NORMAL — First-year Illinois State women’s basketball coach Kristen Gillespie believes she has accelerated the turnaround of the Redbird program with a five-player recruiting class signed Wednesday.

“We are beyond excited about this group,” Gillespie said. “They have high character, they are great students and they all fill a void or need we have.”

Inked to national letter of intents were high school seniors Lexy Koudelka of Nevada, Iowa, Anya Brooks of Plainfield South, Mary Crompton of Iowa City Regina, Ally Gietzel of Fond du Lac, Wis., and Kayel Newland of Liberty, Mo.

The 6-foot-2 Koudelka is rated the No. 14 center and No. 72 player overall in the class of 2018 by Dan Olson’s Collegiate Girls Basketball Report. She averaged 19.4 points, 13.3 rebounds and 3.8 blocks as a junior.

“I think Lexy has a chance to be outstanding in the Missouri Valley Conference,” said Gillespie. “She is really skilled. She can pass, dribble, shoot and post up.”

Also 6-2, Brooks contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds per game as prep junior.

“Anya will rebound and defend and has a high motor,” Gillespie said. “She is not where she needs to be offensively. But her ceiling on the offensive end is extremely high. I really believe she will develop into a threat on both ends of the court.”

Gillespie believes Crompton is “the best shooter in the 2018 class” nationwide. The 5-8 guard averaged 18.0 points last season while shooting 46.3 percent from beyond the arc and once hit 10 3-pointers in a game.

“Mary will not physically wow you, but she has made herself into an elite level shooter,” said the Redbird coach. “Her range is deep. These guards will make it really difficult to double team our post players.”

The 5-10 Gietzel averaged 19.8 points and 6.1 rebounds as a junior.

“Ally is a phenomenal athlete, an unbelievable defender who also can score and play all three guard spots,” Gillespie said. “She has a great mid-range game. She fills up the stat sheet.”

Gillespie believes the 6-0 Newland could have success playing any position except center. Newland is a 41 percent 3-point shooter who scored 12.5 points last season.

“Kayel is a tough matchup. She really shoots the three, can post you up and take you off the bounce,” said Gillespie. “When the game is on the line, she wants the ball in her hands.”

Follow Randy Reinhardt on Twitter: @Pg_Reinhardt

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