NORMAL — Illinois State's basketball team was looking to land a veteran point guard in the spring to lead the way and also help mentor incoming freshman DJ Horne at the position.
Redbird head coach Dan Muller believes he has found such a player with plenty of experiences — on and off the court.
Muller announced Saturday that former Wichita State point guard Ricky Torres will be transferring to ISU. Torres was a junior college all-American at Missouri State-West Plains before spending last season with the Shockers.
Torres will have one year of eligibility with ISU. The Redbirds will petition the NCAA for an immediate eligibility waiver for Torres which would allow him to play in the 2019-20 season, according to Muller.
“Ricky is a guy we watched in junior college and really, really liked,” said Muller. “We had Elijah (Clarance) and Keyshawn (Evans) at the time and really didn't need a point guard, but we saw how good he was. He's a physically older, tough point guard that obviously had a great experience from last year. He has an interesting background. It gives him some maturity and we think he'll be a great leader for us.”
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Torres, who turns 24 in September, started 10 games with Wichita State, a former Missouri Valley Conference rival of ISU's, early in the season. He averaged 2.8 points, 2.3 assists and 1.8 rebounds per game while struggling with his shooting. Torres made 34.6 percent from the field, but only sank 4 of 45 attempts outside the arc.
Two seasons ago, Torres averaged 17.2 points and 8.1 assists for Missouri State-West Plains after a freshman season where he averaged 11.2 points and 5.7 assists. He set school assists records for a game (16), season (268) and career (427).
According to a Wichita Eagle story earlier this year, Torres, whose hometown is Pinellas Park, Fla., was a high school dropout who didn't play organized basketball until he was 16. He earned his GED and eventually surfaced at Missouri State-West Plains where he became one of the nation's top junior college point guards.
Wichita State won his services last spring in a recruiting battle with Auburn, Virginia Tech, SMU and South Florida.
Muller likes Torres' assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.5-to-1 in junior college and 2.4-to-1 at Wichita State.
“He obviously didn't score this year, but if you look at his numbers in junior college he could really score and shot a great percentage,” said Muller. “He'll certainly be a guy who is a facilitator and can get everybody great shots, but he can also score for us.”
The addition of Torres completes a whirlwind week for ISU after signing two high school players — 6-7 forward Harouna Sissoko of Mali (who played at Grand View Christian in Des Moines, Iowa) and 6-4 guard Antonio Reeves of Chicago Simeon. The Redbirds signed Horne, who is from Raleigh, N.C., in the fall.
Reeves is the first Chicago Public League player to sign with Muller in his eight-year tenure as Redbird coach. Muller said ISU passed on a chance to sign other players in order to wait for Reeves, and it paid off.
“He has the potential to play next year, and I expect him to play and contribute,” said Muller. “How much, of course, who knows how much anyone is going to play. With his size, shooting ability and skill, he's a guy who is certainly going to be competing for playing time.”
The Redbirds still have one scholarship available. Muller said it likely will be a player who will sit out next season.
“We don't really need anyone else eligible to play right now,” he said. “We're actively looking for someone who will redshirt or transfers to redshirt. It could be late (in the summer) or a mid-year guy if we held on to it. We have a lot of flexibility with that.”