Entering year 10 on the sidelines, John A. Logan men's basketball coach Kyle Smithpeters has had his fair share of standout players.
After coaching eight All-Americans and one NJCAA Player Of The Year in Jay Scrubb who is now playing for the Los Angeles Clippers, Smithpeters has sent more than 40 players to Division 1 programs, all the while, compiling a combined record of 212-69 and a trip to last year's NJCAAA National Tournament in Hutchison, Kansas.
While Smithpeters can acknowledge fans recently have been accustomed to watching such stars as David Sloan (East Tennessee State), Chris Harris (SEMO), Jonah Jackson (Drake), Sydney Curry (Louisville) or Jamarion Sharp (Western Kentucky University), this year's club doesn't shine individually like some of the teams in the past, but will be bright as a whole.
"Those guys, like Jay Scrubb, Sydney Curry, Jamarion Sharp, those guys don't come along very often -- if ever. But this year, we have a great group of guys. I don't think we have just any one person who is going to go out there and just "ooh and ahh" from that standpoint but we have a bunch of guys that have the ability to go out and get 20+ each night. The way we kind of judge our team on how our success will be is how many guys can go out and get you 20 on any given night and we have a bunch of those guys. They play very selflessly, the share the ball, they're able to hit shots. This is probably one of the best shooting teams we've had."
Highlighting that group is Indiana State transfer Cobie Barnes and Bradley transfer Sean East.
Barnes played in 24 games for the Sycamores last year, averaging 13 minutes and shooting 42 percent from the floor and 30 percent from 3-point range. Like Barnes, East played in 24 games for the Braves, shooting 42 percent from the floor and 34 percent from behind the arc.
Couple that with returning shooters like Cam Alford (13 ppg), Pinckneyville's Dawson Yates (4 ppg) and Marion's Jackson Connor (3 ppg) and Smithpeters knows that the shot chart will get filled up this year.
Other returners include, Detrick Reeves, Jr., Justin Johnson (Carterville), Austin Garbe (Carterville) and Teon Nesbitt. Tennessee Tech transfer Tujautae Williams and Grambling transfer Sarion McGee, join first time players Justin Cross, Eli Downen (Carterville) and KJ Debrick.
Debrick, a 6-foot-9 forward and McGee, a 6-foot-8 forward, will make up the middle for Smithpeters, filling the void left by Curry and Sharp.
"Our inside presence is very good," Smithpeters said. "These guys have done an unbelievable job of progressing and they both weigh 250+ pounds. It's going to be hard for teams for forty minutes to bang on those two guys, let alone their offensive skill level being very high as well."
When Logan tips off the season Friday in Poplar Bluff, they'll do so as reigning Region 24 champions, looking to repeat after having to go thought a COVID-19 season that Smithpeters call the longest season in college basketball history.
"It was such a weird year last year and such a long season," Smithpeters said. "Not starting until January and playing through April was just so long and seeing the wear and tear on those guys last year and you couldn't do anything about it. We just had to get through. I think getting back to a normal year will be as exciting as anything I will see.
"Granted, this is just a fun group of guys to be around and when you see guys work this hard things the right way every day, you're going to enjoy going out and watching them perform. I have a very good feeling that regardless of a win or loss, these guys are going to give everything they got night in and night out. They don't like losing and they like to compete. I think that's what's been so impressive about these guys as a whole."
Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois LOCAL Media Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.