Point guard situation looks better after trip

Thursday, September 9, 2004

The eligibility issue surrounding junior college transfer Ryan Belcher appeared to put Southeast Missouri State University's point guard situation on shaky ground.

But after returning from the team's exhibition trip to Canada over the weekend, Southeast coach Gary Garner said the opposite might have resulted.

With Belcher not making the trip -- and also not participating in the 10 days of practice leading up to the three games -- Garner turned to sophomore Terrick Willoughby to man the point guard position.

Garner said the 6-foot-4 Willoughby -- who displayed plenty of potential last season as a true freshman, although he was not the Indians' regular point guard and appeared more suited to the off-guard or small forward positions -- came through with flying colors.

"He really played well," Garner said. "Because of his ability to score, we really thought he might play more at the 2 or 3 spots this year, but he really ran the team well and we like him at point guard."

In addition to running the squad, Willoughby averaged 14.7 points in the three exhibition games while shooting 55.6 percent from the field and 60 percent from 3-point range.

Senior Mike Nelke, last year's starting point guard, backed up Willoughby and also performed well, according to Garner.

"I don't think point guard will be a problem. I was concerned about it earlier but I'm not now," Garner said. "That's one of the things that came out of the trip that was really positive."

Garner is keeping his fingers crossed that Belcher -- who he considers to be an exceptional defensive player, and defense was an area Southeast struggled with last season -- will be eligible. His status likely won't be determined for several weeks.

Senior forward Reggie Golson picked up where he left off late last season, when he averaged more than 17 points in the final five games after bouncing back from an injury.

In Canada, where the Indians went 2-1, Golson averaged 23.3 points and 7.7 rebounds while shooting 75.6 percent from the floor.

"Reggie showed signs of being a really good offensive player, like he showed at the end of last season," Garner said. "He can really score around the basket."

Senior guard Derek Winans, Southeast's leading scorer each of the past three seasons, averaged 11.7 points in Canada.

Among Southeast's newcomers, 6-foot-6, 215-pound junior forward/center Ketshner Guerrier averaged 11.3 points and five rebounds, while 6-8, 240-pound junior center Waylon Francis averaged eight rebounds to lead the Indians.

"Guerrier can score around the basket and rebound. Francis can rebound and play defense, and he can also score around the basket," Garner said. "We expect them to shore up our 5 spot pretty good."

Garner came away pleased with the trip.

"The trip was really good for us. We got out of it what I'd hoped we'd get out of it," he said. "We got a head start on the year. We had 10 days of practice, and the tape of those three games will really help us."

Official practice for the 2004-05 season begins Oct. 16.

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