NORMAL — Illinois State’s basketball team has played the last seven games without junior Michael Middlebrooks. The Redbirds found out Friday they won’t have the 6-foot-9 junior forward for the rest of the season, either.
ISU coach Dan Muller announced that Middlebrooks is academically ineligible for second semester. Middlebrooks was indefinitely suspended on Nov. 25 for what Muller called conduct detrimental to the team.
“At this point I can say the reason he did not play the last couple games is primarily academic, and if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do in the classroom you’re not going to play here,” said Muller. “He was very close (to making a qualifying grade-point average), but not close enough.”
Middlebrooks started the Redbirds’ first four games, averaging 5.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. The Seattle native signed with ISU last spring out of North Idaho College.
Muller said Middlebrooks can practice with the Redbirds for the rest of the season, although he wasn’t at Friday’s practice. Middebrooks also is currently enrolled for second semester, according to the ISU coach.
The academic news wasn’t all bad for ISU.
Muller said the team compiled the fifth-best academic semester in the last 17 years for the basketball program. That included Middlebrooks along with two players sitting out because they were ruled nonqualifiers before the season by the NCAA — forwards Teddy Hawkins and MiKyle McIntosh.
“My staff worked unbelievably hard and the guys really did a good job with 10 new players, and having some guys do as well as they did was awesome,” said Muller.
Lynch update: Reggie Lynch was riding a stationary bike at the start of Friday’s practice with his sprained left ankle in a walking boot. But Lynch and Muller remained hopeful the 6-10 freshman will be able to play in Sunday’s 3:35 p.m. game against DePaul (7-4) at Redbird Arena.
Lynch suffered the injury while scrambling for a long rebound early in the second half during Thursday’s 64-58 victory over Tennessee State. His absence left the Redbirds (6-5) with only John Jones and Jamaal Samuel in the front court.