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    Nov. 14, 2000

    After posting one-sided wins in each of their two pre-season exhibition games, SIU's Salukis appear ready to open the 2000-2001 campaign with three home contests in the SIU Arena.

    The first win of the season with be SIU's 350th all-time in the facility.

    At first glance, one may be concerned when considering SIU's chances of duplicating last year's 20-13 record, third-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference and berth in the National Invitation Tournament.

    Only two starters are returning from the 1999-2000 squad which some feel over-achieved in winning 20 games and defeating the likes of U-Mass, UNC Charlotte and Colorado.

    And, one of the two returnees was only a freshman last season albeit one of the league's most decorated individuals as he claimed both "Freshman of the Year" and "Newcomer of the Year" honors.

    The now-sophomore standout is Kent Williams who turned in one of the most remarkable seasons of any true freshman in SIU's history.

    The other returning starter is junior Brandon Mells, who along with Williams, will be taking care of SIU's ball-handling chores.

    Mells, of course, has been sidelined for most of the pre-season activities due to a broken foot bone, but others have stepped up while filling in.

    In addition to the two starters, the Salukis are returning a pair of seniors in Abel Schrader and Joshua Cross, both of whom are well-known around the MVC.

    Schrader actually started 22 games as a sophomore and was the team's fifth-leading scorer with an even 8.0 average last season.

    Two other sophomores -- Jermaine Dearman and Brad Korn -- are also returning although the latter is a possible redshirt this season.

    Dearman scored 204 points as a freshman and was one of eight players to top the 200-point mark for the Salukis last season and received a spot on the MVC all-freshman team.

    In addition to returnees with considerable playing experience, there are six newcomers, including three transfers presently battling for serious playing time.

    They include Toshay Harvey, Marcus Belcher and Tyrese Buie, all of whom have junior college exerience.

    While experienced and proven players, all may have some difficulty in moving ahead of Sylvester Willis, a red-shirted freshman with the Salukis last year.

    Other returning lettermen include David Carney, Chris Drew and Jason Ward. Even though none of the three saw a lot of playing time last season, all will provide needed squad depth this year.

    Rounding out the squad are two true freshmen, Josh Warren and Darren Brooks. Both are capable of contributing in their first season with the Salukis.

    Weber, although concerned about the strength of his schedule, is pleased with one aspect. SIU's first three games are at home and all are against teams the Salukis lost to last season -- Long Beach State, Saint Louis University and Ball State.