NORMAL — While player departures — for one reason or another — are commonplace when a new coach takes over, that has not been the case for new Illinois State women's basketball coach Kristen Gillespie.
Gillespie, who was introduced as Redbird coach on April 4, indicated this week all 10 non-seniors from last season's team are expected to return.
"They are great kids and they have really taken to what I'm trying to do," Gillespie said. "Everything is going really well. I'm really enjoying this group of young women."
Gillespie has been able to have small-group workouts with her team.
"They have been extremely responsive. They are working so hard," said Gillespie. "We have a desire to really get this thing going, and we've got to do it together."
Of the two high school standouts who signed a national letter of intent with ISU last November, Ajailon Simmons of the Brentwood School in Los Angeles will be joining the roster in the fall. Evansville (Ind.) Central's Errin Hodges will not.
"AJ is still on board. I think Errin is going to go elsewhere," Gillespie said. "There were schools that recruited her the last two years. I reached out, but it was hard to make up that ground."
Hodges, who began her high school career in Pontiac, asked for and received her release after Barb Smith was fired as ISU coach and before Gillespie was hired.
Gillespie has four scholarships available and is attempting to bolster the Redbird roster for the coming season.
"We may. I don't know if we're definitely going to add someone," she said. "There are a couple transfers I'm trying to get involved with and one or two juco players who have reached out. I'm trying to do background information on them."
Gillespie believes the large majority of high school seniors she would be interested in bringing to ISU have already committed to attend other schools.
"I definitely have room, but it has to be the right fit," said Gillespie. "If I don't think they can immediately impact our team I will put it (scholarships) in my pocket. In the next couple weeks I will have a little clearer picture."
The former Lewis head coach expects to name one or two of her assistant coaches by the conclusion of next week.
Gillespie said it will be an entirely new group of full-time assistants with none of Smith's assistants in the picture.