Coach Gary Garner will be among those anxious to how Southeast performs in tonight's exhibition game.
After three weeks of practice, Southeast Missouri State coach Gary Garner will finally get to see his team in action against outside competition.
Garner figures it's about time.
"We're at the point where I think we need to play somebody else, to kind of see where we're at," Garner said.
Although the game won't count on their record, the Redhawks will play an actual game for the first time tonight when the University of Missouri-St. Louis visits the Show Me Center for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.
That will be the first of two exhibition contests for the Redhawks, who host Arkansas Tech Nov. 12 before opening the regular season Nov. 18 against Division II Truman State.
"We can take the tape from this game and look at what we're doing," Garner said. "That's important every year, but probably more important this year with all the new players."
The Redhawks return just four players from last year, the lone starters being junior guard Terrick Willoughby -- the leading returning scorer at 9.8 points per game -- and sophomore point guard Paul Paradoski (1.9 ppg), who led the Ohio Valley Conference in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Also scheduled to start tonight are senior guard and Montana transfer Roy Booker, senior center Waylon Francis (1.8 ppg) and junior college transfer forward Andrais Thornton.
Francis, a reserve last year, figures to share time in the middle this season with senior Ketshner Guerrier (4.7 ppg), Southeast's final returning player who missed all but six games last year with a knee injury.
"Waylon and Ketshner have both really gotten better," Garner said. "Waylon is probably our most improved player.
"Andrais can really rebound. He's going to help us a lot on the boards."
Garner said he will approach tonight's contest like he always approaches exhibitions.
"We want to win, but we want to play everybody," Garner said.
But not everybody will be able to play tonight as the Redhawks' roster is temporarily shorthanded, with only eight scholarship players available.
Junior college transfer Eric Burtin, who figures to see action at both guard spots and on the wing, and junior college transfer center Tyrell White will be available.
Junior college transfer guard David Johnson -- who along with Burtin is ticketed for plenty of action this season -- and freshman guard Eric Jones both have relatively minor injuries and won't play, although they should return to practice soon.
Southeast's fifth juco transfer, forward John Chappell, also will not play tonight. Garner said Chappell "has missed too many classes," and is being benched as a minor disciplinary measure.
"All our players have to realize that they're here to be students first and basketball players second," Garner said.
One recent addition to the squad could get in the game as Jared Ritter, grandson of former Southeast All-American Carl Ritter, has joined the team as a walk-on.
Ritter, a 2003 graduate of Advance High School, played one season at Hannibal LaGrange College. He attended Three Rivers Community College last year but did not play basketball.
Carl Ritter is the all-time leading scorer at Southeast who had his number retired in 1994 and is a member of the Southeast Athletic Hall of Fame.
UMSL, a Division II program, was 11-18 last season. The Rivermen are coached by former UMSL standout guard Chris Pilz, who is in his third season at his alma mater.
"He's a good coach, and he's really improving their program," Garner said. "They'll have some talent."
Redhawks get commitment
Southeast recently received a commitment from a second high school senior from Kansas City.
Roderick Pearson, a 6-foot-2 point guard at Raytown South, said he plans to sign a letter of intent with the Redhawks when the week-long early signing period begins Wednesday.
Pearson averaged about 12 points and seven assists per game last season playing for Bud Lathrop, the state's all-time winningest boys basketball coach who also ranks high on the national list.
Toledo, Dayton and Illinois State were among other programs that showed considerable interest in Pearson.
"I'm excited about coming Southeast," Pearson said. "When I visited, I really liked the players, and I like the coaches."
Lathrop, who has sent a number of players to the Division I ranks -- including former Missouri star Jevon Crudup -- said Southeast is getting an extremely quick, pure point guard.
"He needs to continue working on his shot, but he can really distribute the ball," said Lathrop, whose squad went 21-6 last year. "He'll be an excellent college player because of his speed and quickness."
Committing to Southeast last week was JuJuan Maxwell, a 6-foot-6 forward who averaged about 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks per game last year at Raytown High School. Maxwell also said he plans to sign Wednesday.
Southeast coaches are prohibited by NCAA regulations from commenting on potential recruits until they actually sign.