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GAME DAY BLIZZARD vs. XAVIER 2/28/2012 Chaifetz Arena


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GAME DAY

unewsonline.com

unewsonline.com

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

SLU Billikens vs. Xavier Musketeers Basketball seniors play final game inside Chaifetz Players to keep an eye on Arena with NCAA tournament hopes looming By CHARLES BOWLES Associate Sports Editor

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SAINT LOUIS

VS.

XAVIER

69.1

PPG

72.0

56.1

OPPONENT’S PPG

68.0

.457 .365 .704

FG%

3 PT%

FT%

32.9

RPG

13.6

APG

11.3

Turnovers

.458 .364 .688 36.9 14.2 13.5

Stats as of Tuesday, Feb. 21

Tuesday, Feb. 28 will be an emotional day for Saint Louis University’s outgoing seniors, as Brian Conklin and Kyle Cassity will be playing their final home game at Chaifetz Arena. Conklin and Cassity were some of the first recruits that Head Coach Rick Majerus had to help rebuild the Billiken basketball program to where it is now, and their presence will surely be missed both on and off the court. “It has been a long road, but I have enjoyed every minute of it, and I would not change any of it,” Cassity said. “It was a perfect choice for me to come here, and now I hope that we can just send us (Brian and I) out on a high note.” Conklin, a Eugene, Ore., native, came to SLU because of Coach Majerus. In high school he was being recruited by the University of Oregon, but with the newly built Chaifetz Arena and Coach Majerus leading the basketball program, Conklin recognized the opportunity he had and committed to SLU. “The three reasons I came here were Coach Majerus, Chaifetz Arena and the chance to get a great degree,” Conklin said. Cassity, a Pickneyville, Ill., native, said that Coach Majerus was a big reason that he committed to SLU, but he also committed to SLU for another reason. “My family was a big deciding factor,” Cassity said. “My family came to every game in high school, and I wanted to keep that tradition going.” Cassity said that his mom and dad have never missed a game while he has been in college and that he could not ask for better parents In their first two years at SLU, Conklin averaged about 6 points per game, and Cassity averaged about the same in his sophomore year. The basketball program continued to improve in Conklin and Cassity’s first two years, from an 18-14 record to a 23-13 record and playing in the College Basketball Invitational final.Their junior year, the team came in with high expectations, but with the suspension of Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed, Conklin and Cassity both found themselves in new leadership roles.

“It was tough to lose two great players, but it is adversity. You have to take the hits of adversity and deal with it,” Conklin said. “I saw that it was my time to step in and try to be a leader and make the most of this opportunity,” “It was totally different from my first two years,” Cassity said. “I had to step up and be more of a scorer and do more on the offensive end. We were basically a young team again.” The team posted a 12-19 record but gave many of the current players invaluable experience. During the of fseason between his junior and senior year, Conklin decided work on his offensive production. “I worked on shots that I was

It has been a long road, but I have enjoyed every minute of it, and I would not change any of it. -Kyle Cassity, senior

going to get through, whether it was post moves, getting to the free throw line or short to midrange jumpers,” Conklin said. “I practiced those opportunities all summer, and now it is paying dividends.” His junior year, Conklin averaged 8 points, but this year, Conklin is averaging 14 points per game and has been a great scoring presence and leader for this year’s team. Cassity started 20 games earlier this year but was replaced in the starting lineup by Mike McCall Jr. Cassity said that it is not hard making the transition from starting to coming off the bench. “Starting is not the key. If you are playing well you are going to play, and I respect coach for that, and he has done that everywhere,” Cassity said. “If that means playing 15 minutes instead of 25 minutes, I want to get to the NCAA tournament. If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes.” Conklin and Cassity have been roommates for four years, and both said there have been many great memories living together for that time.

“Brian’s been my roommate, and there are too many memories living at that apartment. Brian has been great,” Cassity said. “Kyle has been a great friend. I think of him as a little brother because he is younger than me. I love him to death,” Conklin said. “We have gone through the ups and downs here with our careers at Saint Louis, but it has been fun having him alongside with me, and we have built a great relationship over the years.” Teammates have enjoyed playing with Conklin and Cassity and see them as leaders both on and off the court. “They are both a huge part of this team, and we would not be the same team without those two,” junior Cody Ellis said. Ellis has played with them three years at SLU and recognizes the roles they play on the team. “Brian has been like a big brother. When I first got here, he helped me more than anyone, and Kyle has always been there and been an extremely important part of this team,” Ellis said. Majerus has commented on Conklin and Cassity’s leadership in recent press conferences. “Brian is our leader by example. He is the hardest worker and sets the precedent of work ethic for the team. He has no issue with holding his teemmates accountable,” said the assistant basketball coach, Chris Harriman. “Kyle is so under-valued and has one of the highest baskeball IQs I have ever worked with. He reads scouting reports and puts in a lot of extra work and is an extension of Coach Majerus. He is a pleasure to have both on and off the floor and is a true ambassador to the school,” added Harriman. Emotional might not sufficiently describe how Conklin and Cassity feel, but they have spoken about what will be going through their hearts and minds playing against Xavier for their last game at Chaifetz. “After the Rhode Island game, I will talk with and tell him, ‘Hey, man. This is our last hoorah, so let’s end it on a good note against Xavier,’” Conklin said.

Cody Ellis, junior Saint Louis, F

Ellis is the third leading scorer for the Billikens after reaching double digits in points four out of the last five games. He is coming off of a 20-point performance against Fordham at home, so look for him to continue this run against Xavier. Tu Holloway, senior Xavier, G Holloway is team leader in both points and assists per game. He scored 32 points Feb. 18 against Dayton and followed it up with a 10-point performance in a loss against UMass. He has averaged 19.4 points his last five games. Kwamain Mitchell, junior Saint Louis, G

Brian Conklin Stats Season Averages Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior PTS 6.1 6.2 8.7 13.9 REB 3.9 3.5 4.3 5.1 AST 0.6 0.7 0.6 1 BLK 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.3 STL 0.3 0.4 0.4 0.8 FG % 0.522 0.46 0.526 0.542

Season Totals Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior PTS 195 222 271 374 REB 124 127 132 137 AST 18 25 20 27 BLK 6 9 11 8 STL 9 13 13 21 FG % 0.522 0.46 0.526 0.542

Mitchell leads the Billikens in both minutes played and assists per game. He is the team’s second leading scorer, reaching double digits in each of his last six games. He scored 9 points and recorded seven assists against Xavier on Jan. 25. Mark Lyons, junior Xavier, G Lyons has stepped up his role on the team since the brawl against Cincinnati. He has averaged 14.8 points during his last five games, and with Xavier clinging on to their spot in the NCAA tournament, he must continue his success against SLU.

Kyle Cassity Stats Season Averages

“ [Cassity and Conklin] are two of the most coachable guys and are the epitomy of putting the team first. They care more about the team than about themselves and are the biggest reason why we are having our current success.

­ Chris Harriman, assistant coach, on coaching — Conklin and Cassity

Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior PTS 1.6 6 8.4 4.1 REB 1 3.2 2.3 1.7 AST 1.1 3.3 3.4 2.3 BLK 0.1 0.3 0.1 0.1 STL 0.2 0.9 1 0.8 FG % 0.258 0.389 0.428 0.423

Season Totals Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior PTS 48 217 260 111 REB 29 115 72 46 AST 34 117 104 61 BLK 2 11 4 2 STL 7 31 31 22 FG % 0.258 0.389 0.428 0.423

“Brian is one of the toughest players and competitors on the court. Cassity is a leader and knows he is an extension of Coach Majerus on the floor.

­ Mike McCall Jr., guard, on playing with — Conklin and Cassity


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