A disappointing season has been followed up by a disappointing offseason for Illinois State University men’s basketball team.
Remaining hopeful during these tough times can be troubling for Redbird faithful, and not just because of the stay-at-home order in place through April 30.
Junior Matt Chastain and sophomore Taylor Bruninga have announced that they have ended their playing careers due to injury last week.
Chastain appeared in 19 games, averaging 3.2 points on 51% shooting. Despite limited output on the court, Chastain’s leadership was a valuable attribute for the Redbirds. The LeRoy native was very clearly invested in the team, whether in street clothes on the bench or in the starting lineup, where he found himself four times during the 2019-20 season. The team will miss Chastain’s presence as he forgoes his senior year.
Bruninga, standing at 6 feet 8 inches, demonstrated streaky yet dangerous shooting touch in his time with the ‘Birds. Being able to consistently be on the floor could have turned the Mapleton product into the stretch big-man archetype that countless NBA teams chase after.
In addition to losing Chastain and Bruninga, sophomore Rey Idowu has opted to transfer to Tulsa.
Idowu held a prominent role for the Redbirds early in the season, starting 11 non-conference games before finding himself in a role as a bench player toward the end of the year. Idowu averaged 4.4 points and 3.2 rebounds during his sophomore campaign.
In his time at Illinois State, Idowu seemed to be somewhat of a project for the coaching staff. He developed his post-game significantly since arriving on campus, but never became the low-post threat that he showed flashes of.
Despite adding Alex Kotov, a 6-foot-10, 215-pound junior college transfer, the Redbirds still have two open scholarship positions. This late in the recruiting process, Muller & Co. would be hard-pressed to find players worth offering to.
To add on to the pain for Redbird fans, former associate head coach Luke Yaklich took a head coaching position at the University of Illinois-Chicago after stints with Michigan and Texas.
Those calling for Dan Muller to be fired would have loved to see Yaklich back on Doug Collins Court. There was some fear that even if Yaklich was on the market while Illinois State was looking for a new head coach, he would be too big-time by then, after such prominent assistant coaching jobs. If UIC was on the table, Illinois State probably would have been as well.
Keeping your head up can be a daunting task during a pandemic and being a fan of Redbird basketball is not making it any easier.