NORMAL — The first 30-degree temperature days earlier this month had most of Illinois State's freshmen basketball players shivering while walking to classes and practice. That's what happens when you come from Florida.
Roland Griffin could only smile.
"I told them about the cold weather," said Griffin, a West Aurora High School graduate. "I told them be prepared for it. You have to see it."
However, Griffin is glad to have the four freshmen from Florida — Keyshawn Evans, Elvis Harvey, Matt Hein and Daouda "David" Ndiaye — around to share the ups and downs of being a first-year college player.
"If we're not with the rest of the team, we (the freshmen) all have the same classes so we're always together," said Evans, a 6-foot point guard. "It's good having more than one or two guys who came in with you."
ISU coach Dan Muller doesn't just expect his freshmen to watch and listen this season. He expects at least two, and possibly three, to make an immediate contribution.
"From what I've seen so far, whether they're starters or coming off the bench, we have some guys ready to help our team right now," said Muller.
Junior guard Tony Wills has been impressed by all the freshmen.
"They're playing hard and really buying in. That's a good sign," said Wills. "I remember when I was a freshman. They're doing a lot better than me. I give them a lot of credit."
The 6-foot-7, 210-pound Griffin figures to be in the rotation from the start at a wing spot. He is more muscular than a typical freshman and has versatility inside and outside.
"I like getting in transition, getting easy buckets and finding shooters on the wing," said Griffin, who averaged 18 points and eight rebounds at West Aurora last season. "In practice we're pushing really fast and an uptempo offense."
Daily battles against 6-7, 235-pound sophomore MiKyle McIntosh lets Griffin know high school is in the past.
"Going against MiKyle definitely helps me," said Griffin. "He's definitely a physical player."
Evans is the only point guard on the roster besides starter Paris Lee.
"He's a solid point guard and an excellent shooter," said Lee. "He has a lot of energy. I consider him like my little brother. I'm taking him under my wing like Daishon (Knight) did with me."
One of the biggest adjustments for Evans is "time management" and finding a balance between basketball and school work.
"You have to bundle everything together and still have time to eat and get a good night's rest, which is important," he said.
Ndiaye, a native of Senegal who grew up in Paris before going to Windermere Prep in Orlando, Fla., has to shake off the rust of not being allowed to play for his high school team last season.
Muller said he anticipates the 7-foot Ndiaye will be "special" at some point in his Redbird career, although the ISU coach doesn't know when that will occur.
Ndiaye, who weighs 210 pounds, views his role more on the defensive end this season, although offensively he has the skill set to shoot perimeter jumpers and not just camp out in the low post.
While Ndiaye is close with Hein, having lived with the Hein family in Orlando, he has quickly developed a bond with the other freshmen as well.
"Every time someone is down, it's hard being a freshman, we all lift each other up," he said.
Hein, a 6-3 guard, once hit seven consecutive 3-pointers in a high school game. His father, Todd, was the coach of the AAU Orlando Venom. Hein sounds like a coach's son when he says, "What I do in practice will translate into how many minutes I get in games."
One thing Hein is not concerned with is whether he will redshirt and sit out games, but still practice, in order to preserve four years of eligibility. That decision doesn't have to be made for a couple weeks.
Harvey, a 6-8 forward, also could be a redshirt candidate. He didn't play basketball until high school and won't turn 19 until January.
"It's pretty tough getting used to playing with guys equally big and strong and just as skilled," said Harvey. "Basically, I'm playing catch-up right now. It's not easy."
Adjusting to the Central Illinois weather isn't so easy, either. Harvey said "it was a big shock" when the temperature started falling.
Ndiaye is familiar with snow having lived in Paris. But he knows a French winter is different than the one ahead.
"It's going to be a big problem, but we'll survive," he said, laughing.
Media Day in St. Louis: The Missouri Valley Conference Media Day for men's and women's basketball is Tuesday in downtown St. Louis. Preseason polls and all-conference teams will be released.