A foreign trip for any collegiate team is a great learning experience. Players become closer than ever with their teammates, and learn about the culture in whatever country they are in.
For the Illinois State men's basketball squad, boosting team chemistry is important, as senior Zach Copeland, junior Matt Chastain and sophomore Rey Idowu, three of the previous season’s letter winners return. Because of all the new faces on the roster, ISU head coach Dan Muller felt there were many positives to take away from his team's trip to Italy Aug. 7-17.
"Really good trip," Muller said. "The first thing is how appreciative we were to go on a trip like that and how blessed we are. I think our players really understood that. We got a lot out of it on the court, and off the court. The guys were awesome to travel with. We learned a lot."
The Redbirds finished the trip going a perfect 3-0. On Aug. 10, the 'Birds opened the trip with a 65-58 win over Stella Arruzza behind 20 points from Dedric Boyd.
In the second game of the trip on Aug. 13, the Redbirds defeated BC Silute 73-64, with Copeland leading the way with 19 points. The games concluded on Aug. 15 with an 86-61 victory over LCC International, as Copeland again led the way with 18 points.
The Redbirds will get back to lifting and working out ahead of their first official practice date for the season on Sept. 25.
Also discussed by Muller was the newly released non-conference schedule for ISU, which was announced on Monday morning. The Redbirds will play four teams that made the NCAA a season ago, along with a couple other teams that narrowly missed out.
#REDBIRDhoops has announced its 2019-20 non-conference schedule. The schedule has four games against schools that made the 2019 NCAA Tournament, the 2019 NIT Runner-up, and six opponents that won at least 20 games.Check out the full story ⬇️https://t.co/Yx3b3D3WkE pic.twitter.com/MgxoXam650— Illinois State MBB (@Redbird_MBB) August 19, 2019
"We will be tested early with some home games against very good teams," Muller said. "Then we go down to the Islands and play a good Cincinnati team. We will as always learn a lot and see a lot of different styles. I'm excited to see how we do. It's going to be a challenge."
ISU opens things up with three home games at the newly renovated Redbird Arena against Belmont, Little Rock and Central Florida.
The 'Birds will then travel to the Virgin Islands to take on Cincinnati, who returns American Athletic Conference Player of the Year Jarron Cumberland. After that, ISU will play either Bowling Green or Western Kentucky. They will also see either Nevada, Grand Canyon, Valparaiso or Fordham from the other side of the bracket.
The schedule also features away games at Texas Christian, Northern Kentucky, and Texas-San Antonio and home games against Purdue Northwest, Morehead State and Illinois-Chicago.