Antonio Reeves, Mark Freeman Look To Lead Redbird Basketball
Written by Brendan McInerney on October 21, 2021
Image courtesy of goredbirds.com
NORMAL, Ill. – Illinois State men’s basketball head coach Dan Muller made defense a major point of emphasis this offseason. Opponents scored an average of 72.8 points per game against the Redbirds just a year ago, the most allowed by any team in the Missouri Valley Conference.
To make matters worse, the Redbirds lost their leading scorer as point guard DJ Horne (15.1 ppg) elected to transfer out of the program. In an effort to fill the hole at the primary ball-handler position, Muller and his staff searched the transfer portal for a true two-way guard who is skilled on both ends of the court. They believe to have found a perfect fit in 5’11” Tennessee State transfer Mark Freeman.
In his sophomore season, Freeman averaged 17.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game for the Tigers en route to being named to the All-Ohio Valley Conference second team. He also led the OVC in free throw percentage at 81.7%, another key deficiency for the Redbirds.
Freeman will be counted on heavily for his playmaking ability and elite defense, but it’s what he provides off the court that should benefit the Redbirds in a big way throughout the upcoming season.
“Leadership is the most important thing I bring,” said Freeman. “Being a point guard, you need to lead your brothers and I take pride in doing the small things needed to gel together as a team.”
Joining Freeman in the backcourt will be junior guard Antonio Reeves. Averaging 12.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, Reeves is the top returning scorer from last season. Muller has been very complimentary in the way Reeves has grown physically and mentally this offseason.
“I’ve been getting up at 5:30 every day spending time in the weight room and getting up shots,” said Reeves. “That’s all I’ve been doing for the past summer.”
With a fair number of new faces within ISU’s program competing for playing time, Reeves believes he has what it takes to become the Redbirds’ prime number one scoring option.
“I feel very confident in my improved ballhandling and shooting ability,” said Reeves. “The level of experience I have from previous years and learning from the older guys before me has helped me on defense.”
As expected, ISU was picked to finish 10th in the MVC preseason coaches’ poll released this week. The Redbirds will have to rely on an abundance of transfers who have never played together including Freeman, forward Kendall Lewis (Appalachian State), forward Liam McChesney (Utah State) and center Ryan Schmitt (Des Moines Community College).
Despite the uncertainty, Freeman and Reeves will do everything possible to avoid a third straight sub-.500 season for the first time in program history.
“My goal is to win a conference championship and make it to March Madness,” said Reeves. “Everybody on the team is in this together.”