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Geno Ford
This March 28, 2011, file photo shows Geno Ford speaking during a news conference after being introduced as the new head basketball coach at Bradley University, in Peoria, Ill. Kent State University is suing former coach Ford for more than $1.2 million in damages over his recent departure for Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. (AP Photo/Peoria Journal Star, David Zalaznik, File)

NORMAL -- A spring break for basketball coaches in the Missouri Valley Conference?

Forget it.

Not only have there been two coaching changes since the season ended (Geno Ford at Bradley and Paul Lusk at Missouri State), but several rosters were significantly retooled during the spring signing period.

Illinois State, coming off a 12-19 season, underwent some roster reshuffling. The Redbirds added two juco guards -- high-scoring Tyler Brown of Marshalltown (Iowa) Community College and Darious Clark of Cecil (Md.) College -- while Kenyon Smith transferred to Division II Southern Indiana.

Here are some of the other changes around the Valley in the last couple months.

Bradley: Ford has been busy after leaving Kent State to replace Jim Les, the Valley's longest-serving coach who was fired after nine years. Les later was named coach at UC-Davis, where his son, Tyler, will be a sophomore guard.

Bradley added three players in 6-foot-7 forward Devon Hodges of Bolingbrook; 6-6 forward Shayok Shayok (no misprint) of Ottawa, Ontario; and 6-2 guard Jalen Crawford of Detroit. Shayok played last season for IMG Academy in Florida, while Crawford was at Impact Academy in Las Vegas.

The Braves had to restock quickly. They lost senior guard Sam Maniscalco, who transferred to Illinois. Star recruit Remy Abell of Louisville also was granted a release from his letter of intent and signed with Indiana.

Ford is still waiting to hear if forward Taylor Brown, who sat out last season because of heart-related concerns, will be cleared to play.

Creighton: The Bluejays, who are the probable league favorite, were unable to land a junior college transfer as Coach Greg McDermott hoped. However, McDermott told the Omaha World-Herald that adding a transfer in the summer remains a possibility.

Creighton returns four starters, including all-Valley first-team forward Doug McDermott, along with a top reserve and two redshirts who sat out last season -- former Gonzaga guard Grant Gibbs and 6-11 center Will Artino.

Drake: Guard Ryan Wedel was the Bulldogs' only senior last season, so Coach Mark Phelps didn't go looking for help. Wedel's replacements at point guard were already on Drake's roster.

Frank Wiseler played in only 13 games last season because of a stress fracture in his heel, while freshman Karl Madison, a Springfield High School graduate, was redshirted because of ankle problems.

Evansville: Sharp-shooting guard Jordan Nelson of Lincoln High School and 6-7 Jaylon Moore of Olive Branch, Mass., were signed in the spring.

The Purple Aces took a hit, though, when they released junior college forward Dustin Clements two weeks ago from his letter of intent.

Indiana State: The Sycamores filled the need for a more physical presence in the backcourt by signing 6-6, 225-pound guard Brandon Burnett of Tucson, Ariz.

Burnett was set to go to North Carolina-Wilmington last season, but couldn't gain academic clearance. So he sat out a year while taking some college classes to become eligible. Burnett will have four years of eligibility with Indiana State. He averaged 22.5 points and 7.9 rebounds as a high school senior.

Missouri State: Lusk, a former Purdue assistant, had some holes to fill after being named to succeed Cuonzo Martin, who left for Tennessee.

The Bears, who lost four starters from the regular-season Valley championship squad, have added four players under Lusk. The latest was Michael Bizoukas, a transfer who was a reserve guard at DePaul. Bizoukas will be eligible immediately under the NCAA postgraduate transfer rule (much like Maniscalco at Illinois) and could replace Nafis Ricks at point guard.

Three junior college transfers were brought in -- 6-6, 220-pound forward Corbin Thomas of Southwestern Illinois; 6-4, 225-pound guard Jarmar Gulley of Highland (Kan.) Community College; and 6-1 guard Anthony Downing of Independence (Kan.) Community College. Lusk also retained three players that Martin signed in the fall.

Northern Iowa: The Panthers did most of their recruiting in the fall, but got a late addition when 6-8, 240-pound Chris Olivier signed in mid-May.

Olivier played last season at Quakerdale Academy in Eldora, Iowa, and averaged 15 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists. He came to Quakerdale from Seton Academy in Chicago.

Southern Illinois: Talk about an upheaval. The Salukis added four new players (to go with four signed in the fall) and two assistant coaches while three players -- center Gene Teague and guards Mykel Cleveland and Troy Long -- are transferring out.

The newcomers are guards Jeff Early and T.J. Lindsey from Monroe (N.Y.) College and Josh Swan of Atlanta, Ga. Desmar Jackson, a 6-6 guard who led Wyoming in scoring last season with a 14.6 average, is transferring to SIU, but will have to sit out a season.

Jackson follows former Wyoming assistant coach Anthony Stewart, who is joining Chris Lowery's staff along with former Saluki aide Ron Smith.

Wichita State: The NIT champs added one player for next season and another for 2012-13.

Ede Egharevba, a 6-6 forward from Mack Academy (N.C.) via New York City, could help in the frontcourt where Wichita State lost a couple key players. Ron Baker, a 6-3 guard from Scott City (Kan.), will walk-on and redshirt this season before signing in the fall.

Former ISU player Dana Ford also returns to the Shockers' bench as an assistant coach after spending the last two years at Tennessee State.

Valley predictions

Here is Pantagraph sportswriter Jim Benson's early predictions for the Missouri Valley Conference 2011-12 basketball race.

1. Creighton

2. Indiana State

3. Wichita State

4. Northern Iowa

5. Evansville

6. Drake

7. Missouri State

8. Illinois State

9. Bradley

10. Southern Illinois

 

 

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