June 20 Illinois basketball chat

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 1:00pm

When is John Groce going to hire an assistant? When is he going to announce the 2012-13 schedule? When will he get a commitment from one of those studs in Chicago? Ask N-G beat writer Paul Klee about Groce's program — he's chatting at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Paul Klee — 01:02 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Afternoon everyone. Beat writer Paul Klee joining you for another Illinois basketball chat. Plenty to discuss and we'll move quickly today. Got about an hour. If I break away, got a phone call and I'll return in a few. Fire away. Klee

Chris Duhon's rib — 01:02 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Hello, sir. This question is about Marquette. Williams is making an effort to "own" Chicago. How worried should we as Illini fans be? Thank you, sir. Its obvious you have great connections.

Paul Klee — 01:09 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Rib- Thanks. Don't think anyone can "own" Chicago, to borrow your phrase. Buzz Williams is increasing his efforts in Chicago. He's having lunch with a prominent Chicago AAU figure right this very second, in fact. And he signed Steve Taylor out of Simeon - a solid prospect - also to make good in Chicago circles (and set himself up for the "next" guy he wants out of Chicago). And he will be involved with 2013 prospect Kendrick Nunn - has a great relationship there. Coach Williams is calculated. Knows what he's doing. Always has a plan. Hope that helps. Klee

Denny (Chicago) — 01:10 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

With a perceived lack of quality point guards in this year’s draft, does McCamey have any shot of getting signed to a multi-year contract with an NBA team and bypass the summer league process completely?  It’s been awhile since I’ve heard any updates regarding his status with his foreign (Turkish?) club.  Do you know if there are any restrictions on Demetri ‘s ability to work through the training camp process with NBA clubs or will he hurt his ability to obtain a lucrative contract overseas next year by attending an NBA camp?  Thanks for the chats!

Paul Klee — 01:16 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Denny- Talked to Demetri a few days back. He was in San Antonio, working out with former Knicks/Spurs/Pacers coach Bob Hill. He had a guarantee from one NBA team to play with its summer league outfit in July. McCamey played in Turkey and Israel last season. Yes, there is always a chance that "waiting" to sign with an overseas franchise will limit your opportunities overseas. Most of those clubs want to lock up their rosters as early as possible. It's something that Warren Carter faced. Carter tells me that his options were limited after he attended a Knicks training camp instead of traveling overseas from the get-go. It's a risk, but the NBA is a dream, and a lot of guys pursue their NBA dream instead of taking the practical option. Can't fault that. Klee

illininutt1 — 01:17 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Why do we NEVER get an Illinois kid at least in basketball....to say "Illinois is My Dream School?"  The games are broadcast all over the state.  The coaches go on tours around the state to make themselves available.  What do you think the problem is.  Not much loyality to the state school?!

Paul Klee — 01:22 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Illininut- I think "never" is a strong way to put it. Nnanna Egwu chose Illinois over Purdue largely because he wanted to represent his state school. Myke Henry made a visit to Michigan - and nearly committed to Michigan after attending a football game - but turned his mind in part because of loyalty to the state school (and a relationship with Bruce Weber and Jerrance Howard). There are other examples. If you're talking about the elite guys in Chicago - yes, there's no loyalty. And this isn't a new thing. It's been absent for decades. Klee

TomTheBear — 01:24 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Point Guards seem to be a rare breed. Of the current crop of prospects at PG for '12,13,14, which prospects best fit what Jon Groce desires in a point Guard?

A breif discription of what those Qualities are would be helpful.


Paul Klee — 01:30 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Bear- Sure. There are others, but Demetrius Jackson (2013) fits the profile perfectly. Tough, can shoot it, attacking mentality, good teammate. Like I've said before - every day he doesn't commit to Notre Dame or Michigan State is a ray of hope for Illinois. Those are the teams to beat, at least for now. As for the qualities in a point guard, watch Youtube footage of D.J. Cooper. Dynamic on the ball screen - mostly because he can shoot and drive. This is an offense based on the ball screen. You need a PG that puts a defense on its heels and has to defend against the drive and the shot. Really enjoyed our conversation with ESPN recruiting analyst Reggie Rankin on Saturday Sportsline this past weekend. I thought he made a few good points about this staff's recruiting efforts - and I agree with what he said.

Here, I typed it out. Better yet - listen to the podcast.

"I know the most important position in John's system is the point guard. He has to have a point guard. His guard play at Ohio was tremendous," Rankin said. "And he wants to implement those same things at Illinois. The top of his wish list is an elite point guard."

And thanks to Jim and Loren for having me on for the duration of Saturday's show. Always enjoy talking basketball on Saturday mornings. Klee

Jon — 01:32 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Is there a college basketball arena that you haven't been to yet, that you would like to watch a game in?

Paul Klee — 01:32 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Jon- Good one. Thanks for the variety. Give me a minute to think about it. Klee

Seth — 01:33 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Mr. Klee. Love the chats. I saw on a 'message board' you said Gavin Schiling (DeLasalle) is our #1 big man recruiting target and well go after him hard. Sign him up!!!

Paul Klee — 01:37 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Seth- I never said that. Not sure where you got that. Happens a lot though - folks change what I say on different radio appearances. It's fine. I expect this staff is going to evaluate Gavin Schilling throughout the July evaluation period before deciding whether to extend a scholarship offer. And a key will be actually seeing Gavin Schilling perform. That's a deep Fire roster with minimal playing time available. Wrote about that last week or the week before or something. As big men go, you'll see Illinois look for a bouncy, athletic forward that can complement Maverick Morgan in the 2013 class. You don't want to fill a roster with redundant pieces. So Gavin Schilling will be in the mix. Klee

Pablito — 01:38 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

On the topic of fast tempo basketball and how it fits in the league... I seem to recall a comment you made regarding the Iowa-Indiana game in January.  Forgive me as I am paraphrasing here, but it was along the lines of "Iowa tried to play up-tempo and Indiana hung 103 points on them."  In light of that, what's your view on John Groce's desire to play a fast tempo game and how it might be incongrous in the Big Ten?

Paul Klee — 01:43 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Pab- Yeah, that's what I said. Thanks for getting it right. You've got to have the personnel to play that type of game. Up-tempo doesn't translate in today's Big Ten. Too many deliberate schemes. Whoever wins the tempo battle... usually wins the game. And it's easier to slow down a game than speed it up. The strength of John Groce's team at Ohio was on the defensive end. By March, that was an elite defensive team. Not through the course of the season - but when it mattered most, against better teams. As for tempo, they didn't play recklessly fast. I watch a lot of MWC basketball, and Ohio played a tempo roughly like San Diego State - push it when it's there and attack at all times. The attacking mentality that John Groce talks about so often - it goes for both ends. His deal is keep the opponent on its heels. You dictate the game. And you need to have the personnel in order to make it work. The way Illinois last season threw the ball around the gym - that wouldn't work in an up-tempo game. Hope that helps. Klee

Mitch — 01:45 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

In five years, who do you think NBA GMs will regret passing on which player not expected to go in the Top 5 of this years draft.

Paul Klee — 01:46 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Mitch- In five years? Meyers Leonard. And Damian Lillard. He's a top-three talent, to me. Reminds me of Isiah Thomas. Not saying he's Hall-of-Fame good, but yes, I went there. Thanks for the question. Klee

Ted J — 01:48 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Paul - What would be reasonable expectations for this upcoming season?  Is it unreasonable to expect Groce to have them in the hunt for a NCAA tournament birth?  An NIT birth?  To beat Penn State?

Looking at the B1G you figure, IU, MSU, UM, OSU, UW, Minnesota are probably going to be picked ahead of us going into the season.  I feel like you've hinted at as much, but I don't want to put words in your mouth.  Is it fair to consider a top 6 finish in conference as a success, 7-9 in line with realistic expectations, and 10-12 as time to gather the torches and pitchforks since there is no such thing as a minor dissapointment?


Paul Klee — 01:51 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Ted- The NCAA tournament should be a goal. It's achievable - but it will be very difficult. This isn't an NCAA tournament team right now. You finish in the top six, John Groce has done a heck of a job. I did this exercise with Coach Henson the other day. We wrote down the top six in the Big Ten, and Illinois didn't come up. But he also made the point to say: "You never know how players will develop (in the offseason)." So this exercise really doesn't mean anything. It's a guessing game. As for "pitchforks and torches".... this thing is going to take some time. It would be smart to exercise some patience. Klee

Cincy Fan — 01:58 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Whats the latest on Leonard... you've been 'ahead of the curve' on his NBA future since last year.... great connections... do you agree with the mock drafts... or should he have returned to Illinois (I wish)?? Thanks Klee

Paul Klee — 02:05 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Cincy- No, he made the right decision. Here's some info I gathered this morning. One scout told me, "I can't see a situation where he falls past 14 (Houston). And actually - I don't think he'll be (available) there." Furthermore, by the end of this predraft process, he will have worked out for: Portland, Boston, New Orleans, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, Golden State and Detroit. There's one more team that I'm forgetting.

If anything, I'm surprised it's taken this long for Meyers' stock to rise into the lottery. To me - for what it's worth - he should be a top 6 or 7 guy. But I was also fortunate to be able to see Meyers Leonard in the gym on a daily basis. The athletic things he did outside of workouts - it was more impressive than what he did in a game setting. So to answer your question - I don't agree with the majority of the initial mock drafts. I expect he will go in the top 12. His stock has never been higher. Thanks for the question. Hope that helps. I'll have more from NBA scouts in Sunday's News-Gazette. Klee

Larrimore — 02:06 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Paul, it may upset some people, but in my opinion the Orange Krush are becoming progressively less and less intimidating of a factor in protecting our home court.  You used to come to the Hall and expect a loss.  Not that way anymore.  Will the stadium renovations fix this?  Surround the court with students and not force the kids to sit down so not to block the view of the old timers behind them?  I also am all for charity, but I don't think it is fair for students to have to buy their way to the best seats.

Paul Klee — 02:08 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Larrimore- Thanks for writing in. Any Krush question is a good question. It comes down to winning more games. The product on the court hasn't lent itself to good crowds. You win, the crowd (and students) will return. There were roughly 2,000 people in their seats when Sam Maniscalco and Jean Selus were honored on Senior Day. It was tough to watch. As for the renovations, part of the plan always was to surround the court with student seating - similar to the setup at Breslin Center. Klee

Tuffy — 02:10 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Paul: I know that you and others think that we are starting a 3-4 year rebuilding project in Champaign. I, on the other hand, don't think that the cupboard is bare. Three seniors who have played a lot of ball, including a guy who for most of the season lead the BT in scoring, a 4th year junior and some talented sophs might just make the season better than some are predicting.

I know that rebuilding jobs at Indiana and Iowa recently took a long time but those teams had absolutely no talent to work with. I think we have a pretty decent roster with some experience. Can you compare this so-called rebuilding job with those of Iowa and Indiana? Personally I think the Illini will be better a lot sooner than many think.

Paul Klee — 02:18 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Tuffy- Thanks for writing in. Think you confused what I said. Here's what it said: "This is probably a three-year rebuilding project to be a Big Ten contender again." The key there: to be a Big Ten contender again. You have some players - it's more a matter of getting those pieces to fit together. Don't think you can compare this scenario to what you had at Indiana. Don't think any scenario compares to the 6-26 rebuild they faced. So, in short, no comparison. That's obvious, right? Illinois certainly could be better than projected. To be a Big Ten contender - the initial statement - is different, though. Klee

Rocktown — 02:18 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

During the head-coaching search you placed odds on all of the potential candidates for the Illini job. I was wondering, if you haven't already, if you could do the same briefly here for the often-discussed candidates and maybe some wild cards for the vacant assistant-coaching position? Off the top of my head here are some I'd be interested to see some odds on: Deon Thomas, Chin Coleman, Daniyal Robinson, Brandon Miller, Roger Powell, Jerrance Howard, Dee Brown, Robert Smith, Dennis Gates, Paris Parham, Stephen Bardo (who knows, he could pull a Hubert Davis). Feel free to add odds on any other potential candidates I may have left out. Thanks in advance and keep up the great work.

Paul Klee — 02:31 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Rock- I remember that. Got lucky and had John Groce (and Johnny Dawkins - I missed on that one) with the best odds. But John Groce fit the profile, and I knew Mike Thomas had done some background work on him. As for the assistant job, I can tell you Daniyal Robinson, Ronald Coleman and Paris Parham will be considerations. Please note: There could be another possibility, as well. So there's the latest info. The expectation is to have a third assistant in time for the July evaluation period. The eventual hire will tell you something about what John Groce feels this staff needs - after living this job for three months. Do they need help on the recruiting front? Do they need help in player development? Do they want a well-rounded assistant that can do it all (and you have two good ones in Dustin Ford and Jamall Walker)? I've gotten a lot of phone calls on this position. There is significant interest in the assistant coaching fraternity. And John Groce has done an exceptional amount of background work and networking to find the guy he wants. I don't believe this final hire is as critical as some would suggest. But it's June and there is not as much to talk about, so it gets more attention. Thanks. Klee

Dman68 — 02:33 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

I believe all the non-conference opponents that we played are now known.  From what I understand we play Towson, Colgate, Gardner-Webb, Western Carolina, Eastern Kentucky, Norfolk State and Ga Tech at home, the Maui Tourney and a game at Hawaii before Maui, a game at Gonzaga and the St. Louis and Chicago games against Mizzou and Auburn respectively.  I know one of the factors that goes into scheduling is the current talent you have on your team but does this schedule seem a little weak?  Also do you know some dates for any of these games?

Paul Klee — 02:37 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Dman- If anything, it's too much. There is a potential for seven high-major opponents in the nonconference (though Georgia Tech and Auburn, currently, are on the weak end of that spectrum). I would have to go back and look at the records to see how often that's happened. This schedule largely was created at a time when Illinois was projected to be better - and with a junior-year Meyers Leonard. As for dates, Illinois plays Gonzaga on Dec. 8. That's what I know off the top of my head. And you will most likely learn the matchups for the Maui Invitational in early August. Thanks for the question - always enjoy talking scheduling. Klee

Jim Stephens Peoria — 02:38 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Klee... First thank you for Sunday basketball column I read it every time for years... also you reported Van Trese (PF Louisville) was 'scheduled' to visit Illini.... can you confirm... keep up the good work keeping us updated I wish others reported on ILLINI in summer.... Harv

Paul Klee — 02:39 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Jim- Yes, Louisville transfer Stephan Van Treese visited Illinois earlier this week. And no problem. Klee

Paul Klee — 02:46 PM on Wed, 06/20/2012

Someone asked earlier for other venues I'd like to cover. The Palestra would be another one. New strength coach Lon Record speaks highly of it from his time at Villanova. Hinkle Fieldhouse would be one. Been there a few times but never to cover a game. Outside the Big Ten, perhaps my favorite venue is The Pit at New Mexico, but that could be for sentimental reasons, since we would attend the high school state tournament there back in the day. And few atmospheres compare to the UNM-New Mexico State game. The best atmosphere of the Illinois season is in St. Louis. There are others I'm forgetting. Ask me again next week.

Going to wrap this up. Lots of information today - thanks to your questions. Look for Meyers Leonard's story later this week in the News-Gazette. I'll be on SportsTalk from 5-6 p.m. if you have other questions. John Groce is scheduled to join us at 5:15. Thanks. Klee