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Muller's first month packed with recruiting, hiring

NORMAL (MCT) — There has barely been a free moment for Dan Muller to sit still in the last month after becoming Illinois State’s head basketball coach.

From hiring a staff to recruiting two players to revamping the Redbirds’ nonconference schedule, Muller has been a man on the move since May 8 when he was introduced as ISU’s coach.

The next 30 days will be more of the same.

“When you prepare for a head coach job I prepared for the first 30 and first 60 (days). I knew those would be important,” said Muller this week in his Redbird Arena office. “I had a philosophy going in and knew what I wanted to do.

“The unique thing about this job was the (late) hiring time. Usually you have three weeks with your current players on campus developing relationships. But the way this worked that was the biggest challenge — and recruiting. It was a unique time for both those things, which are the most important things to do.”

Most of the Redbird players went home shortly after Muller was hired with final examinations finished. Muller thought it was important for him to personally visit almost every player’s hometown and start developing a relationship before they returned for summer classes in mid-June.

“There’s a comfort level. They deserve that and I thought their parents deserved that. They don’t know me,” said Muller. “I want them to know me and be comfortable ... it was great.”

Five players stayed on campus for the first three-week summer school session — seniors John Wilkins and Anthony Cousin; junior Bryant Allen; and sophomores Jordan Threloff and John Jones. They got a head start on their teammates with the new coach.

New NCAA rules allow coaches to work out players for two hours for eight weeks in the summer. Muller decided to use one of those weeks last week in order not to go eight straight weeks when the rest of the team returns for summer classes beginning June 18.

“It was fun. They go fast,” said Muller of the two one-hour workouts. “We got on the court together and hung out some together.”

Signing two new players also was important to Muller. He was able to land point guard Kaza Keane of Christian Faith Center Academy in Creedmore, N.C., and forward Geoffrey Allen, a transfer from Eastern Washington who will have to sit out next season per NCAA rules.

That was in addition to hiring Dana Ford, Torrey Ward and Rob Judson as assistants.

“We were able to get Kaza and Geoffrey, and we’re still working on seeing if something else changes. That made a big difference,” said Muller. “I love my staff. I got the guys I wanted.”

Muller is starting to get some nonconference games lined up that ISU fans have wanted for a long time. The Redbirds signed a home-and-home series with Dayton beginning this season. There also is word that ISU will travel this season to face Louisville, which could be ranked in the top five in the country.

Officially, Muller said ISU has three games left to schedule. “We’ve got some things in the works where it should be done soon,” he said.

This is the first week Muller and his assistants have all been in the office together as Ward just got settled into town. Ward, a former assistant at Mississippi and Jacksonville State, spent last season coaching in China.

“We’re just spending a lot of time talking basketball and my philosophy, expectations, responsibilities,” said Muller. “We’re preparing for team workouts, which means we have to get into some on-the-court philosophy things not only what we do, but the words I want to use, verbiage, how I want to coach.

“It will be a busy couple weeks preparing for the guys to come back.”

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