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Redbird Basketball returns to the court

Written by on October 14, 2020

Photo courtesy Lauri Riddell/ISU Athletics

NORMAL, Ill. – The echoes of basketballs bouncing off the hardwood of Doug Collins Court was heard on Wednesday as the Illinois State women’s basketball team returned to practice in anticipation of the 2020-21 season. 

That season is set to start in late November, as the Redbirds will compete in six non-conference contests ahead of their Missouri Valley Conference season. The Redbirds will be on the road against Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Western Illinois. They will host Saint Louis, North Dakota and potentially Dayton. 

The Redbirds finished last season 19-10 (11-7 MVC) but lost out on Hoops in the Heartland due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This season the Redbirds lose Tete Maggett, Lexi Wallen and Megan Talbot. The three-alumnus combined for half of the team’s points production, which leaves many questions ahead of this season. 

We are going to miss those kids. I think it is going to be a more well spread out offense, we are going to have different people each night be the leading scorer, which will be nice for a change,” said Gillespie. 

Gillespie hinted at who she expects to take on some of the workload, beginning with the reigning Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer and Sixth Man of the Year, Juliunn Redmond. 

“Ju-Ju will probably be the face of our program right now, that lead scorer. I thought Paige Saylor scored the ball really well down the stretch, she has to do that for us. Mary Crompton is one of the better shooters in the league. Mary has gotten much better; she was good last year, and she has added a lot to her game.” 

Many would not be surprised if the team was heavily relying on its veterans to carry the team to another successful season, but new faces are expected to play a factor for Redbird basketball this winter. 

DeAnna Wilson is going to be relied heavily on in the post, we are a little thin in that spot, and she is showing glimpses. The neat thing about DeAnna is that she is coming in as a sophomore instead of a junior, and she is going to help us with losing Lexi Wallen,” said Gillespie. 

Wilson will find time in the paint this season, and coach Gillespie has her eyes on Wilson to possibly continue the Redbird’s success in winning the conference’s Newcomer of the Year award. Wilson headlines the list of players set to make an impact on the team, but Gillespie has high hopes that Terrion Moore, Maya Wong and Ally Gietzel have a hand in the Redbirds pursuit at a winning season.

With their first official practice in the books, Gillespie realizes that this season will be unlike any other that she has ever experienced. With nothing guaranteed, she excitingly crossed her fingers desiring everything to go to plan. 

“If we play 20 games, I will be ecstatic. Right now, though, we are focusing on what we can control.” 

Jake Fogal contributed to this story