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Sizing up the ‘Birds in Pedon’s Sophomore Season

Written by on November 9, 2023

Image courtesy of Illinois State Athletics

NORMAL, Ill. – Season two for Illinois State basketball head coach Ryan Pedon has officially begun. While the Redbirds are off to a 1-0 start after beating Lourdes on Monday 75-56, the Redbirds will tip-off play against Division-I opponents starting on Saturday against Saint Louis. 

Coming off an 11-21 season, the Illinois State Redbirds will look to try and bounce back in a big way. While the Redbirds will miss contributions from a couple of players who either graduated or transferred, ISU is ultimately bringing together a stronger roster for 2023-24. 

At the top, ISU is returning two guards who should lead the way throughout the season for the Redbirds. Darius Burford is entering his second season with ISU after leading the Redbirds with 12.9 points per game last season. Burford is a fast and electric guard who is sure to lead ISU in all offensive numbers in his senior year. 

Meanwhile, another guard coming into his second season with ISU, Malachi Poindexter will be a leader on offense. Poindexter is ISU’s best three-point shooter after shooting 37% from deep. 

You also cannot count out ISU forward, Kendall Lewis. Lewis is entering his senior year and is arguably the Birds’ best two-way player. On offense, Lewis was good enough for 10.9 points per game last season and 7.3 rebounds. On the other side, he led the Redbirds in blocks with 24 and steals with 46. 

The forward, Luke Kasubke also returns for ISU after averaging 6.8 points per game and shooting 36% from three-point range. He will surely be a big part of ISU’s offense. 

The Redbirds will lean heavily on players they were able to obtain through the transfer portal. Dalton Banks, Myles Foster, Jordan Davis and Brandon Lieb will all look to make their mark with the Redbirds. 

Banks is a transfer from Southern Illinois where he will play his senior year with the Birds’. Banks managed to have solid seasons with the Salukis but will get a huge increase in playing time for coach Pedon. 

Foster is coming from Monmouth after averaging 12.5 points in the Coastal Athletic Conference. Foster is a physical forward who is sure to crash the boards, while also being a dependable player to lean on for a basket. 

Davis, the transfer from Wisconsin is looking to make his mark at ISU. Davis has looked solid in his two games thus far with the Birds’ but will look to bounce back after a couple of tough seasons in Wisconsin. 

Finally, rounding it out for the transfer, the seven-footer, Lieb is coming over from the University of Illinois. Lieb played very little during his time at UIUC but could find himself as a go-to big man for ISU. 

The Redbirds are bringing in a freshman class of four, but only two look to get regular playing time. Ty Pence is a 6 ’6 guard from Saint Joseph, Ill. that has many Redbird fans excited for his potential. Johnny Kinziger is a 5 ’11 guard from De Pere, Wis. who has played solid minutes at point guard in early action for ISU. 

ISU comes in at eighth in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll. If Coach Pedon can bring this roster of returning players, transfers and freshmen together by the time MVC play comes around, they could have a chance to make some noise and beat out the projections. 

ISU opens Division-I play at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Saint Louis.