The Illinois State Redbirds were one win away from the NCAA tournament in 2008.
Going into the 2008-2009 season, the Birds have lost many key players, like Boo Richardson, Dom Johnson, Anthony Slack, and Levi Dyer. But it is not all bad news as they will bring in new players like Chamberlain "Champ" Oguchi.
Champ is a transfer from Oregon and he had to sit out all of 2007-2008 in order to get here. Now the 6' 6" senior will be a key part of the 2008-2009 team. Coach Tim Jankovich said that he was very helpful on the practice squad, but that he would be an even more valuable asset on the court during games.
Champ is not the tallest guy on the court, but he is up there. Coach Jankovich says he will be able to use Champ in many situations. Because of his speed he is able to move the ball up and down the court well, so he could be used as a guard. But because he is taller, he is a good shooting option as well. His ability to do a variety of jobs makes him an great weapon for the team.
In ISU's home opener and only exhibition game against University of Illinois Springfield, Champ had back-to-back-to-back 3-point shots. Then in the first official game of the season against Wright State, he had a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
It was a great concern to ISU fans that Boo Richardson would be gone this year. Boo was seen as the heart and soul of the team. He was the go-to guy on the court, getting the ball in many big situations. Champ may be the one who can fill those shoes and become the go-to guy for this year's team.
Champ does not have to be Boo Richardson. All he has to do is play like he has so far, the Redbirds could get their chance to go to the big dance.