Nov. 14, 2012
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, Ill. - First-year Southern Illinois University head coach Barry Hinson and his men's basketball staff have been busy, as today's Signing Day haul will attest.
On the first day that high school seniors can sign a National Letter of Intent, the Salukis received commitments from five players -- the largest recruiting class at SIU in more than 10 years.
The class features a high school point guard (KC Goodwin), two junior college shooting guards (Mike Balogun and Hunter Gibson), and a pair of high school forwards (Jordan Martin and Sean O'Brien).
"It was important to have a group of recruits blended by region, blended by experience and blended by academics," said Hinson, who has signed nine players total since taking over the program last spring. "We signed guys who meet our needs. We signed guys who we think can succeed academically. We signed players that we feel will help us build this program for the future."
Goodwin is a 5-foot-10 guard who averaged 14.0 points as a junior last season at Melrose High School in Memphis, Tenn. He helped lead his team to a 29-6 record and distributed the ball to high-major signees Chris Jones (Louisville) and Cedric McAfee (Auburn).
"KC comes out of a nationally acclaimed high school program coached by Jermaine Johnson," Hinson said. "It's a well-coached ball club that is used to winning. We wanted to sign players who come from winning programs, know how to win and understand what winning is all about. We think we hit that on the head."
A 6-foot-1 guard, Balogun is a sophomore at West Hills Community College (Calif.). He averaged 12.7 points last season and was named to the Central Valley Conference All-Freshman team. He shot 41.4 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from 3-point range, playing both the point and shooting guard spots. He also added 73 assists and 32 steals. Balogun is a native of Staten Island, N.Y. and played at Curtis High School.
Gibson is a 6-foot-4, 195-pound guard who is currently a sophomore at Three Rivers Community College. He averaged 11.8 points per game as a freshman in 2011, but missed the 2012 season with a knee injury and redshirted. As a senior at Putnam City H.S. (Okla.), Gibson led his team to a state championship. As a junior he helped lead his team to a 25-2 record, including a 12-0 league mark.
"Hunter comes out of one of the most tradition-rich junior colleges in the country, Three Rivers College," Hinson said. "He is playing for a Hall-of-Fame coach in Gene Bess. In high school, Hunter played for a very good friend of mine in Oklahoma named A.D. Burtschi. Once again, both these junior college guys come from programs that are used to winning."
The tallest signee of the 2012 class is Martin, at 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds. He is a forward at Hazelwood Central High School (Mo.) and averaged 14.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game last year. He also shot 58 percent from the field.
"Jordan is a very promising interior player," Hinson said. "He has the length and the skill level that is conducive to what we want to do with our bigs in our offensive scheme."
O'Brien stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 195 pounds and possesses perimeter skills. He averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds and four assists as a junior last season at Mundelein High School, and was a special mention All-State selection and named All-Conference and All-Area by the Daily Herald.
"Sean comes out of a highly respected program just north of Chicago," Hinson said. "He is a skilled perimeter player who can do a little bit of everything. His size and versatility are just what we're looking for."
Hinson will hold a press conference on Thursday afternoon to discuss the signing class, as well as preview Saturday's home opener against Benedictine-Springfield University.
"We have three seniors, and I understand the math. At the same time, our fans need to trust that we have a plan for the makeup of our roster, not only for 2012-13, but for subsequent years."