NORMAL — Illinois State’s basketball roster continued to take shape Monday with commitments from 6-foot-4 guard Zach Lofton of San Jacinto (Texas) Community College and 6-9 forward Michael Middlebrooks of North Idaho College.
Each announced he will sign a national letter of intent with the Redbirds on Wednesday, the first day of the spring period. Guard Bobby Hunter of Santa Fe College in Gainsville, Fla., said last week he will sign with ISU, which still has two scholarships available.
NCAA rules prohibit Redbird coach Dan Muller from commenting on recruits until they sign a letter of intent.
Lofton averaged 16.6 points. 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists this past season as a freshman at San Jacinto. He was 49 of 141 from 3-point range (34.8 percent) and shot 47.3 percent overall from the field, helping his team to a 24-6 record.
Lofton chose Illinois State after also being recruited by Baylor, Kansas State and Seton Hall. He starred at Columbia Heights High School in St. Paul, Minn., leading his team to the Class 3A state championship game, and attended Quakerdale Prep School in Iowa for a year before enrolling at San Jacinto. He will have three years of eligibility at ISU.
“I can shoot a little bit, I can get to the rack … I guess you’d say I’m a scorer,” said Lofton, who visited ISU this past weekend. “They (ISU coaches) want a big year from me. They want a lot from me. That’s what I plan to give them.”
Lofton made 75.7 percent of his free throws (53 of 70) at San Jacinto. He said ISU “got in on me late,” but won him over with the opportunity to make an immediate impact.
“That’s what I based my decision off of,” he said. “A lot of schools were waiting to see if my grades were going to come out to officially offer me. I really didn’t want to wait. I just firmly committed to ISU.”
Lofton expects to qualify academically and has high hopes for next season despite all the new faces Muller’s team will have. ISU lost four seniors, including star forward Jackie Carmichael and standout guard Tyler Brown, and had three players transfer following an 18-15 season.
“It’s not going to be a rebuilding year at all,” Lofton said. “It’s going to be a go-get-it year. We have to go out and get it. I believe we can win this conference (Missouri Valley). That’s what I came here to do.”
Middlebrooks is a sophomore who averaged 8.9 points and 7.2 rebounds this season for North Idaho. He shot 63.6 percent from the field, 60.3 percent from the free-throw line and was a second-team all-Region 18 selection.
Middlebrooks, who could not be reached for comment, will have two years of eligibility at ISU. He is from Seattle and played at Rainier Beach High School, where his brother, 6-10 Wilfred Middlebrooks, is a senior and will play at North Idaho next season.
ISU signed three high school players in November: point guard Paris Lee of Proviso East, combo guard Tony Wills of Indianapolis and 6-10 center Reggie Lynch of Edina, Minn.