May 9 Illinois basketball chat

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 1:30pm

Mike Shaw: Needs to be a threat on offense. Plays hard. Got a ways to go. You hope it works out - won't find a better team guy with a better attitude. Especially for a guy that rarely played as a freshman.

Read more from N-G basketball beat writer Paul Klee, who held his weekly chat Wednesday.

Paul Klee — 01:38 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

Alright folks. Time for another Illinois basketball chat. If I break away - took a phone call. Be here for about an hour - fire away. Originality (with your questions) is rewarded. Klee

Clay — 01:41 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

Thank you for your time, Mr. Klee. I have two questions. 1) Does Coach Groce have any plans to take his team somwhere this summer like Bruce did last year when they went to Italy? 2) Should we expect some re-offers of scholarships to underclassmen once coaches are allowed to contact recruits this summer? Again, thank you for your time.

Paul Klee — 01:45 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

Clay- No, programs are allowed an offseason trip once every four years. Illinois was in Italy last August. Yes, you probably will see more offer/contact movement in the summer months. For one, starting June 15, coaches are allowed unlimited phone calls and text messages to prospects who have finished their sophomore year. You've seen the early offer movement with the new UI staff with the recent offer to Charles Matthews, the promising freshman from Chicago St. Rita. John Groce also spoke at St. Rita about three weeks ago - a presentation on leadership. Hope that helps. Klee

Billyboy — 01:46 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

Hey Paul,


I think Myke Henry is going to be a key in the direction this team takes this year.  If he can play solid defense and score at a 10 to 15 point clip, I believe this team can do some exciting things this year.  We need a go-to scorer and B.Paul has proven his bi-polar droughts during games. Also, I would love to see Mr.Shaw become more involved.  Do you think he can be the valuable player that we saw glimpses of in high school?



Paul Klee — 01:55 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

Billy- Question is about Mike Shaw, correct? Needs to be a threat on offense. Plays hard. Got a ways to go. You hope it works out - won't find a better team guy with a better attitude. Especially for a guy that rarely played as a freshman. In some ways he's a victim of the bogus recruiting evaluations that plague the state of Illinois. Guys - speaking in general terms here, not about one of my favorite guys on the roster, Mike Shaw - are hyped up into something they're not. Then when they don't reach those expectations created by "scouts" that don't know a good player from a bad one, it reflects poorly on the player. It's true everywhere, but especially on the overhyped Illinois recruiting scene. Short answer, moving quickly here. Klee

Todd Clem — 01:56 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012


I think Nanna will get alot of minutes but how will mclaurin affect Ibby and Mike Shaws minutes?


Also, do Jay Price, Wayne McClain and Gary Nottingham have anything lined up for next year? I have met Jay and he seems like a super guy and I hate to see anyone out of a job even though I agree that it was time for a change.

Paul Klee — 02:03 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

Todd- Just talked to the Illinois staff about this topic a few minutes ago. They prefer a four-player big man rotation. How they want to play - fast and aggressive, with a lot of spacing on offense and quick, aggressive rotations on defense - requires top conditioning and a deeper rotation of big men. They want to recruit big men that are mobile. That's one reason they began recruiting Sam McLaurin the minute he became available. "He fits how we want to play," assistant coach Dustin Ford said this morning. So you'll likely see a big man rotation of four guys - with three of them getting the lion's share of the minutes and the fourth playing a bit role. McLaurin will be one of those top three big men. As for the former staffers, Price told me today he's actively looking (he turned down an opportunity to join the K-State staff in an administrative capacity), McClain is in C-U last time I talked to him, and Nottingham is in C-U for the foreseeable future (his family is comfortable there). I'm sure G-Nott will latch on somewhere at some point. Hope that helps. Klee

Dman — 02:07 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

Do we have a realistic shot at J Okafor or C Alexander?  Who are the bigs you are hearing about most with interest from the staff? 

Paul Klee — 02:12 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

DMan- Both are being recruited by Illinois and both are longshots for Illinois. Always were, given the mediocre state of the program over the past 5-6 years. Illinois hasn't given these elite-caliber prospects a reason to consider it as an option. But they will (and are) being recruited by the new staff. Illinois didn't miss a single one of Cliff Alexander's games at a recent club event, for example. One big guy is a Jameel McKay, the juco stud out of Indian Hills Community College in Iowa. Wrote about him last week. He's a (the?) top priority as big men go. There are others, such as Maverick Morgan, the 2013 big man out of Ohio. I expect he will visit Illinois in the coming weeks. And there are others. If he isn't listed here, that doesn't mean he's not being recruited, we're going quickly. Hope that helps. Klee

Jack Musso — 02:13 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012


Turnovers and passing were two areas of weakness for the Illini last season.  And as you have mentioned recently, the ability to dribble has become somewhat of a lost art nowadays for young basketball players.  My question is, how are Rayvonte Rice's ball handling and passing skills?    


Paul Klee — 02:20 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

Jack- Rayvonte will have to clean up his turnover rate, but some of that was a product of being the guy (along with Ben Simons) and being asked to do quite a bit at Drake. Forced some things he won't have to force at Illinois. Talked to a pair of MVC assistants this week, however, a couple of guys that had the scouting reports when their teams played Drake. I'll get their take on scouting (and defending) Rayvonte Rice in Klee's Corner on Sunday.

One guy that would really help in that department - and I emphasize really - is former N.C. State and Wright State guard Julius Mays. The 6-foot-2 guard is transferring from Wright State and would be a fifth-year senior and eligible immediately in 2012-13. The Illinois staff is familiar with Mays from their days at Ohio University and will go after him with all it has. Kentucky has offered and will be difficult to beat there, however. Purdue is also heavily involved. Illinois has some ground to make up. Mays would be just what the doctor ordered for the Illini, especially in terms of his experience in an offense that is heavy on ball screens - Wright State runs a lot of ball screens; so will this Illinois staff. Hope that helps. Klee

Cliff (ATL) — 02:20 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

Paul- Big win for the Nuggets last night to keep them alive!  Any thoughts on their chances to take out the Lakers in 7?
As for the Illini, should we be expecting to see any more grad student transfers this year, or are we done with McLaurin? 

Paul Klee — 02:25 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

Cliff- Yes, quite pleased with the Nuggets' win last night in L.A. They're playing some action ball right now. Love how fast they play. One Big 12 coach was watching the game and texted, "It looks like they're shot out of a cannon." I still enjoy watching Kobe play, he's relentless and last night's final 3-point flurry was spectacular and frightening, and obviously a series win will be difficult for the Nuggets, who should have won Game 4 and would hold a 3-2 series lead. But I do appreciate how Denver is trying to buck the trend by winning in a superstar-driven league, since they don't have one. As for your grad-student question, the best bet (at least for now) is Julius Mays, the Wright State transfer. If he goes elsewhere, you're probably done with fifth-year possibilities. I mentioned on Monday's Sports Page that Illinois State point guard Nic Moore might transfer - and I expect he will - so we will wait and see Illinois' interest. There would be some, but I don't know if there would be enough to extend an offer. Klee

Milhouse — 02:29 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

Don't you think it's odd that Weber didn't take any of his assistants with him to KSU? What does that say about the staff he assembled here and why do you think he stuck with that group for as long as he did? What do you also make of him not retianing a player for health reasons, but only after getting a commitment from Orris and apparently not meeting with the player or discussing it with his parents? Thanks!

Paul Klee — 02:36 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

Milhouse- Perhaps you missed the half-dozen times I said there needed to be a staff shake-up. I was fairly critical of that aspect over the past 3-4 years, and it wasn't a popular opinion, but it was a correct one. As for your second question, Weber offered Price a position and he declined. Now Bruce Weber is reunited with former Illini assistant and SIU head coach Chris Lowery at K-State. And former SIU assistant Brad Korn, who played for Bruce Weber at SIU and has a great deal of respect for Bruce Weber, is in Manhattan and will assume the operations position at Kansas State. Bruce Weber is still looking for a third assistant to round out his staff. I do expect former Illini Chester Frazier will be considered for some sort of position - if Chester decides his playing career is over. Frazier has been offered a sizable contract to return to Germany as a player next season. One day he will make an excellent assistant at the Division I level - Jerrance Howard used to say he will always have "a Baltimore guy" on his staff or roster - but that may be down the road. And there's your weekly K-State update. Hope that helps. Klee

Illini Gill — 02:36 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

Any insight about why Clarkson didn't make it here on Monday before committing to Mizzou? With Pressey likely to turn pro after this season, Illinois seemed like a better option for him and both him and his mom had already purchased plane tickets to Champaign. Did Groce back out?

Paul Klee — 02:40 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

Gill- Pretty simple, really. He got on Missouri's basketball campus - with all those bells and whistles and coming off a 30-win season - and Frank Haith got 'er done. Illinois had a keen interest in Jordan Clarkson - he also fits how they want to play - and, yes, would have gladly welcomed the Tulsa transfer for a visit. As for your other question, if Phil Pressey turns pro (thought he was the college game's most dynamic point guard for a two-month stretch last season) you'll probably see Jordan Clarkson at the point at times during the 2013-14 season. The Missouri situation - with five transfers and an immediate influx of talent - is a fascinating one to me. I'll write about it often. Klee

Steven I — 02:43 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

Paul, thanks for your time and insight. On the heels of your Zags seemingly snagging a good one in Karnowski, I'm curious as to your thoughts on the value of looking overseas for recruiting gold. Any hint that Groce and staff might ever go that route? Plenty of talent in the states, obviously, but some of the higher mids have seemed to do well at times. Maybe something our new staff has looked at? Thanks again.

Paul Klee — 02:53 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

Steve- Since you asked - and I didn't bring it up - the current staff doesn't have a history of scouting overseas that I'm aware of. You'll see most of their players come from the six-hour "breadbasket" surrounding the state of Illinois, venturing outside that bubble when there aren't enough players or they find someone they like. And you will see them mess with prep schools, such as Huntington Prep, when there is a connection. Illinois is recruiting Huntington Prep standout Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a 2013 shooting guard. Since you asked about Gonzaga, the Zags (and mainly assistant Tommy Lloyd, the most prolific overseas recruiter in the NCAA) has mined the overseas markets for years. That goes from Axel Dench to Ronny Turiaf to Mario Kasun (who was so good he got drafted into the NBA despite never playing a college game) to Ian Mahinmi (the NBA forward who committed to Gonzaga but turned pro instead). It's a rare staff that puts many resources into overseas scouting. It has worked out for Gonzaga. Other times it's not all gravy. Foreign-born players sometimes are overvalued because scouts don't see them play as often. They're not "over-scouted," if that makes sense. Hope that helps.

I'm also fascinated by the overseas basketball scene (waiting for the News-Gazette to fund mytrip to scout players in Europe) and I write about it often. ESPN's Fran Fraschilla and NBA Draftexpress's Jonathan Givony have always been excellent resources for me on the subject. Talked with Givony this morning. He's currently in the Ukraine. The mock draft expert hopefully will offer some insight on Meyers Leonard's draft prospects in Sunday's News-Gazette.  Klee

Bryan — 02:54 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

How much extra conditioning are they players doing since Groce likes to play uptempo?

Paul Klee — 03:00 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

Bryan- That's another reason this NCAA rule allowing supervised offseason workouts with coaches will be a blessing for the new staff: Conditioning. The staff is allowed to supervise eight hours weekly (when summer classes are in session) - six in strength and conditioning, two on the court. Their conditioning needs to improve to play the way they want to play. I have confidence that it will. The early schedule isn't an easy one, so they will need to be ready from the start. Most of the drills in spring workouts were based in skillwork - shooting, dribbling, post positioning, passing, etc. With an emphasis on shooting. And like I've said a few times - Illinois fans should be ecstatic with how this staff has been assembled. Hope that helps. Klee

Paul Klee — 03:02 PM on Wed, 05/09/2012

In case you missed it, we wrote in today's News-Gazette that Mark Morris is hired as the director of operations on John Groce's staff. Morris is in C-U now after serving on the Ohio staff as a graduate assistant. Expect you'll see a formal announcement from the DIA this week.

Going to wrap this up. We've gone over today. Informative chat today - and that stems from your questions. Plenty of original subjects, which I appreciate, so we don't answer the same thing over and over and over. Remember - I can only answer the questions I'm given. More Illinois basketball coverage coming later this week on HQ. Think I'm on with Steve Kelly's SportsTalk at 5:20 p.m. tonight if you have anything else. Thanks. Klee