Nutt wins recruiting battle on home front

Monday, May 4, 2009

It sounds like the Southeast Missouri State men's basketball program is getting a pretty good new player without having to even use a scholarship.

Coach Dickey Nutt's son, Lucas, a senior at Jonesboro (Ark.) High School, will play for his father as a walk-on next season.

Nutt doesn't figure to be a typical walk-on, since several Division I programs expressed interest in him during his senior season and he probably could have landed a D-I scholarship.

Nutt, a 5-foot-11 all-state point guard, averaged a team-high 17.7 points and six assists per game this year for a Jonesboro squad that advanced to the Class 6A state tournament.

I've heard good things about Nutt's playing ability -- a sports writer at the Jonesboro Sun told me he thinks Lucas is definitely capable of being a solid player in leagues like the Ohio Valley Conference and Sun Belt Conference, where Dickey Nutt used to coach at Arkansas State -- so this should be a nice addition for the Redhawks.

While Nutt continues to recruit after signing four players last month, one player he had targeted and who was considering Southeast won't play for the Redhawks.

Stephon Weaver, a sophomore guard at Connors State College in Warner, Okla., has signed with Florida International, which recently hired former NBA great Isiah Thomas as coach.

Weaver was a third-team junior college All-American this year after leading the Cowboys to a fourth-place finish at the national tournament.

It looks like at least a second member of this past season's Southeast men's basketball team who has eligibility remaining won't be returning to the program.

I previously reported that junior point guard Bijon Jones won't be back, which Nutt confirmed. Jones has even been taken off the roster posted on the university's athletic website.

There has been speculation that junior point guard Hank Harris -- who missed all of the 2008-09 season with an injury -- also wouldn't be back, although Nutt recently told me nothing was firm regarding that situation. Harris is still listed on the website roster.

Well, I ran into Harris Friday and he said he definitely wasn't coming back to Southeast, although he hopes to play somewhere next season during his final year of collegiate eligibility.

I also wouldn't be surprised if one or two other players with remaining eligibility don't return next season as Nutt continues to shape his roster.

By the way, Harris -- Southeast's backup point guard in 2007-08 during his first year with the program -- is graduating later this month. Good for him.

Here's wishing former Southeast men's basketball coach Gary Garner all the best on his return to the collegiate ranks.

Garner recently was named the coach at Dakota State University, an NAIA program in Madison, S.D., after spending the past two years as the assistant coach for Iowa Energy, a team in the NBA Development League.

Garner told me he enjoyed the professional stint, but that his heart has always been in college basketball. He said he couldn't be more excited about his new job.

Garner, of course, led Southeast men's hoops to its greatest success on the Division I level during his nine-year stint that spanned the 1997-98 through 2005-06 seasons. His contract was not renewed following that final campaign.

Under Garner, Southeast won its only OVC regular-season and tournament titles, and made the program's lone NCAA Division I tournament appearance. All came in 1999-2000.

Garner was about as class an act as has ever hit this area. He had some lean times during the end of his Southeast tenure -- not all of it his fault -- and if he had remained with the Redhawks, I doubt the program would be in its current sorry state.

Barring a major collapse by Eastern Illinois, the Southeast baseball team probably won't win the OVC regular-season title.

After EIU swept Saturday's doubleheader at Capaha Field by identical 8-7 scores -- Sunday's series finale was rained out -- the Redhawks trail the Panthers by three games in the loss column with six league contests remaining for each squad.

Now the big thing for the Redhawks is to finish at least second in the OVC, which means an important bye in the first round of the conference tournament.

The Southeast softball team's 15-game winning streak to end the regular season was impressive to say the least.

But it pales in comparison to the program's all-time record for consecutive victories.

Southeast's 1996 squad started the season 32-0 -- that's right, 32 straight wins.

That club went on to post the program's top winning percentage by going 39-9 and claiming the second of five consecutive OVC regular-season titles.

Former Southeast basketball guard Brett Hale is getting his first shot at being a high school coach.

Hale, a Dexter native who played at Southeast from the 2001-02 through 2004-05 seasons, will take over at Farmington for Joe Arnold, who announced his retirement before the season.

Hale, the son of former area coach Paul Hale -- who also played at Southeast -- had been an assistant at Farmington the past three years.

Former Central and Scott City boys basketball coach Derek McCord is taking on another major challenge.

After three successful years as coach of the Dyer County (Tenn.) boys basketball program, McCord recently added coaching the school's girls basketball program to his plate.

McCord, who has led Dyer County's boys to a 94-13 record and two trips to the state tournament, said he's excited about coaching girls for the first time and also about directing both teams.

McCord, one of the better coaches this area has seen, totally turned around Dyer County's boys and I wouldn't be surprised if he does the same thing with the girls.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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