SEMO hoops 'starts with Dylan' in 2023

Southeast Missouri State junior guard Dylan Branson shoots a free throw against Southern Illinois Edwardsville earlier in his career at the Show Me Center.
Tom Davis ~

The men’s basketball programs throughout the Ohio Valley Conference will gather in Evansville today for the league’s annual Media Day festivities, and fourth-year Redhawk coach Brad Korn and fourth-year SEMO guard Dylan Branson will be in enjoyable, and familiar territory in the ‘Pocket City.’

The last time Korn and Branson were in Evansville, the two were part of winning the OVC Tournament and earning the program’s second bid to the NCAA Tournament.

“Everyone asks if we’re going to get back to the NCAA Tournament,” Korn said earlier in fall camp, “who knows? But it is the pursuit of that. It is the work that you put in with every practice that gives you that chance.

“That is what is exciting about these guys.”

That is what is “exciting” about several returning Redhawk players, but none more so than Branson.

The Mehlville High School graduate is the most experienced of any player on Korn’s roster, and his coach is going to rely on him to help lead this program through the 2023-24 season.

“It starts with Dylan,” Korn said of his team this season. “He is a four-year guy, which is an outlier in college basketball. And he is in his fourth year in our program.”

Branson has seen a lot in his time in Cape Girardeau, including 32 different teammates, as the door in college basketball has become a revolving one. However, he has also been a part of the growth of the Redhawk program under Korn, which will benefit everyone he comes in contact with over his final two seasons with the program.

“He has seen (the program) go from seven (wins) to 14 to 19,” Korn explained, “now you have that buy-in, as far as we don’t want to let this drop.”

SEMO has five players returning (Branson, Aquan Smart, Adam Larson, Josh Earley, and Kobe Clark) who are returning after seeing significant action a year ago. Korn also has centers David Idada and Mason Hanback, as well as guards Evan Eursher and Gavyn Elkamil returning after being part of the program for a year, either in limited roles or as a redshirt player.

“Those guys have won a championship,” Korn said. “What that does, is when there are moments of doubt in practice, or it gets hard, it gives 9the team) that stamp of ‘This is what we have to do to get back to the NCAA Tournament.”

Korn added six newcomers to this year’s squad, including guards Rob Martin, BJ Ward, Braxton Stacker, Asa Barnes, and Marqueas Bell, and wing TJ Biel.

“It’s a ‘working’ team,” Korn said. “They just come to work every day.”

SEMO will host NCAA Division II Henderson State on Monday at the Show Me Center at 6:30 p.m. in an exhibition game.

The Redhawks open their regular season on Nov. 6 at Grand Canyon at 9 p.m. (CT).

SEMO’s regular-season home opener will be on Nov. 15 against Evansville (6:30 p.m.) at the Show Me Center.

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