Feb. 24, 2012
By Tyler Wooten
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Southern Illinois (8-21, 5-12) will host Northern Iowa (18-12, 8-9) in the men's basketball season regular-season finale at SIU Arena at 2:05 p.m. Saturday. Seniors Justin Bocot and Mamadou Seck will be honored before the game.
Head coach Chris Lowery met with the media prior to Friday's practice.
Q: What are your expectations for Senior Day?
"It's always emotional. Obviously, Justin I've known for a very long time. It's been really difficult for him because he didn't have the chance to really live up to the accolades. Being really close to him and being able to guide him through some things in his personal life for five years and being there through the thing that happened to him this fall, it's been tough. Those are not the things you want to concentrate on when you're a senior. You want to concentrate on having a good season as opposed to your future. With him, we just talked about every game is one less that you get to play. He's a kid who I care a lot about and I wanted to see have a tremendous amount of success here as a player, and it didn't happen for him, and those are always the toughest to deal with. When you have very good players who have great senior years, those are easier to deal with because they lived up to it. When he came short, he's come short so far this year, that's been tough because when you know a person and you know how hard they work and then things don't work out, that makes it even tougher."
"As far as Mamadou, he's been a model citizen since he's been here. He's kind of one of our throwback guys, too, because he plays hard all the time. He took care of his business off the court, on the court, never had to worry about him, never had to check up on him -- those things you always take pride in. Now we've only had one person in school history to do what he did, and that's Darren Brooks, to lead the team in scoring, rebounding and assists. Mamadou has so many capabilities. The one thing we always talk about, we wish he had a bigger imagination because sometimes he's just to the line with everything, everything is black and white, sometimes get outside the box a little bit and play with some flair sometimes. He's a terrific listener and he understands what it means to win. Not winning as much as he hoped and we hoped, that was disappointing for him, because you want to see somebody who plays that hard have a lot of success, and he did as an individual player. But as a team, that's what he's ultimately about, and that's what makes him special."
"Definitely. I think people have no idea what he does for us. And it started from day one when we had guys ineligible and guys suspended -- he was doing that then. I think what's helped him now is that his numbers would be better from the beginning if Dantiel would have played more. When he doesn't have to do all the stuff around the rim that Dantiel provides for us. Mamadou is a guy who took his academics very, very seriously, to the point of coming to practice with several headaches because his major is hard. It's something that he takes pride in and wants to be a professional person. He obviously wants to try to play professionally, but having a degree is something that is very important to him."
Q: Will Dantiel Daniels play tomorrow?
"We don't know, he didn't practice yesterday. We're going to see today how he does, how he progresses. He said he's good, so I guess that means he's going to play."
Q: Do you think he has a chance to win Freshman of the Year?
"(Northern Iowa's Seth) Tuttle's going to win it. Tuttle's on a better team, he has better numbers and he has better guard play around him, and I think that's helped him even moreso. Dantiel's numbers would be through the roof if we could get him the ball in the right situations and if we had penetrate pitches more to him like Tuttle gets. Obviously, Dantiel is one of the best freshmen in our league. He's got a chance to be an all-defensive player with leading the league in blocks, too."
Q: How do you defend Tuttle?
"We have to turn it around and make him guard us. I think that was the key there. We made him guard us and he didn't get going. Our problem was Deon Mitchell. Our problem hasn't been with guys playing around the rim, our problem has been outside. When they break us down, you're going to get points. Our key is definitely their guards, that's where it's at and that's where the game has been the last month and a half."
Q: Are you concerned about Dantiel further injuring his knee?
"I don't think so, I think he wants to play. You can't do that, especially with a guy like that -- we need him to playing to get better, too. And it's not a major injury -- he bumped knees with somebody. It was a stinger and he didn't know how to respond to it. We'll see today. If he can go, he'll play; if not, he won't."
Q: How does Anthony James being back affect the game?
"Him being back is just a huge offensive threat because he'll shoot it at any time, he'll take any shot, and I think he gives them that wildcard, a guy who can go get 30 in the game."
Q: Does Mamadou have a chance for the All-Conference team?
"Definitely. He's not a first-teamer. With what everybody else has done, that's not to discredit him, but the top two teams are going to dominate the All-Conference team, and obviously Colt Ryan is going to be in the mix, too. Those top five guys have had great seasons. But obviously Mamadou has had a tremendous season for us, too. I think people will look at him leading us in a lot of those categories, and he'll get some votes because of that."
Q: What are your thoughts on the conference race and UNI's incentive to play this game?
"You don't know what's going to happen. Somebody told me today if they win at our place they could possibly go to NIT and if not, they won't. That's a big deal. Obviously, they have their incentives, but we have our own incentives, too. We don't know where they can finish. It's kinda hard looking and trying to predict with all the scenarios and the way they're trying to decipher who's going to play who. It'll be interesting to see who's third. As of Sunday morning this is how it's played out."
Q: Do you think you can get the team ready for the MVC Tournament?
"I hope so. I hope that we can get them to respond back. I think we've had three guys who've been consistent, Jeff, Mamadou and Dantiel. They've been consistently the ones playing hard the whole time and those three have a really strong will. And we miss Josh (Swan) because Josh was another person with tremendous energy and a strong will. We've had so many guys hit the wall right now, Treg and T.J., who are really just struggling physically and mentally right now. In that first half of the conference, T.J. was on fire. Now he's hit the wall and he hasn't recovered from it. The postseason conference tournament is a different time, it's a refreshing time and it's a good time because they'll go over there and it'll be a different feel for them. We just hope we can continue to keep them motivated."
Q: How has Seck improved his game?
"(Seck) was always a good passer, he's just had more opportunities. We've given him the ball this year, especially at the start of the year. What he's really done a good job of is passing out of double-teams and penetrating and pitching to other people. He's really evolved his game. We really needed him to be aggressive and take those 15 footers all year. That's why he's getting to the free throw line so much more now, and it's good to see him continuously getting better at the end of the year."
Q: Can you comment on Justin Bocot being the only player to stay from his recruiting class?
"When you look at leaving there's two sides, and I'm never the one to tell anything, and maybe that's been my downfall because a lot of those guys that left aren't even playing basketball anymore. There were other issues that were there. I'm a Saluki fan, I'm a Saluki alumni, and sometimes kids gotta go, and when they don't live up to the things that you're asking of them, that's part of it. Justin always has and that's why he's here. When you look at the grand scheme of things, he stayed because he's a good kid. Outside of this year, we've never had an issue with him -- character has never been an issue. And with all charges being dropped, that was obviously an issue that was not him even up to that point. The only thing that was sad about it is we had to suspend him when he wasn't even guilty."