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SIUE – The Structure Is In Place

(St. Louis, MO) – Southern Illinois Edwardsville is putting the pieces together for a much stronger basketball season. Head coach Jon Harris has amassed a large and athletic recruiting class, coupled with three players that were around the program, but not in uniform last season and the third year coach has nine new players to cobble together with at least four of his hold overs.

No, I’m not predicting an Ohio Valley Conference championship, but for a program that has lacked depth, athleticism, experience and most importantly WINS, this roster answers those questions better than any Harris coached.

Hold overs Justin Benton, Brandon Jackson, Keenan Simmons and early season OVC ‘Freshman of the Week’ Christian Ellis represent some OVC experience. The status of Tre Harris is unknown at this time.

Other returners include UIC transfer Julian Torres. The 6’9 junior provides size as well as height and Division 1 experience. Red-shirt freshmen Kevion Stewart and Bil Awet sat out last season. The 6’8 Awet hails from Australia.

The six man recruiting class includes four upper classmen and two freshmen, and most of them with gaudy resumes.

The Freshmen

D.J. Jackson is a 6’5 wing that averaged 23 points and 11 rebounds per game during his senior season at Fayette Ware High in Tennessee. Harris told siuecougars.com that Jackson is a match-up problem for the opposition.

At 6-5, he creates match-up problems for opponents due to his ability to overpower smaller players,” said Harris. “While possessing the quickness and ball skills to create problems for bigger guys,

Danville, Illinois’ Earl ‘Nico’ Johnson played a season of prep school basketball in Florida at Conrad Academy. He was a 16 point per game player at during his junior year at Danville and blasted his commitment to SIUE out on Twitter.

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Smart’s Sports Blog describes Johnson this way:

Destroying complacency and providing an immeasurable jolt of energy, Nico Johnson brings defensive tenacity and superior finishing ability. The 6-foot guard, who recently transferred from Danville (Ill.) to The Conrad Academy (FL), possesses a level of uber athleticism only a select core can simulate. It translates into high efficiency scoring while simultaneously rendering him a key source on transition buckets.

The Upper Classmen

Coach Harris believes in building with freshmen, but also realizes his team needs some athleticism and experience. This quartet of transfers answers those two needs.

Toriano Stokes is a 6’9 post with both Division 1 and community college experience. As a freshman he played in 11 games at East Tennessee State and spent last season at Southwest Tennessee Community College. His numbers (5.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game) aren’t gaudy, but at 230 pounds, he will team nicely with Torres and Awet to give Harris three new players with size and varying skill sets.

The most explosive player in the group is Daniel Kinchen. The Alabama Southern transfer averaged over 26 points per game last season and shot over 45% from deep. Harris told siuecougars.com that Kinchen is a dangerous offensive player.

“He poses a major threat with or without the ball in his hands, and defenses will have to identify him on the floor,” Harris continued. “Daniel has good length and great instincts defensively.”

Two other guards round out this group. Jaylen McCoy and David McFarland were both mid-teens scorers with solid shooting percentages. The 5’11 McCoy utilizes his superior speed to his advantage and McFarland, a guard with good size (6’4) shoots and defends well.

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