NORMAL — If any of his Illinois State basketball teammates are a little nervous Sunday, Nick Zeisloft will completely understand.
ISU plays its lone exhibition game when it entertains Division II Quincy at 4:30 p.m. at Redbird Arena. Zeisloft and Kaza Keane are the only players with Division I experience on the Redbirds’ retooled roster heading into Friday’s season opener at No. 14-ranked Virginia Commonwealth.
Zeisloft went 0 of 8 from the field — including 0 of 7 outside the 3-point arc — in last year’s 93-64 win over Quincy. The 6-foot-3 off guard recovered a couple days later by making 3 of 6 shots (2 of 4 on 3-pointers) in the season opener, which was his first Division I game after redshirting as a freshman.
“The stats show I was probably more nervous in the exhibition game,” said Zeisloft, wincing at the memory. “Maybe the exhibition game helped me because I knew I wasn’t going to do it again.”
It will be an ISU basketball exhibition doubleheader Sunday at Redbird Arena. The ISU women meet Northwest Missouri State at 1 p.m.
ISU men’s coach Dan Muller saw his team in action last Sunday. The Redbirds faced off against Marquette in a closed scrimmage in Milwaukee where no score was kept.
Muller said he intends to get all his available players into Sunday’s game. Junior guard Daishon Knight remains indefinitely suspended from games pending a court case in McLean County Circuit Court.
However, Muller won’t treat today like a game that counts in the won-loss column. Because ISU and VCU will exchange exhibition tapes, Muller won’t use all of the Redbirds’ play against Quincy.
“I expected to not know what to expect, and that’s held true,” said Muller of preseason practices which began Sept. 30. “We’ve got a lot of guys who have to continue to improve their mindset and attitude. That’s not a negative. That’s a first-year player thing. That most likely will determine how good we’re going to be.
“Our defense needs to be a lot better in a month than it is now, but it’s a lot better now than it was last month.”
Zeisloft said the Redbirds will get better defensively as the players become more accustomed to each other’s tendencies. Muller has begun defining each player’s role in the past week during practice, but Zeisloft already knew what was expected of him.
“Similar to last year, but maybe more,” said Zeisloft, who averaged 4.5 points and hit 41.8 percent from 3-point range last season. “I’ve got to knock down shots and be a position defender. I think I’ve gotten better at both those things throughout summer and in the offseason.”
Dress rehearsal: Quincy at Illinois State
Time: 4:30 p.m. Sunday
Broadcast: WJBC-AM (1230)