Jan 20, 2013
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Saluki freshman guard Anthony Beane and his dad, Anthony Sr., have always been a package deal.
Throughout his career at Normal High School, Beane received calls from college coaches testing the waters to see if there was any chance he might play for someone other than his father, who coached at Illinois State. Not happening. What if a legendary program like Duke or Indiana would have called? Wouldn't have mattered.
"Talking on the phone with some of the coaches, I was polite and tried to keep a good impression with them, but I was going to play for my dad," Beane said.
Having spent eight years growing up in Normal, attending most of the Redbirds' games, and playing with the team's players during the summer, Beane made it official when he signed a scholarship with ISU in the fall of 2011.
Life threw him a curveball last spring, however, when Dan Muller took over as Illinois State's head coach, leaving Beane Sr. essentially a free agent. Southern Illinois head coach Barry Hinson stepped in and hired Beane Sr. and the bonus prize was his talented son, whom ISU graciously released from his scholarship.
Although the Salukis were the enemy growing up, the program was highly respected in the Beane household.
"I remember my dad used to talk about how hard they played and how they were a great defensive team," Beane said. "And I remember last year when we came here, we came in and got smacked."
Beane recognizes the irony of trying to help the Salukis smack the Redbirds again in today's game, but says he doesn't expect the familiar opponent to be a distraction. He's focused on his own performance and that of his team.
Entering tonight's action, Beane is the leading scorer among freshmen in the Missouri Valley Conference at 10.4 points per game. He's started all but two games and is the only player on the team to score double figures in every MVC contest. While Beane is certainly a prime candidate to become SIU's first Freshman of the Year since Kevin Dillard in 2009, that potential honor is not on his radar.
"My dad always tells me not to worry about the individual awards, because if you play hard and win, then all that will take care of itself," he said.
Beane has a special relationship with his father and said his dad never pressured him to play sports growing up.
"My sixth-grade year I started playing football, and he noticed that I'd come home, take all my stuff off and go play basketball next door," Beane smiled. "My next-door neighbors would have to come tell me to go inside because it was getting too late. He never pushed me into it, he wanted to find out if I loved it."
Love may not be a strong enough word to describe Beane's passion for basketball. The term "gym rat" comes to mind. It's not uncommon to find the wiry 6-foot-2 guard shooting on his own at SIU Arena in the morning before class or in the evening after study hall.
"There's nothing you can be too good at," he noted.
After watching him play on the AAU circuit during his freshman year of high school, Beane Sr. told his son that he considered him a Division I prospect. They worked together tirelessly the next three years to make it happen.
"My dad told me if I keep working hard, keep God in front and stay humble, then I have a chance to play at the Division I level," Beane recalled. "He's taught me almost everything I know from ball-handling to shooting to shot selection."
If there's one player in recent league history who Beane resembles, it would ironically be Illinois State's Osiris Eldridge, who won the MVC Freshman of the Year award in 2007.
"I saw him play all the time and used to ask my dad what made him stand out in the Missouri Valley," Beane said. "My dad said he just has another gear, another level of explosion that most guys don't have. Growing up, that's what he used to talk to me about, being able to change speed."
Beane described his own game by saying, "I'll take the wide-open three if it's there, but the thing I'm best at is getting by people and getting to the basket. I can see the athleticism (comparison to Eldridge), but I still have a ways to go before I can get there."
He also knows that although Eldridge was a great player, he never won a conference title or played in an NCAA Tournament game.
"I can't judge myself until the wins start piling up," Beane said. "That's how I know I'm doing what I can do to help the team."