NORMAL — The final piece of Illinois State’s basketball recruiting puzzle might have been the biggest.
ISU coach Dan Muller announced Thursday that MiKyle McIntosh, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward from Canada, has signed a national letter of intent with the Redbirds and will begin playing in the fall. McIntosh will join a group of nine recruits for ISU, including six who signed this spring, and be among four freshmen.
McIntosh, a native of Pickering, Ontario, played this past season for 22ft Academy while attending Breathitt County High School in Jackson, Ky. He averaged 17.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists, shooting 46 percent from the field and 78 percent at the free-throw line for 22ft Academy. That prompted interest from high-major programs such as UCLA, Miami (Fla.), Florida, Seton Hall and Oregon.
Muller said McIntosh, who has a 6-10 wing span, can play “multiple positions” for the Redbirds. ISU has no players returning in the frontcourt from last season’s 18-15 squad.
“At 6-7 and a legitimate 225 or 230 pounds he’s a very good athlete and can handle the ball well for his size. He’s really unique for our team and our conference,” said Muller. “MiKyle has to put the work in like everyone else. We’ll see where he helps us on the court, but you can’t grow kids and make them bigger. He’s a really good kid, too. We’ve recruited him for a long time so we know him as a person, too.”
McIntosh is good friends with ISU sophomore guard Kaza Keane, who was the first Canadian in history to suit up for the Redbirds. They played together the year before at Christian Faith Center Academy in Creedmoor, N.C., and also helped the under-17 Ontario boys basketball team to the Canadian national championship in 2011. The pair were teammates on the Grassroots Canada AAU Team, too.
Ryan Schmidt, who is McIntosh’s coach at 22ft Academy and also was a coach with Grassroots Canada, believes ISU is getting a versatile player. Schmidt said McIntosh was looked at as an undersized power forward heading into this past season.
“This year he was able to showcase his all-around game,” said Schmidt. “He played point guard for us a lot due to some injuries we had. It really helped blossom his game as far as confidence.
“The kid is a matchup problem at 6-7, 230 pounds who handles the ball like a 6-foot point guard and then you add his strength and athleticism to that. He brings a different dimension to the game that not a lot of guys can.”
Schmidt said he would call McIntosh a “streaky shooter” from 3-point range, but believes that will change with putting more time in the gym.
“I think it’s only a matter of time until he adds that dimension,” said Schmidt. “When he becomes a consistent knockdown shooter it will be kind of scary.”
Having Keane at ISU wasn’t as big a factor as many thought, according to Schmidt. Instead, it was the relationship built between McIntosh, Muller and Redbird associate coach Dana Ford.
“Being able to have a role the coaching staff at Illinois State sees him having as a freshman was big for him,” said Schmidt. “The relationship with Kaza was kind of icing on the cake.”
Efforts to reach McIntosh were unsuccessful.
Muller and his staff have nearly completely retooled the roster heading into their second season with ISU.
The only players with Division I experience returning will be senior Bryant Allen (the lone starter back), sophomore Nick Zeisloft and Keane. Four players transferred this spring — Jon Ekey, Johnny Hill, Jordan Threloff and Zeke Upshaw.
“There’s no question we’re bringing in some very high-level athletes, physical guys and a lot of guys who can move their feet. Because athleticism a lot of times comes into play, we have guys who can play different positions,” said Muller.
“We have some length and some guys who need to put weight on, but we’ve got some guys who come in pretty physical already. I do think we’re bringing in not only athletes, but athletes with good skill too.”