Illinois State Redbirds
Overall Rank: #82
Conference Rank: #5 Missouri Valley
2007-08: 25-10, 10-3, 2nd
2007-08 postseason: NIT
Coach Tim Jankovich led Illinois State to the NIT in his first year at the program. The next step is the NCAA Tournament. However, it might be a little too soon to make that jump. The Redbirds lose four of their top six scorers and, while there is still enough talent coming in to make a run towards the NCAA Tournament, another trip to the NIT is more likely at this point.
Can anybody replace the production of Anthony Slack? The forward led the team with 7.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. He also added 9.5 points per contest. Without a consistent scorer and a tenacious defender like Slack on the floor, ISU will look different on both sides of the court. Making matters worse, Levi Dyer was an underappreciated big man who could make a big impact off the bench. The backcourt lost starters Dom Johnson and Boo Richardson. The duo combined to average 15.1 points and 7.0 assists. Little used Julius Moor is also departing from the perimeter, but the departure of Johnson and Richardson creates a lot of questions in the backcourt.
Despite all those losses, the excitement around Redbird basketball is still high…and for good reason. Coach Jankovich has a talented group of newcomers coming in who are ready to work their way into the regular rotation. The most important position is at point guard where newcomers Lloyd Phillips, Landon Shipley and Kenyon Smith hope to fill the void. Phillips, a transfer from Iowa Western Community College, is a great shooter and has enough experience to step into a starting role. Shipley spent two years at Austin Peay before heading to Normal. He only earned a couple starts during his time with APSU, but he is a decent scorer and ball handler. Smith, an incoming freshman, has plenty of potential, but his lack of experience will likely give others the first shot at the point guard duties. During the 2005-2006 campaign Champ Oguchi had a great year with the Ducks of Oregon. The following year his production dropped and he opted to transfer to ISU. Oguchi, while inconsistent, is a great shooter and will give the Redbirds a very dangerous shooting and slashing threat from the wing. Bobby Hill is another experienced newcomer who could step into a starting role. The 6-7 junior might not put up huge numbers, but he is a solid defender and could help replace part of Slack’s production. Kellen Thornton, Ty Modupe and Jeremy Robinson will add some much, much needed depth up front. Snagging Robinson from the SEC or a Big Ten school is a great get for Illinois State. The 6-8 center has a nice looking stroke from mid-range and is developing some decent post moves. Blake Mishler, a transfer from East Tennessee State will be eligible in December, but it is likely he will redshirt the entire season.
Who to Watch:
There is no doubt who the star of this team will be this year. Osiris Eldridge not only has a cool name and a not so cool haircut, but he also led the team with 15.8 points per game. He can shoot the three-pointer or get to the basket and this year he will need to be a team leader if the Redbirds expect to make a run at the post season. Emmanuel Holloway and Alex Rubin will add more depth to the backcourt and compete with the newcomers for minutes running the point.
The backcourt, even with the questions regarding the point, will be fine. The problem is the frontcourt. Dinma Odiakosa had a solid sophomore season, but now he has to step up and be the scoring threat under the basket. Brandon Sampay will be in the frontcourt mix once he recovers from offseason surgery. While Sampay is out, the newcomers will get some valuable experience, but the lack of experience and depth up front will be a concern all year long.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Lloyd Phillips, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Osiris Eldridge, Junior, Guard, 15.8 points per game
Champ Oguchi, Senior, Guard, DNP last season
Bobby Hill, Junior, Forward , DNP last season
Dinma Odiakosa, Junior, Forward, 6.9 points per game