When the SIU men's basketball program hired new head coach Bryan Mullins, and then he hired his brother Brendan Mullins, Pat Monaghan and Jevon Maman, I was a bit concerned at the lack of much head coaching experience at any level for the group.
I still am. But one thing that brought me back from that funk was the group's ability to corral quality recruits. These four have shown that knack, having done so for a plethora of mid-major programs.
And that ability is key, since recruiting is the lifeblood of any athletic program. That four-man recruiting tree started bearing fruit this past week with the signing of all-star Arizona high school guard Trent Brown, and 6-foot-10 Northwestern University grad transfer Barret Benson. Several other top-notch visitors will be perusing the SIU campus in the next few weeks.
The signing of Brown, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard from Phoenix's Pinnacle High, was a quick process -- sort of. On the surface, he came for a campus visit last week and signed in the next few days, but the recruiting of Brown started a year before, when Mullins still coached for Loyola. So it was easy for Mullins to get in on Brown.
"SIU will have a special person representing them for four years," noted Brown's high school coach, Charlie Wildes, on azcentral.com. "He's a tremendous shooter, and he will do anything you ask him to on defense."
Brown averaged 19.4 points per game and hit on 92 of 226 three-point attempts (41 percent). In one game, Brown hit 10 of 19 three-pointers and had 42 total points. He and and his teammate, Arizona top-ranked Nico Mannion (who signed with University of Arizona), were too much to handle for most teams the last three years as the Pioneers have won two state championships.
All-American Mannion praised his co-captain, Brown, after Brown's signing with SIU.
"He makes everything easy for me," said Mannion. "He spaces the floor, he's smart, and he can really shoot."
It took a bit longer for the already-graduated Benson to sign. He gave his verbal commit on Twitter last Monday. The former four-star recruit out of Hinsdale South was once the no. 3-rated high school player in the state of Illinois. But for some reason, he got very little playing time at that Big Ten school. He holds the Hinsdale South career records for points (1,700), rebounds (1,100) and blocks (300).
Also visiting last weekend was 6-foot-3 wing Antonio Reeves from Simeon High (Chicago). It just so happens SIU has already signed his cousin, Lance Jones from Evanston, so there is some hope that Reeves may be next.
Last weekend, SIU hosted several other recruits, including a transfer guard and another 6-foot-5 wing from the Chicago area. Getting the veteran Benson will be helpful for Mullins because his current roster contains only 6-foot-9 Amadou Fall and 6-foot-7 Sekou Dembele. Neither of those two redshirt freshmen have college playing experience, although Dembele is going to be a top-notch Valley rebounder.
SIU brings in only one high school big man in Normal High's Chris Payton (6-foot-7) this summer, so SIU's campus may see a plethora of JUCO's and D-I transfers visiting the campus until recruiting season is completed.
With the signing of Brown and Benson, SIU will have two to three more scholarships to fill. The number of available rides will depend on whether current Saluki roster member Darius Beane's cousin, Jimmy Beane, qualifies for a scholarship after sitting out as an academic redshirt in 2018-19. If eligible, Jimmy Beane would probably take one of the possible three rides.