Kirk puts team before health; Mishow predicts men win

Monday, January 26, 2009

This disastrous Southeast Missouri State men's basketball season keeps spiraling downward.

Saturday's 80-55 loss at Murray State was the Redhawks' 10th straight setback as they closed in on the program's longest Division I losing streak of 12 during the 2005-06 campaign.

The Redhawks are 3-18 overall and 0-10 in the 10-team Ohio Valley Conference. They have virtually no chance of making the eight-team OVC tournament as they are five games out of eighth place in the loss column more than halfway through their league schedule.

But amid all the doom and gloom, you've got to give it up for junior forward Israel Kirk, who might be one of the toughest players to wear a Southeast uniform in quite a while.

Kirk has played much of the campaign with a stress fracture in his foot. Southeast acting coach Zac Roman said most players with that type of injury would have shut down for the season some time ago.

But realizing the Redhawks' thin numbers, Kirk elected to tough things out.

Although he rarely practices because of the foot problem, Kirk has missed only two games, and that was early in the campaign. He has played an average of 13.8 minutes per contest for a squad that often has had only seven scholarship players available.

And Thursday at Tennessee-Martin, Kirk ran into even more injury issues when he suffered a broken nose early in the game. Kirk left the court briefly before, not surprisingly, he returned a short while later.

As disappointed as Roman was with another Southeast setback, he looked like a proud parent while gushing about the way Kirk keeps putting the team ahead of his personal well-being.

Kirk, a junior college transfer, isn't among Southeast's most talented players. He carries averages of just 2.2 points and 2.4 rebounds.

But no Southeast player should be appreciated more by Redhawks fans.

In the previous 60 seasons of OVC men's basketball, only six teams have finished without a conference win, and it has happened just once since 1978-79.

A lot of folks think the current Redhawks could join that dubious group.

While I've got to admit it's looking like a strong possibility right now with eight league games remaining -- only three at home -- I've been telling people all along that I don't think the Redhawks will add their name to the list.

In order for the Redhawks to prove me right, they've got to break through somewhere along the line. The only problem is, they're fast running out of chances, especially ones that appear legitimate.

So I'm going to go out on a limb and predict a Southeast victory Thursday when another struggling squad visits the Show Me Center.

Jacksonville State, after a strong start to the season, has suffered six straight losses. And the Gamecocks only beat the Redhawks by five points Jan. 5 in Alabama.

So let me repeat, I'm calling for a Southeast victory, although I've got to admit it's something of a shaky prediction.

And if the Redhawks don't get it done that night, then all bets are off.

Here's hoping Will Bogan takes advantage of his latest -- and perhaps last -- chance to revive his athletic and academic career.

Bogan has started classes for the second semester at Highland (Ill.) Community College.

The 6-foot-10 Bogan, a Bell City High School product who played his freshman season at Southeast in 2007-08, won't be eligible to play at Highland this year, although he can practice with the team.

If Bogan meets academic requirements for the remainder of this school year, he will be able to play for the Cougars next season in his final year of junior college eligibility.

Highland is Bogan's third school in less than a year. He surfaced at Shawnee (Ill.) Community College over the summer after leaving Southeast, but departed Shawnee before practice started.

Maybe getting more than six hours away from his home base will help Bogan get started on the right path.

I'm hoping for the best.

I wrote in last week's column that former Austin Peay standout Trenton Hassell is the only OVC product currently in the NBA.

Faithful reader Odie Lingle of Jackson pointed out that Murray State's James Singleton also is playing on the sport's highest level.

The 6-5 Hassell, a reserve forward for the New Jersey Nets, is in his eighth NBA season. He was the OVC player of the year in 2000-01.

The 6-8 Singleton, a reserve forward for the Dallas Mavericks, is in his third NBA season. He was first-team all-OVC in 2002-03 and later played professionally overseas for a few years.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian

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