NORMAL — Illinois State women’s basketball coach Kristen Gillespie believes all six of her returning players have made strides offensively since last season.
Yet Gillespie expects it will be the six newcomers who will put ISU’s 2017-18 woes of scoring 53.5 points per game and shooting 27 percent from 3-point range well behind the Redbirds.
“Our six returners have been very diligent in the offseason,” Gillespie said Wednesday during Media Day at Redbird Arena. “The newcomers are pretty dynamic scorers.
"We’re still going to play through our posts. But now they’re not going to be able to triple team our posts because we have shooters surrounding them.”
Gillespie guided the Redbirds to a 14-16 record in her first season, a six-win improvement over the previous campaign. Yet depth and ability to score remained weaknesses.
“We were really limited last year. I think we will play much deeper,” said Gillespie. “We’ll do some different things defensively and try to play at a little higher tempo.”
Simone Goods, a 6-foot-2 senior, earned Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year honors after averaging 13.5 points and 6.0 rebounds last season.
“As a senior, knowing I’m probably going to be a go-to person this year, it’s a lot more responsibility,” Goods said. “Having that extra wind and having somebody come in and create when you’re out, that gives you peace of mind.”
The other two seniors, 5-9 Katrina Beck and 5-8 Viria Livingston, also figure to benefit from more rest.
“We made a lot of good steps in the right direction last year, and it’s only up from here,” said Beck, who averaged 36.3 minutes and 8.0 points last season. “We feel like we can make an even bigger and better improvement.”
An arthritic knee figures to limit Livingston’s practice time.
“Viria is the heart and soul of our team,” Gillespie said. “She has a bum knee. That’s something she will battle all year long. We need her to defend and rebound. And we need her spirit.”
Junior Megan Talbot joins Goods inside along with freshmen Lexy Koudelka and Anya Brooks, who has had to sit out practices because of nosebleeds when her heart rate becomes elevated.
Sophomore Paige Saylor, who ranked among the nation’s leaders at 37.9 minutes played per game, has ballhandling assistance in the form of junior college transfer TeTe Maggett.
“Throughout the season, I definitely felt the wear and tear,” said Saylor, a member of the MVC’s all-defensive and all-freshmen teams last season. “It’s a learning curve working with another point guard on the floor. I think we work awesome together. We can push the ball more and feed off each other.”
Gillespie calls Maggett “dynamic. We’re putting a lot of expectations on her and she’s meeting them. In the open court, I don’t know if there is another player in the Valley as quick with the ball who can create things like she can.”
“I can bring a lot of heart. I play hard,“ Maggett said. “I like to play as a team. I like to make players better whether it’s penetrating and kicking out to my shooters or dumping down to my posts.”
Junior Frannie Corrigan could fill a variety of roles, while Gillespie points to 5-8 freshman Mary Crompton as a player to watch.
“We knew she was an elite level shooter,” said Gillespie. “We didn’t know how good she was off the ball and with the ball. She’s not just a shooter.”
Freshman Kayel Newland brings yet another capable perimeter shooter, while freshman Ally Gietzel was cleared to practice this week. Gietzel has been recovering from knee surgery.
The Redbirds open with a Nov. 4 exhibition against Quincy at Redbird Arena before starting the regular season on Nov. 11 at Southern Illinois Edwardsville.