NORMAL — The Illinois State women’s basketball team will open its season Friday against the University of Illinois at the Assembly Hall in Champaign.
In a bit of an upset, so will Redbirds’ guard Candace Sykes.
A transfer from Alabama, Sykes was not expected to be eligible until after ISU’s first semester was completed. But a waiver granted by the NCAA this week means Sykes will be in uniform on Friday and not be forced to wait until Dec. 20.
“I don’t know if I thought I had much of a chance,” Sykes said Tuesday. “I was surprised when I found out, definitely a pleasant surprise.”
Sykes appeared in eight games at Alabama last season, averaging 4.3 points and 2.0 rebounds in 12.5 minutes, before transferring to ISU.
“The good thing about Candace is she has been at every practice and working out. She knows the system and has been doing everything everybody else has been doing,” said Redbird coach Stephanie Glance. “To find out prior to our first game is good timing. There is another person available to play now.”
Sykes admitted that becoming eligible immediately ratchets up her urgency of preparation.
“I have a new drive now,” she said. “Knowing I can play, I’m definitely focused more on what I need to be doing in practice and doing it the right way. Prior to, I was thinking I have time to work on certain things.”
Glance said how Sykes’ early addition changes her substitution rotation remains to be seen.
“I’m not going to predetermine a lot of things,” said Glance. “We’ll have a starting lineup and beyond that I’ll go on what the game needs are at that time and the best personnel to have in the game based on our opponent and how things are clicking.”