Talk to News-Gazette basketball beat writer Paul Klee
Afternoon everyone. Time for another Illinois basketball chat. Just got back from Ubben, ready to take questions for 30 minutes to an hour. Fire away. Klee
is Sam the Man healthy enough to lead the team this year? Will the guards will be the strength of the team?
Rich- As of Monday, Sam Maniscalco had not been cleared to go 3-on-3, 4-on-4, 5-on-5. He
Can you give us some more background on Jalen James? I know Sparty and Michigan had some interest. It seems like he is ranked at some scouting sites and not on the radar at others? Should the Illini nation be happy or nervous?
Dan- Jalen James was scheduled to take a Michigan State visit the day after the Illinois one-day camp. He canceled the visit, obviously, after committing to Illinois. He had two scholarship offers before Illinois extended one
What's the latest on Ibrahima Djimde?
Dan- I expect to hear something this week on Ibby Djimde, so that means you would hear something this week. But who knows if that gets moved back. The Illinois guys think they'll know something soon, though. And this is right about when Bruce Weber expected to know Djimde's status. Klee
Hey Paul, Any update on McCamey or Mike & Mike on their summer plans? I'm sure with a lockout looming it might be difficult for them to latch on to a NBA team this summer. Keep up the great work!
Joe- Demetri McCamey just finished a mini-camp with the Hawks in Atlanta. David Lighty was there, too. Once McCamey didn't get drafted, the Hawks called immediately (his agent and Bruce Weber) to get him into their camp, so there's some interest there. The Suns liked him but didn't have a second-round pick. The Blazers liked him but took a different kind of guard in the second-round (Jon Diebler, Illini nemesis). Everyone I've talked to - from scouts to coaches - was surprised he didn't get taken in the second round. Personally, I wonder if he worked out for the correct teams. I've always felt he was an NBA (backup) point guard, and he's better than several guys taken in his place.
Mike Davis is back in the D.C. area, and Mike Tisdale is in Riverton. Bruce Weber told me this morning that Mike Tisdale is waiting to see what opens up for his next move. Mike Davis would've been on a summer-league roster, but there is no summer league, so he's in wait-and-see mode at the moment.
It's going to be tougher for Demetri McCamey to make an NBA roster without the summer league. I'm working on a story on overseas basketball - the story runs in Sunday's News-Gazette - and all three of those guys have a bright future overseas, if that is what they ultimately pursue.
"If Mike Tisdale gets on the right team (in Europe), he can play 10-15 years if he chooses to," overseas veteran Deon Thomas told me last night. "The way he plays, it fits over there."
Hope that helps. Klee
Does ILLINOIS have enough size inside to compete in the black and blue big ten?? We sure get pushed around alot!!! Thanks Mr. Klee for all you do.
Sam- I don't view the Big Ten as being the black-and-blue league it's made out to be. It's been a guard-driven league in my time covering it, not a league of bruising big men. It's physical on the perimeter; not so much inside. The UI frontcourt will be a question mark due to the lack of experience. They don't have any proven big guys. Klee
Klee: Enjoyed ur work on the NBA Draft... Any surprises to you? Illinois, Big Ten, etc.? Thanks for ur great work.
Sal- Off the top of my head, thought David Lighty would be a second-round guy. I know several teams liked him but one scout said guards like him are a dime a dozen. But then you see DeAndre Liggins go in the second round, and I shake my head. Thought Demetri McCamey would be drafted. Didn't expect Jereme Richmond to get drafted. JaJuan Johnson was the Big Ten savior, preventing the league from going without a first-round pick for the first time since 1975. I'm a Klay Thompson fan, so I loved the Warriors' pick. And I still think Norris Cole, selected by the Heat, will be this year's Eric Maynor. I don't see a sure-fire All-Star in this draft, and you can't say that very often. The draft showed me, for the third straight year, the Big Ten doesn't have the pro-caliber talent of its peers. Hopefully that changes over the next few years. That's what I can think of right now. Klee
Hey Paul thanks for the chats and heard you on the radio the other night...good stuff.
Question - Can we solicit some of our legacy players to come back and work with current players in either organize work outs or practices. I would think it very beneficial for someone like Kendall Gill to work with Brandon Paul?
J- Thanks. It's something Illinois has tried to do, and it happens in some offseasons. Luther Head and Dee Brown have been regulars in past offseason. Dee was in town Monday. Kiwane Garris is in town Monday-today. I know they'd like to get guys back on campus - and working with the current players - as much as possible. The alumni game on Aug. 6 is another opportunity for that. Cory Bradford tells me that he will return for the alumni game, and it can't hurt to have the highly successful pro around Ubben for a couple hours.
On an unrelated note, Joliet will forever make me think of Jeremy Izzo, and I miss him every day. Klee
I saw Tracy Abrams had a tough All-Star game over in Bloomington. I also saw a couple people on a message board attribute this to a High School ankle injury suffered in 2009.
Is Tracy Abrams ankle 100% healthy or is the 2009 ankle injury something we should be concerned about throughout his career?
Z- His ankles are fine from what I'm told. He has two sets of stitches - near his eye and elbow - from recent workouts. But the ankles are keeping him out of any workouts or pickup games, from what I'm told, at least to this point. Klee
Do you think there will be a big jump of improvement for Myers this year? (possible first round pick next year is whats been said) That would be great but I just dont think that will be the case. Your thoughts?
JE- I think he will be improved, if only because he learned a great deal last season. It didn't come as easily as he expected. USA Basketball will help. He's struggling, as you can see, but the experience still helps in the long run. I wouldn't personally put him in the conversation as a draft pick in 2012 because I haven't seen anything that would warrant that. Down the road? It's possible. But he will have to become a much smarter player. The biggest issue I've seen with the U19 squad is that it needs more shooters. It has only one or two guys that can make shots. Really limits a team when it can't hit an outside shot. Klee
Why do fans get angry at sportswriters when their teams are no good?
Pete- Good one, and I don't know the answer. But I wish I was in Costa Mesa right now. Klee
Who's the go to guy when Illinois needs a bucket this year? Brandon Paul seems like the likely candidate given his ability to take it to the rack.
David- In those situations the coaches will lean on Paul and Maniscalco, at least in the early going. Those are two guys that can create a scoring opportunity, for himself or for someone else. And they're experienced. Klee
Illinois doesn't have all the contracts in, but the nonconference schedule looks to be complete. If the Big Ten schedule takes too long, I think they might release the nonconference portion before the conference schedule is announced. That helps ticket sales and ticket buyers.
Bruce Weber said this morning that yesterday's practice was "good" and they accomplished what they had hoped to accomplish. It was the first of 10 practices that Illinois can use prior to the Italy trip. He will use four practices during the recruiting dead period in July. His goal on Tuesday was to get the younger guys acclimated to what it will feel like. It sounded positive.
Going to wrap this up. Thanks for the questions and apologies to those that didn't get answered, there are a number of you, and I wish I could get to all of them. I'll be on with Steve Kelly on Sports Talk at 5 p.m. tonight if you want to check in there. Later. Klee