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College Hoops: Smithpeters looks to leave mark on Salukis

  • Southern Illinois University senior guard and former Harrisburg standout Tyler Smithpeters has his sights set on an MVC title in his senior season for the Salukis.

    Southern Illinois University senior guard and former Harrisburg standout Tyler Smithpeters has his sights set on an MVC title in his senior season for the Salukis.

By Michael Dann
updated: 11/9/2017 8:02 PM

If Tyler Smithpeters wants to leave his mark on the SIU men's basketball program, he has a pretty good idea how he can do it.

It will require rewinding the clock and doing something that hasn't been done in nearly a decade at Southern: Win a Missouri Valley Conference championship.

The year was 2006 and Randal Falker took home MVP honors as SIU beat Bradley 59-46.

Smithpeters is getting something of a second chance and one more shot at leading the Dawgs back to promise land.

The SIU senior guard, who was granted the metaphorical new lease on life, after a knee injury last year against Wright State in the season opener allowed him the opportunity for a medical redshirt.

The former Harrisburg standout, who is second on the school's all-time scoring list and led the Bulldogs to a 33-1 record in 2012-13 and a 2A state championship will lace up his Under Armour sneakers and don the maroon and white, starting tonight when SIU opens its regular season slate against Winthrop in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

That's where Smithpeters' journey starts. He's hoping it doesn't end in St. Louis -- site of the Missouri Valley Conference championship.

Getting to St. Louis is at least part of the equation.

"I want to win a Valley championship and go to the NCAA Tournament," Smithpeters said of his hopes in his senior season. "I think that's every kids dream, is to go to the NCAA Tournament. I think we have the best chance with the team we have this year, the depth is really good and it's an exciting time to be here."

Those comments came at SIU Media Day and since then, junior guard Marcus Bartley broke a bone in his wrist that will require him to miss the next six to eight weeks with a return expected around mid-December and 6-foot-8 senior forward Thik Bol had surgery last Thursday and his prognosis won't be revealed for another four to six weeks.

Suffice to say, SIU's depth will be challenged early.

Although, if Smithpeters does decide to put SIU on his shoulders and lead them to a MVC title, the timing couldn't be better with Wichita State now in the American Athletic Conference.

Smithpeters certainly has the arsenal to be the man for an SIU team that will rely heavily on a guard game after the loss of Bol. He led the Salukis in 3-point shooting (.405) his junior season, made at least two treys in 15 games and 73 percent of his shot attempts from from beyond the arc. His career high 16 points came in a game at Indiana State.

The year away was not only good for Smithpeters physically, but also mentally, where he was able to gain a lot of perspective on the sport that has meant so much to him.

"Sitting last year on the bench made me miss it a lot more than I thought it would," he said. "I do have a new found respect for the game because that one play could have taken me out for however long and I think that's what I figured out -- Not everyday is promised and I just try to get better everyday."

Michael Dann covers prep and college sports for the Harrisburg Register, Eldorado Journal & The Gallatin County Democrat. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.