Indians give inside game a boost with two JUCOs

Thursday, April 11, 2002

Southeast Missouri State University men's basketball coach Gary Garner believes the Indians gave their depleted inside game a major boost Wednesday as the spring signing period began.

The Indians landed a pair of junior college players in Dainmon Gonner, a 6-foot-7, 230-pounder from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, and 6-8, 225-pound Brandon Griffin from Southwest Mississippi Community College.

"I am very pleased," Garner said. "We needed help in rebounding. That was one of our biggest weaknesses this past year and we think with these two guys we have really helped ourselves in that area."

And in Gonner, who Garner said was Southeast's top recruit from the beginning, the coach believes the Indians have seriously helped themselves in a number of areas.

Gonner averaged 17.4 points and 6.5 rebounds as he led perennial junior college power Hutchinson in both categories. He shot 51 percent from the field and 70 percent from the free-throw line for the 22-8 Blue Dragons.

"Gonner is a kid that we really wanted from the beginning," Garner said. "He can really score and he comes from what some people think is the best junior college conference in the country. He's a complete player, he handles the ball well, and he can shoot."

Chad Wintz, Gonner's coach at Hutchinson who was an assistant under Garner at Fort Hays State in the mid-1990s, believes the Indians are getting an impressive player.

"I really think he has a chance to be an impact player there," Wintz said. "First of all, he's a great young man, and he knows how to play at a high level. Some of his best games were against our better opponents, and I think we're in the best junior college conference in the country.

"He's an ultracompetitive kid and he's just a workhorse, a blue collar, lunch pail guy. He gets results. He's going to produce points and rebounds."

Gonner said he was also recruited hard by the likes of Long Beach State, Southwest Missouri and Tennessee Tech, and even Final Four participant Oklahoma showed some early interest.

But Gonner said he was intent on attending Southeast primarily because of his relationship with Indians assistant coach Gary Abner, who was an assistant at Hutchinson two years ago.

"I've known coach Abner. I really like him and I also really like coach Garner," Gonner said. "I'm really excited about coming there. I know they were kind of young last year, but I think I can help turn the team around."

Asked to describe his style of play, Gonner said, "Versatility. I can play a lot of different positions. I can bring the ball up the floor, I can shoot the ball, I can post up, I like playing defense."

While Gonner was more highly recruited, Garner also likes Griffin, who led a 20-5 Southwest Mississippi team in scoring and rebounding at 14 points and 7.5 boards per game.

"He's a big, strong kid that rebounds the ball," Garner said. "He's not a big scorer, but he has good ball skills."

Garner credited assistant coaches Abner and Keno Davis for helping land Gonner and Griffin.

"They did a very good job," he said. "I'm really happy with both players. They are going to really help us."

The Indians have one more scholarship remaining and Garner said they hope to fill that in the next couple of weeks.

Southeast landed one player during last fall's early signing period, 6-7, 210-pound Cole Grapperhaus, a senior at Mater Dei High School in Breese, Ill. Garner said Grapperhouse is a talented prospect who will likely redshirt next season, although that depends on how quickly he develops.

"We really think he's going to be a good player," Garner said.

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