Illinois State Redbirds
Overall Rank: #109
Conference Rank: #7 Missouri Valley
2006-07: 15-16, 6-12, 7th (t)
2006-07 postseason: none
With new head coach Tim Jankovich, Illinois State is building towards success in the Missouri Valley Conference. However, five players return who started at least 13 games a year ago and the opportunity to build towards that success may not take very long. Coach Jankovich brings an impressive pedigree with him and Illinois State will never be under prepared under the new regime.
Greg Dilligard is the big loss for the Redbirds. The 6-8 power forward averaged 9.4 points and a team high 5.8 rebounds. Dilligard was the only player on the team that would stay in the paint, yet there are plenty of guys ready to step into that role. However, it remains to be seen whether or not they can reach Dilligard’s productivity. Roberto Fortes started 15 contests during his senior campaign and, while he occasionally put up big numbers in the scoring column, he only ended the season averaging 3.8 points per game. Little used center Ronnie Carlwell has also run out of eligibility.
The Redbirds will need quite a bit of depth to come from the group of newcomers. And with two junior college transfers, a transfer from USC, a talented incoming freshman and a big man coming back from injury, they have plenty of options. Emmanuel Holloway, a transfer from Iowa Western Junior College, can use his quickness to create shots for himself and is a tough defender. It is Brandon Sampay who may make the biggest impact this year. The 6-8, 255 pound post player will help replace Dilligard. Sampay will not likely do as much scoring, but he is a solid rebounder and a defensive presence under the basket. Sharpshooting Sead Odzic earned five starts and averaged 3.2 points per game for USC during the 2005-2006 campaign. As long as his game continues to develop into more than just shooter, Odzic has the ability to be a starter for the Redbirds. The lone incoming freshman is Alex Rubin and the shooting guard will likely spend the season learning from the talent in front of him. Dinma Odiakosa has struggled with injuries for much of his career, but when he is healthy the 6-8 forward provides the Redbirds will another athletic big man.
Who to Watch:
Boo Richardson and Dom Johnson may have started a majority of the games last year, but Coach Jankovich will not hesitate to mix things up a bit if the newcomers end up to be better fits in the system. Richardson committed a few too many turnovers, but he did average 9.8 points and 4.9 assists on the season. For a shooting guard, Johnson struggled too much with his shooting. He still averaged 8.3 points per game, but if he does not develop a little more consistency, Odzic could take over his job. Osiris Eldrige’s job is pretty safe on the perimeter. The 6-3 guard averaged 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds as a freshman and bigger things are expected from him as a sophomore.
Led by center Levi Dyer, and with the addition of Sampay and the return of Odiakosa, the frontcourt suddenly has a lot of talent. Dyer, a 6-11 senior, was the most consistent shooter from beyond the arc last year and made nearly two long balls per contest. His ability to stretch the defense opens up the offensive attack for his teammates, but getting a little more than 3.3 rebounds per game would be helpful for somebody his size. For now Anthony Slack may be the starting power forward. He put up almost identical numbers as Dilligard last year and will do the dirty work under the basket while Dyer is floating on the perimeter. Yet, there are some talented youngsters who have been waiting patiently on the bench and are ready to explode. Bobby Hill and Mike Vandello saw limited minutes last year, but both have enough talent to make a big impression on the frontcourt. If the log jam of talent is too much in the frontcourt, the team could end up sporting a bigger starting lineup.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Boo Richardson, Senior, Guard, 9.8 points per game
Dom Johnson, Senior, Guard, 8.3 points per game
Osiris Eldridge, Sophomore, Guard, 9.5 points per game
Anthony Slack, Senior, Forward, 9.4 points per game
Levi Dyer, Senior, Center, 12.1 points per game