among the leaders in field goal percentage (19-of-40, .475), though he doesn't look for his shot often.

    Shooting isn't his primary role on the team. Head coach Barry Hinson wants him to run the ball club, directing his teammates on both ends of the court.

    "He tells me I have to be his Peyton Manning," Fillyaw said. "When I think of Peyton Manning, he's very vocal. Every time you see him on the television he's yelling out something. So that's my biggest thing -- talking and communicating with the guys, learning their personalities and how to talk to each person, that's a huge part of running the team."

    Initially, Fillyaw was hesitant to speak up. After all, he's new to the program, and having just turned 19, he's also the second-youngest guy on the team.

    "As a sophomore, you don't want to come in and step on any toes of the seniors, but the coaching staff tells me I have to," he explained. "It's my job. They're just going to have to accept it, and I'm going to have to accept that role, too, and not worry about making people mad."

    Coming out of Topeka High School, Fillyaw had mostly Division II scholarship offers. College coaches told him he needed to improve his 3-point shooting and defense. Fillyaw chose to go the juco route and played one season at Cloud County Community College for head coach Chad Eshbaugh. That's where he made great strides in his shooting ability.



    "When I got to Cloud, the first thing he did was work with me on my shot," Fillyaw said. "I shot with two hands. My left hand would always stay on the ball. He helped me focus on taking it off and making it more of a one-handed shot. I improved a lot shooting the ball my freshman year at Cloud County."

    Since he was a qualifier coming out of high school, Fillyaw was able to leave after one season, if the right offer came around. He received some low-major interest during the season, and then SIU came in late with the offer he'd been waiting for.

    "I really liked Coach Hinson over the phone and he got me down here for a visit and pretty much sold it," Fillyaw recalled.

    The Salukis enter next week's game at Murray State with a 2-7 record, and Fillyaw shoulders much of the responsibility for the team's slow start.

    "It's been really tough for me," he said. "We're still trying to gel. I feel like I put more pressure on myself than anybody else does. I have to learn to relax a little bit."

    His best game so far this season came, ironically, against Saint Louis, which is well known for its outstanding team defense. Fillyaw scored 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field.

    "They were just more focused in on Dez (Jackson) and Anthony (Beane) and that opened up a lot of opportunities for me," he said. "I took them and was able to make shots that game. I have to continue to take open shots and stay attack-minded."

    He has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.4-to-1 and wants to continue to make improvement in that important area.

    "I've always had a pretty good assist-to-turnover ratio," he said. "It comes from taking care of the ball, making smart passes, not trying to hit the home run."

    If he can continue to hit singles and doubles for the Salukis, the point guard position will remain in good hands at SIU.