Reality may be settling in for Redhawks fans

Monday, December 8, 2008

Southeast Missouri State men's basketball fans know all too well that what happens in the first few Ohio Valley Conference games is not a predictor of the entire season.

Who can forget last year, when the Redhawks bolted to a 6-0 OVC start and were looking like prime championship contenders?

We all know how that turned out. The Redhawks won only one of their final 14 OVC games and didn't even make the eight-team conference tournament.

Which is why it's too early to write off the current Redhawks, who lost their first two OVC contests at the Show Me Center, 91-67 to Austin Peay Thursday and 83-72 to Tennessee State Saturday.

But Southeast fans have to be realistic.

Not much was expected from the undermanned Redhawks this season from everybody outside the program -- and with good reason.

Southeast has just nine available scholarship players on its roster and only eight have seen action in the first eight games, as junior guard Jimmy Drew remains sidelined with a foot problem.

Not that Drew is a great player, but Southeast could use him to add another 3-point threat and to back up junior Bijon Jones at the point.

Having eight or nine available scholarship players is not really the problem in itself. Most teams don't use more than eight or nine players in their regular rotation.

The problem, the way I see it, is that several of those eight or nine are marginal Division I players who probably wouldn't be getting many, if any, minutes on a strong team.

The reality is that the Redhawks have to be clicking on all cylinders to beat just about anybody. Anything less than that will likely result in a loss, especially against the OVC's better clubs.

But, like I said, it's way too early to say for sure what's going to happen the rest of the season, which includes 16 more OVC games.

There's a long way to go, and I know the Redhawks -- 2-6 overall -- will keep working hard to try and get better.

Southeast fans can only hope that results in something more than the lost season many people are predicting.

While the 0-2 OVC start for Southeast's men was not unexpected, that same record for Southeast's women is a surprise.

After losing to Austin Peay 61-50 in Thursday's OVC opener, Tennessee State rallied for a 59-55 victory Saturday.

While I still expect the Redhawks (3-4 overall) to be in the hunt for another conference title, they have their issues.

First, it certainly hurt that senior wing Sonya Daugherty, one of Southeast's top scorers the past few seasons, missed the first two OVC games with a knee injury.

If Daugherty had played at anything resembling full strength, the Redhawks probably would be 2-0 or 1-1 in the OVC.

Also hampering Southeast has been a lack of inside strength. Crysta Glenn, a gritty but undersized senior, has been Southeast's only consistent inside presence offensively, defensively and on the boards.

Southeast coach John Ishee had high hopes for two junior college transfers, 6-foot-2 Lesley Adams and 6-1 Trevonna Cannon, who he recruited for rebounding and inside defense.

After both saw little action in the first six games, Cannon was a factor Saturday with eight points and 11 rebounds.

How quickly that pair develops -- and perhaps even 6-2 freshman Amber Holmes -- could hold the key to how Southeast fares.

As usual, I had a blast at Friday's Southeast Hall of Fame dinner and induction ceremony held at the Show Me Center.

Six individuals and the 1990-91 women's basketball team that finished second in the Division II national tournament made up the university's 2008 Hall of Fame inductees.

Individuals inducted were Joey Haines, Jim Lohr, Doug Berg, Kerry Robinson, Rick Wadlington and Jack Behrens.

I enjoyed talking to all the inductees, several of whom I covered while they were at Southeast and some of whom I became good friends with.

I got a special kick out of seeing the coaches and players from the 1990-91 women's basketball team -- which I covered -- that hosted the Division II Final Four at the Show Me Center, winning in the semifinals before losing to North Dakota State in front of a record crowd of 7,064.

I run into Ed Arnzen, the tremendous coach of that squad who still lives in Cape Girardeau, quite a bit but had not seen many of the team members since their collegiate careers ended. It was neat to catch up on old times.

Special kudos to Rich Eichhorst, the chairman of Southeast's Hall of Fame committee who has worked tirelessly to make the Hall a reality.

Eichhorst, who played basketball at Southeast in the mid-1950s, has been the driving force in the Hall since its inception in 2002.

As I've written several times before, I have no idea if Tony Samuel will be able to get Southeast's football program going. Nobody else has done it since the university moved up to Division I-AA in 1991.

But what Samuel did at New Mexico State before coming to Southeast looks even better now that the Aggies have fired another coach.

Hal Mumme was canned last week after going 11-38 in four seasons at New Mexico State, with five of those wins coming over Division I-AA teams. The Aggies went 3-9 this year.

Samuel's contract was not renewed by New Mexico State -- historically one of the nation's worst football programs -- following the 2004 season after he went 34-57 to rank third all-time in victories at the university.

New Mexico State has had only four winning seasons in the past 39 years, two coming during Samuel's tenure. He led the Aggies to a 7-5 record in 2002 for their most victories since 1967.

I know some Southeast football fans are frustrated that wins haven't come as frequently as everybody would like. The Redhawks recently closed their third straight losing season under Samuel, but the program had only two winning records in the 15 seasons before his arrival.

It's a simple fact that programs that have been bad for a long time aren't easy to get on the right track.

Fans who want to get a sneak preview of the 2009 version of Tom Farden's outstanding Southeast gymnastics program will have the opportunity this week.

The Redhawks will hold their annual intrasquad meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Parker Gym.

After that, the Redhawks will continue to train until they open the season Jan. 4 at Illinois State. The home opener will be Jan. 17 against Illinois-Chicago at Houck Field House.

How neat would it be if Oklahoma and Florida would meet in one semifinal, while Texas and USC play in the other, with the winners squaring off to decide the national championship of major college football?

We can all dream, right?

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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