Indians gain a forward with letter from area all-state star

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Southeast Missouri State University's men's basketball program put the finishing touches on what appears to be a banner early signing period by receiving a national letter of intent Monday from former Caruthersville High School standout Norman Prather.

The 6-foot-4 Prather, who can play either shooting guard or small forward, is a sophomore at Mineral Area College in Park Hills, Mo., where he averaged 12 points and seven rebounds per game last season. As a senior all-stater at Caruthersville, he averaged 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

Prather, considered an exceptional athlete, received overtures from major programs before selecting Southeast, where one of his assistant coaches will be his former coach at Caruthersville, Kevin Williams.

"He's a tremendous athlete and he's a complete player," Southeast coach Gary Garner said. "He can shoot the ball, he handles the ball well, he's a good passer. I don't think there's any question he can become one of the best athletes in the Ohio Valley Conference."

Garner said Prather will likely see more playing time as a small forward at Southeast.

During the week-long early signing period that ends Wednesday, the Indians also signed 6-6, 230-pound junior-college forward Dainmon Gonner and 5-10 high school guard Chris Springer.

Gonner, who signed with Southeast in the spring but failed to meet NCAA eligibility requirements, averaged 18 points and 7.5 rebounds last season at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.

Springer averaged 19 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a junior last season at Caruthersville. He played with Prather on the Tigers' team that advanced to the state quarterfinals in 2001.

"One of our goals was to improve our athleticism,"Garner said, "and Prather and Springer are really good athletes. And Gonner is a tough kid, a real warrior."

The Indians have just two seniors this season, so they'll return the bulk of their key players next year and will also add the services of point guard Mike Nelke, a Valparaiso transfer who is practicing with the team but cannot play in games under NCAA transfer rules. Garner believes his three recent signees will help set the team up nicely for next season.

"We really feel like we've filled our needs for next year to get us back in the hunt" for the OVC championship, he said.

Southeast has two more available scholarships for next year and at least one will probably be filled during the spring signing period. Garner said the Indians might hold one scholarship for the following season if the coaching staff doesn't feel they can sign the kind of player they're looking for.

Preparing for opener

After romping to a pair of exhibition victories, the Indians will set their sights on Arkansas State, their season-opening opponent Friday in Jonesboro, Ark.

Arkansas State went 15-16 last year and its top three scorers completed their eligibility, but the Indians have a class of newcomers that should be formidable. Also on the team is former Scott City High School star Jon Beck, a senior guard who could start Friday.

"They'll be a really tough first opponent," Garner said. "We'll have to have a lot of things go right for us, but I think we can win."

Senior forward Tim Scheer, last year's second-leading scorer, is doubtful for Friday and is still bothered by a strained right calf muscle suffered during the Nov. 9 exhibition game against Missouri-Rolla.

Also, junior-college transfer forward Reggie Golson, who has not yet practiced with the squad as he continues to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery, is likely to be cleared to begin practice later this week.

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