Anthony Beane leads the Missouri Valley Conference with 23.2 points per game heading into Friday's game against UTEP on ASN. (Courtesy of Saluki Media Services)

Anthony Beane leading SIU to best start in more than a decade

Southern Illinois guard Anthony Beane would like one day to follow in his dad’s footsteps and get into coaching. But right now he very much wants to lead.

So far, so good. The Salukis are 5-0 out of the gate, their best start since 2003. They are bidding for their first winning season since 2007-08, and Beane, a 6-2 senior, is showing the way, averaging a Missouri Valley Conference-best 23.2 points a game.

Coach Barry Hinson has discussed with him the importance of taking the reins, of leading “more than I ever have before,” as Beane put it. It is especially critical, he said, in light of the fact that guard Jalen Pendleton, one of last year’s tone-setters, has moved on to Minnesota State, one of five Salukis to transfer since last season.

The most notable of the others was forward Jordan Caroline, the leading rebounder and second-leading scorer on a team that went 4-14 in the MVC, 12-21 overall.

All that considered, it stands to reason that everyone would now be looking to Beane. And he has not blinked, matching his career high of 32 points in a victory over Kent State last Wednesday, and pouring in 30 on 11-for-13 shooting (including 3-for-5 3-point sniping) in Tuesday’s 97-88 victory over Oakland.

So his leadership starts there, with production — with a guy who is shooting 50.6% from the floor, 48% from the arc and 82.8% from the foul line heading into Friday’s non-conference game against UTEP on ASN at 3:30 p.m. ET.

It doesn’t end there, though, and he feels like he’s holding up his end.

“But the good thing is, especially with the guys coming in, they’re pretty much experienced and they’re able to help me with it, too,” he said, “because they’ve been through some of the situations that we’ve been going through.”

Certainly the Salukis have shown some grit to date, rallying from 13 down to beat Air Force in their opener, and from 18 down to beat Sam Houston State in overtime last Saturday. Beane was, as always, right in the middle of things in both those games, reeling off eight straight points to break a late tie in the first, and scoring eight of SIU’s nine points in OT in the second.

And while it’s early, he is enthused about the team’s new mindset — “more of a ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ mindset,” he said.

“Everybody’s playing hard,” he added. “It doesn’t matter what happens. We’re all for each other. All of the coaches have been harping this year about the little things — just dive on the floor, taking charges.”

Whether he realized it or not, he has always set the best of examples, returning to the court after home games and working out for at least an hour, just to smooth out any kinks he perceived in his game.

“My freshman year after games I would just go back (to the dorm) and be kind of sore, just lay down,” he said, “but after the games, if I go back and shoot a little bit, work out, stretch, then I feel like my body reacts better to it than I would just not doing anything.”

He has always reacted well to the direction of his father, Anthony Sr., a Salukis assistant throughout the younger Beane’s college career. Anthony Sr. played at Kansas State and has been an assistant coach for two decades, notably at Southeast Missouri State, Saint Louis and Illinois State.

His son signed a letter of intent to ISU in 2011, but when the coaching staff was not retained after the 2011-12 season, Anthony Jr. asked to be released. Hinson hired Anthony Sr., and the younger Beane came aboard as well.

“It’s a blessing to have him there,” Anthony Jr. said of his dad, noting that when he played high school ball in Normal, Ill., the two of them had to wait until after games to rehash things. Since beginning his college career he has been able to huddle with his dad in real time, right on the bench — just take whatever advice Anthony Sr. might have, and immediately apply it.

The younger Beane made the All-MVC freshman team his first year, then was an all-conference second-teamer the next two, averaging 14.7 and 16.1 points a game, respectively.

Now his aims are greater. Now he keeps whatever thoughts he might have of playing professionally in the back of his mind, and his dreams of coaching even further back.

Now he wants to lead the program to new heights.

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