By Greg Halbleib
NORMAL – Stepped-up offense and a solid mix of veterans and newcomers highlights the upcoming season of Illinois State men’s basketball.
The Redbirds are a week into official practices ahead of the first exhibition game on October 30 at Redbird Arena against Lewis. The Redbirds previewed the upcoming season during Wednesday’s annual preseason media day.
Seventh-year head coach Dan Muller knows there will be excitement around this year’s Redbirds.
“We obviously have a lot of experience coming back. We have high expectations within our team,” Muller said. “We certainly know what it takes to be successful. Now, are we willing to do that remains to be seen, but it’s a really good group. The leadership is there, (as is) the experience and the understanding of our culture. It’s a fun team to coach right now and I think we’re going to keep getting better.”
The Redbirds welcome back four starters and three top reserves from last season. Muller said the first seven days of practice have shown him that the new faces lend plenty to his experienced team.
“Our newcomers are very mature,” Muller said. “They compete with great energy and they fit right in, and that always helps. But it also comes down to those returners. We’ve had guys in the program now for three, four and two years and they know what to do and know what to expect. Practices have been good. We’re further along now just in our first seven days of practice quite frankly than I remember since I’ve been here.”
Illinois State guard Keyshawn Evans anticipates more offensive options with this year’s Redbirds.
“Wherever you look on the court there’s always a guy that can go for 20 any night,” the senior Evans said. “It’s a confident feeling knowing that, especially with our offense and how the ball moves and how bodies are moving. It’s really exciting to know that.”
Illinois State plays two exhibition games at Redbird Arena on Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. against Lewis and on Nov. 3 at 12 p.m. against Augustana. The season opens at home on Nov. 6 against Florida Gulf Coast. Redbird games can again be heard this season on WJBC-AM 1230, 93.7 Nash Icon, WJBC.com and the WJBC app, and on the TuneIn app under WJBC and the Illinois State Redbirds Sports Network.
Greg Halbleib can be reached at email@example.com.