NEW ORLEANS -- No Southeast Missouri State University basketball player is more excited about having a Thanksgiving tournament in New Orleans than Brandon Griffin.
Griffin, the Indians' 6-foot-8 junior center, hails from Greensburg, La., which is about an hour's drive from New Orleans. He expects to have plenty of family and friends in attendance for the Indians' three games in the University Hoops Classic, beginning today with a 5 p.m. contest against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
"A lot of my family and friends will be there," Griffin said. "I'm very looking forward to it."
Griffin knows he won't get to spend all that much time with his family, since the Indians are here to play basketball, but just having relatives close by will be nice.
"It'll be good to see everybody," he said.
Despite being quite a distance from home, Griffin has fit in well with the Indians during his first season in the program after transferring from Southwest Mississippi Community College.
The 230-pound Griffin, who averaged 14 points and 7.5 rebound at Southwest Mississippi last year to earn all-conference honors, was recruited primarily to help shore up the Indians' woeful rebounding last season.
Griffin has indeed proven to be a strong rebounder so far during his brief Southeast career -- and also much more than that. In the Indians' first two games, Griffin scored 25 points and pulled down 19 rebounds while showing strong passing ability from his post position.
"We knew Brandon was a good rebounder and that's the main reason we recruited him," Southeast coach Gary Garner said. "We didn't know he was this good a passer. He really is a great passer, which is very important from the center position in our offense. And he's a good scorer.
"Brandon is just a really hard worker who listens all the time and picks things up really quickly. We're very happy with his play so far."
Griffin acknowledged that rebounding is his main strength, but he believes he will continue to contribute solid scoring for the Indians. And he's glad to be at Southeast.
"I really like it. The town is nice and the people are friendly," he said. "Things are going good so far."
Southeast figures to have a solid scouting report for today's tournament opener against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The Panthers are coached by Bruce Pearl, a longtime assistant to Dr. Tom Davis, the highly respected former Iowa, Stanford and Boston College coach. Keno Davis, one of Southeast's assistants, is Tom Davis' son.
Keno Davis also was an assistant under Pearl at Division II power Southern Indiana before joining the Indians' staff in 1997.
"I know coach Pearl real well," said Davis, who added with a laugh, "but I'm sure he's going to change a few things up just knowing that I'm on the staff here."
Another familiar coach
The teams might not play each other because they are in different groups of the six-team tournament, but former Southeast assistant Tom Schuberth is in his first season as an assistant at Central Florida.
Schuberth was the first assistant hired by Garner when he took over Southeast's program in 1997 and he stayed with the Indians for four seasons. Schuberth had a hand in the Indians' 1999-2000 campaign that featured an Ohio Valley Conference title and their first NCAA Division I Tournament berth.