NORMAL — It didn't take Matt Chastain long to realize being near home wasn't so bad after all.
Illinois State basketball coach Dan Muller announced Wednesday that Chastain, a LeRoy High School graduate who spent his freshman season at Loyola in Chicago, has transferred to ISU.
Chastain will pay his own way at ISU for the 2017-18 season, when he will sit out as a transfer per NCAA rules, before being eligible for the following three seasons with the Redbirds.
“The big thing with me coming out of high school is that I didn't want to be super close to home, and I went away and realized I wanted to be close to home,” said Chastain, who is enrolled in summer classes at ISU.
ISU had strongly recruited Chastain coming out of high school. The 6-foot-6 Chastain averaged 26 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and nearly three steals per game in leading LeRoy to the Class 1A state championship as a senior in the 2015-16 season.
Chastain was the 2016 Pantagraph Player of the Year and finished as LeRoy's career leader in points (2,081), rebounds (709), blocked shots (213) and dunks (99). He also had 227 steals and 235 assists.
“I thought he really played hard and competed (at LeRoy),” said Muller. “Obviously they had a lot of success there and went on a great run ... as he continued to develop his skill and improve certain things he would need to improve as he transitioned to more of a wing player in college, I thought his size and athleticism were what gave him a chance to be a good player.”
But Chastain picked another Missouri Valley Conference school, Loyola, over the Redbirds and Utah. Chastain played in three games with the Ramblers, averaging 3.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 0.7 blocks, before suffering a torn ACL in his knee that required season-ending surgery.
“At first being in the city was quite a bit different for me coming from LeRoy. That got better and I enjoyed that,” said Chastain. “I had a couple good friends, but the main thing was I did not feel it was the right fit basketball-wise. It wasn't an easy decision at all to transfer, but I figured ultimately that was the direction I needed to go.”
Chastain decided to look for a school closer to home, especially with having to sit out a season (although he can practice) and also rehabbing his knee.
“From the first time around being recruited with coach Muller and the staff, I really enjoyed them,” he said.
Chastain said his knee is getting better all the time. He hopes to be able to be cleared for full contact in October.
“I plan on being back and better than what I was before and hopefully get a scholarship for the following three years,” he said. “I thought paying one year of school was not the end of the world, especially if it's where I think I want to be. I think this will be a good fit and good decision for me.”
Because Loyola did not give Chastain a release to another Valley school — which is standard practice in transfer cases — Muller was not able to talk to Chastain until he officially enrolled in classes last week. Muller was out of town last week and didn't meet with Chastain until Tuesday.
Muller said “there is absolutely no rush” for Chastain to test his knee.
“Whenever he's ready to do different things with his knee and consulting with doctors we'll do those,” said Muller. “This year could really be beneficial to him and help him physically get stronger. There is no pressure to try and get back quickly.”
Chastain said he wasn't able to do much basketball stuff at Loyola because of his injury. However, he was able to work a lot on form shooting and added 20 pounds to get to 200.
“My goal the next year will be a lot more ball handling, working on the left hand, making a couple go-to moves because in high school I did not have that or need to,” he said. “But at this level you need to and also get a better feel for the game in practice and that sort of stuff so when I play again, it's not like my first full year of playing.”
Muller said he doesn't want to limit where he thinks Chastain will be able to contribute in the future.
“We'll see where he's at when he gets healthy,” said the ISU coach. “We'll develop the heck out of him and whatever his best position is and his best skill set is, we'll try to put him in a position to be successful.”