BACKCOURT

• Keyshawn Evans, 6-0, Jr.

• Milik Yarbrough, 6-6, Jr.

• William Tinsley, 6-6, Jr.

Analysis: For the first time in four years, the Redbirds will open a season without Paris Lee at point guard running the show. Evans got to observe Lee closely the last two seasons and inherits his spot in the starting lineup. After an injury-filled freshman campaign, Evans blossomed as a valuable reserve last season and was ISU's most improved player after averaging 5.8 points and 2.0 assists. Evans is just as comfortable playing off the ball and shot 38 percent outside the arc, making five-pointers in a game against Drake. Yarbrough sat out last season after transferring from Saint Louis and will be one of the MVC's most unique players. He handles the ball extremely well for his size and will initiate much of ISU's offense, causing a mismatch for many opponents. Yarbrough, who averaged 10.0 and 7.7 points per game, respectively, in his two seasons with the Billikens, also will help in the frontcourt. Tinsley, a Ridgeview High School graduate, has fulfilled a dream of playing for ISU after transferring from Lake Land College. He might have the deepest range of any Redbird since Tyler Brown six years ago. With ISU short-handed up front, Tinsley will be counted on to get some rebounds, too. Lee and Tony Wills were all-MVC defenders in the backcourt, and their replacements know they'll have to work hard to come close in that regard.

FRONTCOURT

• Phil Fayne, 6-9, Jr. 

• Taylor Bruninga, 6-8, Fr.

Analysis: Fayne jumped into the starting lineup immediately last season after transferring from Western Nebraska College and earned a spot on the MVC All-Newcomer Team. The athletic Fayne was second in the league in field goal percentage (.590) while ranking fourth on the Redbirds in scoring (9.1 ppg) and second in rebounding (6.3) and blocked shots (1.1). Now, Fayne will become a primary scoring option instead of getting most of his points off rebounds and in transition. He figures to shoot more mid-range jumpers and has the green light to take an open 3-pointer. Bruninga dominated at Class 2A Illini Bluffs, averaging 33.4 points and 11.5 rebounds while finishing fifth in Illinois Mr. Basketball voting. Making the step up to Division I won't be easy. Bruninga is a classic "stretch 4," meaning he is a power forward who is just as comfortable outside the arc as he is on the block. Bruninga didn't expect to be thrust into a prominant role right off the bat in his Redbird career, but will be counted on from the opener to hit shots when open and grab rebounds. 

BENCH

• Jerron Martin, 6-0, Sr. 

• David Ndiaye, 7-0, Jr.

• Matt Hein, 6-3, So.

• Christian Romine, 6-9, So. 

• Madison Williams, 6-3, So.

• Elijah Clarance, 6-4, Fr.

• Isaac Gassman, 6-5, Fr. 

Analysis: Ndiaye figured to be in the starting lineup, but his third stress fracture in three years at ISU has put him on the shelf until the middle of December. He led the Redbirds in blocked shots last season and should be one of the better rim protectors in the MVC. The Senegal native also looked smoother on the offensive end in practices. Clarance, a 6-4 lefthander, had a chance to be a starter from his first game in a Redbird uniform before a stress fracture forced him to miss the start of practices and will keep him out until December. The Sweden native will give ISU another playmaker on offense who can break defenses down and find open shooters when help comes. Williams played in 28 games off the bench as a freshman. While he struggled with his shot last season, Williams showed the ability to possibly become a lock-down perimeter defender. His versatility also allows Williams to play three positions. Martin was a late pickup, added in early September as a graduate transfer from Texas Southern where his roomate was former ISU player Zach Lofton. Martin became more valuable when Clarance was injured and gives the Redbirds someone with quickness and experience at the point who is a decent shooter. Gassman was a walk-on last year who redshirted and then was given a scholarship for this season. He might be one of the team's best outside threats and has the size to play a couple different positions. Hein saw action last season in 15 games, but will miss the first couple games with a bruised knee. Romine, a Mahomet-Seymour High School graduate, transferred last season from Texas-El Paso. He is currently away from the team to deal with a personal issue.

TRANSFER

• Matt Chastain, 6-6, So.

Analysis: After leading LeRoy High School to the 2016 Class 1A state title, Chastain considered ISU before signing with Loyola. He suffered a torn ACL in his third game with the Ramblers, underwent surgery and redshirted before deciding to transfer to ISU to be closer to home. He must sit out this season per NCAA rules, although he can practice, before having three seasons of eligibility with ISU beginning with the 2018-19 campaign. Chastain, a good perimeter shooter who can swing between the backcourt and frontcourt, figures to be cleared for live contact in practice in a couple weeks.

WALK-ON

• Luke Litwiller, 6-5, Fr.

Analysis: Litwiller was a second-team all-Corn Belt Conference selection last season at Olympia High School after averaging 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds for a Class 2A regional championship squad. He got some interest from Division III schools, but decided to come to ISU as an agricultural business major before going through the Redbirds' walk-on tryout and being added to the squad. He could see some playing time early in season because of ISU's injury situation.

THE COACHES

Head coach

• Dan Muller, 6th year at ISU (12-year assistant at Vanderbilt, 1998 ISU graduate, ranks 11th in school history with 1,445 points from 1994-98)

Assistant coaches

• Brian Reese, 2nd year at ISU (head coach at Georgian Court in 2015-16, assistant coach at Monmouth from 2011-15)

• Brian "Penny" Collins, 1st year at ISU (assistant coach at East Tennessee State from 2015-17)

• Brendan Mullins, 1st year at ISU (assistant coach at UIC from 2015-17) 

Director of operations

• Spencer Johnson, 3rd year at ISU (video coordinator first year)

Video coordinator

• Darshawn McClellan, 2nd year at ISU (player development assistant at Vanderbilt previously)

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Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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