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ISU signee Josh Jefferson action

Lake Land College guard Josh Jefferson drives against a Parkland defender in a game during the 2016-17 season in Mattoon. Jefferson has signed a national letter of intent to continue his career at Illinois State.


NORMAL —  Getting scoring out of the backcourt doesn't figure to be much of a problem for Illinois State's basketball team next season.

Josh Jefferson, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound shooting guard from Lake Land College in Mattoon, signed with the Redbirds on Wednesday. Another junior college transfer guard, Zach Copeland from City College of San Francisco, joined the Redbirds in late December and practiced with the team, but couldn't play and will be eligible in the fall. 

Jefferson, who hails from New Albany, Ind., averaged 22.8 points per game for Lake Land this season while shooting 49 percent from the field, 44.8 percent on 3-pointers and 77.4 percent at the free throw line. He also contributed 4.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.0 steals. 

"To have another guy like Josh who can dribble, pass and shoot was something I thought our team needed," said ISU coach Dan Muller. "Josh, if you look at his numbers, obviously he's a high-level shooter.

"But he's good with the ball, he's got great feel and is an above-average passer. He adds to our skill level on the offensive end."

Last fall, Jefferson signed a national letter of intent with Cal State Northridge. When Reggie Theus was fired as Northridge's coach in March, Jefferson asked for and received his release from the school.

ISU quickly sealed the deal with Jefferson, who was teammates with ISU's William Tinsley at Lake Land in the 2016-17 season. Jefferson sank 165 3-pointers in his two seasons at Lake Land.

"I had seen him play because of Boogie (Tinsley) last year. I really liked his talent level," said Muller. "He signed early and, quite frankly, we weren't planning on signing a guard and didn't recruit him.

"Once he decommitted (from Northridge) and got his release, we called him and went to see him and got a commitment in like three days."

Starting guards Keyshawn Evans, who averaged 15.2 points this season, Tinsley (6.0 ppg) and Madison Williams (5.3 ppg) return for ISU in the fall. Evans' 91 3-pointers were the second most in a season in school history.

Elijah Clarance, Matt Hein and Isaac Gassman also are slated to return in the backcourt. 

Jefferson was selected to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I All-Region 24 squad and was a first-team all-Great Rivers Athletic Conference choice. The Lakers finished with a 17-14 record, improving by three wins from the previous season.

As a Lake Land freshman, Jefferson set the school 3-point percentage record of .476 and averaged 18.7 points.

"Specifically to add shooting, in addition to skill, was what we wanted to do with a guard that could play right away," said Muller.

ISU remains searching for help in the front court, specifically at center. Seven-foot junior center David Ndiaye announced he was transferring for his final season a couple weeks ago. 

"We're looking for a big and looking at transfers. We have a lot of options, I think," said Muller. "By no means do we have to add a big. I only will if it's the right one. Those are hard to get right now, but we're trying."

ISU signed two high school players in the fall — 6-9, 240-pound Rey Idowu of Virginia Beach, Va., who played at Clearwater (Fla.) Academy International, and 6-9, 190-pound Demontay Dixon of Spring Hill, Tenn. 

Follow Jim Benson on Twitter: @Pg_Benson


Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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