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Matthew Graves will be next coach of the Sycamores

Apr. 11—Matthew Graves will become the next Indiana State University men's basketball coach, and is likely the most fan-familiar incoming Sycamore coach in nearly 40 years.

A source close to the team told the Tribune-Star on Thursday that ISU will name Graves to replace Josh Schertz as head coach. Schertz left as Sycamores coach last weekend, accepting a lucrative offer to take the same role at Saint Louis University. At his introduction at SLU on Monday, Schertz endorsed Graves — his ISU associate head coach through the past three seasons — for the full-time head coaching job.

"He certainly deserves it," Schertz said Monday, prior to those news reports.

Upon Schertz's departure, ISU named Graves the interim coach. As of Thursday afternoon, ISU had not announced any change in Graves' status as interim head coach, and Graves and Sycamore players were not yet made available for comment.

Also since Schertz left, all five Sycamore returning starters — Robbie Avila, Ryan Conwell, Julian Larry, Isaiah Swope and Jayson Kent, along with reserves Aaron Gray, Masen Miller, Eli Shetlar and Augustinas Kiudulas — entered the NCAA transfer portal. And, two of Schertz's assistants from the past season — Antone Gray and special assistant Rob Gardiner — as well as past ISU Schertz assistant Zak Boisvert reportedly will join the Billikens staff.

That leaves Graves atop a program in flux that finished last season 32-7 as NIT runners-up and Missouri Valley Conference regular-season champions, while compiling a cumulative mark of 66-40 through the Schertz years. Some players who entered the transfer portal could end up staying at ISU. Players in the portal can withdraw their names at any time. None of the Sycamores who entered it have yet declared a destination. There has been much speculation that some, or most, of those ISU portal entries will go to Schertz's new SLU program.

Graves has five seasons of Division I head coaching experience at South Alabama. Graves ended a tough run with the Jaguars in 2018, posting cumulative records of 65-96 overall and 36-58 in the Sun Belt Conference. His Jaguars' best Sun Belt finish was a tie for sixth place in the 2014-15 season.

The 49-year-old Graves is most familiar to Wabash Valley hoops fans as the former star of White River Valley High School, where his brothers also played. Graves and the Wolverines played high-profile tournament games in Hulman Center during Indiana's former single-class system, winning two regional titles in that building. His family runs Graves Plumbing in his Greene County hometown of Switz City, population 293.

Graves later played at Butler and led the Bulldogs to the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 35 years in 1997. As a collegian, Graves and the Bulldogs went 5-0 against ISU. Graves became a Butler assistant afterward, climbing to associate head coach under Brad Stevens when the Bulldogs reached the NCAA Final in 2010 and 2011. Following his stint at South Alabama, Graves served on the staffs at Xavier and Evansville.

Schertz hired Graves for his first staff at ISU in 2021. "When he called and wanted me to be a part of the program, it was too good to pass up," Graves told the Tribune-Star in 2021. "It's coming back to the Wabash Valley and near my parents, which is nice, but it's also an opportunity for me to grow and develop as a coach."

The last Sycamore coach to enter the job with Wabash Valley roots was the late Ron Greene, a Terre Haute native and former Gerstmeyer High School standout, who coached ISU from 1985-89. Prior to Greene, former Terre Haute high school and Sycamore star Duane Klueh coached ISU for 12 seasons from 1955-67, compiling 182 victories — the most in program history.

Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or mark.bennett@tribstar.com.