The New Face of Illinois State Basketball

by Andrew Force | November 6th, 2007

When comparing present and past recruiting bases, Illinois State basketball coach Tim Jankovich already surpasses former head man Porter Moser. In a city 130 miles from Chicago and 175 clicks from Indy, Moser went the rural route. He set his sights on kids from small towns in Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Jank’, on the other hand, dreams big.

“We want to be an aggressive, athletic and attacking program and we are going to recruit to that,” said Jankovich.

As early as June, Jankovich was already hosting both team and individual camps. He prudently made inroads to the talent-rich Chicago Public League by hiring Paris Parham, who spent the last three years coaching in the CPL.

“[The need for metropolitan connections] had a lot to do with the guys I hired. I hired a guy from Chicago who has been in Illinois for a long time,” said Jankovich.

Jankovic’s sudden influence in Chicago is growing by the minute. Over the summer he spent time on WGN radio, WGN television, and threw out a pitch for the Chicago Cubs. An NBA Draft analyst for another sports-heavy Windy City radio station, Jank’ has increased visibility in the hoops hotbed.

“We definitely need to develop roots in Chicago,” added Jankovich. “We feel like that is a very, very important recruiting area for us, [with its] population and basketball history.”

Sure no 5-star player would ever embarrass to the point of accepting a scholarship to tiny ISU, but rest assured Tim Jankovich will not hesitate to steal a few recruits from Illinois, Purdue, Marquette, and Notre Dame. Doing so, however, is a tough task.

What these regional powers have in resources, Jank’ makes up for in experience.

The guy anchored Bill Self’s Illini operation, landing the two winningest players in Illinois history in Dee Brown and James Augustine. For Vanderbilt, Jankovic reeled in the school’s all-time leading scorer, Matt Freije. He also tipped off Shan Foster to the Vandy experience. The well-traveled Jankovich even scoured Eastern Europe for David Przybyszewski, who graduated from VU with the NCAA career record for 3’s by a 7-footer (131).

Recruiting success appears a foregone conclusion. Leadership and public ingratiation take time to learn.

In the surging Missouri Valley Conference, time allowed for honeymoons is diminishing rapidly. ISU alumni and administration want to be middle-of-the-pack last year. Dana Altman, Mark Turgeon, and the SIU lineage set the bar high for conference coaches.

This season marks the ten-year anniversary of the last time Illinois State recorded back-to-back 20-win seasons. The Redbirds have not been to the Big Dance since that very same year. To return, Jank’ needs to get at least 12 conference wins out of his club. That task is monumentally harder than it once was.

The university has the tools, interest, fan base, and facilities to climb out of the Valley’s valley. ISU was great when the MVC was terrible. Now it aims to be un-terrible while Valley is great.

“When you haven’t had that kind of success, it is easier to buy in,” Jankovich explains.

T.J.’s hiring is a step in the right direction. His experiences and talents align well with the Redbird needs.

Kind Porter Moser did everything right. As coaches go, Tim Jankovich is simply the right kind.

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