NORMAL — Tyler Brown, Darious Clark and Nic Moore were spared from going through the agony of last season’s bumpy ride with Illinois State’s basketball team that ended with a 12-19 record.
Yet they can still see some of the scars on their new teammates.
“I feel it definitely in our workouts,” said Brown, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Marshalltown (Iowa) Community College. “The returners know what’s expected in practice and let us know. It pushes us to go hard.”
ISU, which has no seniors, went through Media Day activities Thursday at Redbird Arena before practice officially begins Friday. The men’s and women’s teams will take part in Redbird Hoopfest at 7 p.m. Friday at Horton Field House, which will include scrimmages along with slam dunk and 3-point contests. Admission is free.
The Redbird veterans are trying to use last season’s struggles as motivation for this season.
However, erasing the memories — and hurt —is not easy.
“I cannot forget about it. I think about it every day,” said junior guard Trey Blue. “I’m not a sore loser or anything like that, but I’m definitely using it as a motivation. I don’t want to be associated with being at the bottom of the league. We as a team talk about it amongst ourselves. We don’t want to go through that again.”
Junior guard Anthony Cousin agreed.
“You can’t forget about last year,” he said. “We lost plenty of games. We’ll definitely use that as motivation to not have another season like that.”
Tim Jankovich went 71-31 in his first three seasons as ISU coach before the bottom fell out last season when the Redbirds’ poor outside shooting proved to be their Achilles’ heel.
ISU averaged 61.1 points per game, its fewest in five years. The Redbirds shot 42.5 percent from the field and 31 percent on 3-pointers, both worst in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Jankovich said he doesn’t want to talk about last season that much, but could from time to time if he gets irritated. However, six newcomers weren’t even in ISU uniforms and 6-10 freshman Jordan Threloff was being redshirted.
So far, the coach has seen no ill effects.
“I can see our returning guys have a different edge about them,” said Jankovich. “I’ll bring it up more and will in practice if there’s a feeling like complacency I don’t like. But it’s anything but that … as long as that continues I would rather live in the day and the moment.”
Brown and Clark, a physical 6-4 off-guard from Howard (Md.) College, are being counted on to provide immediate backcourt help along with Moore, a 5-9 freshman point guard from Warsaw, Ind., who was runner-up for Indiana Mr. Basketball.
Two other freshmen guards, Johnny Hill and Nick Zeisloft, also got an early introduction to Division I basketball when ISU went on a four-game tour of Canada in August. The Redbirds got in 10 days of practice beforehand and went 2-2.
Moore will battle Cousin for the starting position at the point. Jankovich said he was told by an unnamed former ISU point guard this summer that Moore will “have a great career” after playing against him in a pickup game.
Freshmen often struggle trying to run the team. However, Jankovich remembers his one year as an Illinois assistant and two freshmen named Deron Williams and Dee Brown played beyond their youthful years.
“It’s going to be a big challenge because you don’t get anything easy, but I love it when I have to work hard,” said Moore. “I’m excited about the upcoming season and what it’s going to bring. I’m going to have some struggles and some ups. I always look forward to a challenge.”