Celebrate the Fourth of July by asking beat writer Paul Klee about the Illinois basketball team: Where are the best AAU tournaments in July? How is Myke Henry's ankle? Where is Brandon Paul spending his summer? Anything goes.
Afternoon everyone. Happy 4th. Be here for about an hour to answer your Illinois basketball questions. Fire away. Klee
What is Coach Groce's main focus with the few scholarships he has left? Obviously we need another point guard, but what else is he looking for and who is he making the hardest push for?
Anonymous- Point guard is the greatest position of need for a few reasons. I love Illinois' tradition of point guards – my favorite former Illini was one - but Illinois has done a terrible job recruiting that position over the past 4-5 years. And if you read this story last weekend, you would see that John Groce values that position over all others. His assistant and head coaching history – at Butler (Thomas Jackson), Xavier (Dedrick Finn, Lionel Chalmers), Ohio State (Jamar Butler, Mike Conley Jr., etc.) and Ohio (Mike Allen, D.J. Cooper) suggest that point guards flourish in this system. And that’s a big part of his recruiting pitch as he hunts down the next PG in line. His type of point guard looks more like a combo guard than a traditional point guard. His point guard needs to be a scoring threat. "And we've amped up that position because I probably play a little faster, as a head coach, than we did when I was an assistant coach," Groce said the other day. He is quite picky when it comes to point guards, which is one reason you’ve seen two former Illinois recruits (both point guards) fall by the wayside. What else is he looking for? An athletic forward that can complement a big body like Maverick Morgan. A Mike Davis-type runner/leaper would be golden. Klee
Is the Groce staff as interested in the "efficiency statistics" (i.e. Ken Pom) as much as the Weber staff?
Thanks for the great chats!
Brian- This staff utilizes efficiency numbers more than most. The previous staff did look over those numbers at times. Gary Nottingham, who served as the assistant to the head coach, has a great handle on advanced metrics in basketball. The new staff will use them often. I know the other day Brandon Miller was looking over efficiency numbers around the Big Ten from last season. And I know John Groce has already informed the team – using efficiency numbers – that its three-point field-goal numbers from last season, mainly on the defensive end, need to improve. Klee
Any chance of D jackson or J Lyle visiting after the evalutaion period?
D- Sure, there’s a chance. Cross your fingers Demetrius Jackson doesn’t commit to Michigan State or Notre Dame – the leaders in his recruitment – and there’s a chance for Illinois with him. A lot of coaches in the Midwest are in the dark regarding Demetrius Jackson’s recruitment. They’re not sure exactly where he stands. But the feeling is that Notre Dame – less than a half-hour from his home – is the team to beat. You're going to see Illinois extend more offers during and after the July evaluation. It's easy to forget, but it's only been three months on the job, and this staff is still getting a grasp of who they like and who they don't like. Klee
How has Ibby been performing in workouts? Is he improving? What contributions is he likely to provide this year? Does he fit in with the style of play that Groce and Co. are looking for?
Foo G- Haven’t talked to Ibby in a while, but Nnanna Egwu tells me most of his workouts are with and against Ibby. Ibby’s got a ways to go before he’s a rotation guy. Works hard, strong body, skillset needs work. If he can be a strong body that pushes the other big men in practice, those would be the contributions you’re asking about. Klee
I know the administrative position Brandon miller is in can't officially coach or off campus recruit, but can he be involved in scouting? That would seem to be a huge help given his more recent B1G experience. Also can he recruit while a kid is on campus and can he talk to "contacts" such as aau coaches on the phone?
Do you expect some PG and PF names to emerge after July that few people talk about today.
Dude- Yes, Brandon Miller will be heavily involved in scouting. He’s already “scouted” the rest of the Big Ten for John Groce, giving him a rundown on what the other teams return, welcome, etc. And Brandon’s got a great handle on the Big Ten from his time at Ohio State. He’s qualified to be a top assistant at any of the 12 programs. As for your other question, yes, there will be more names that emerge. This staff has an idea on who it will target in '13 and '14, but it's still evaluating a lot of those guys. That's why this July evaluation period - for this staff - will be a little different than most. Much of the time, July is as much about being seen as it is actually evaluating prospects. But this staff is actually in the process of learning more about some of those '13 and '14 prospects. "There are some guys we’d like to evaluate that maybe we didn’t have a chance to (in April)," Groce tells me. Then you've got the 2015 class, and the staff is only in the early stages of learning about those guys. Groce tells me there's "a grand total of about four or five" prospects in the 2015 class that they're comfortable with. So it's early in the process. Hope that helps. Klee
Thanks for the chat. Has the staff seen inprovement across the board? second question Hows Brandon Paul doing?
J- I don’t know about across the board, but some guys are improving. The staff is optimistic with the work ethic so far. They particularly like how Nnanna Egwu has attacked workouts so far. Who knows if that translates into the season, but they like how Nnanna is playing. Turnovers are the biggest issue. One guy joked there were dents in the walls at Ubben after a recent practice, because they threw the ball all over the gym. As for your second question, I’m told Brandon Paul is recovering fine. Teammates say they expect him back out there – but not for contact drills – in the near future. He's expected to return to contact drills later on. We'll have an update for you on Brandon Paul later this week on HQ. Klee
Now this is dedication doing a chat on 4th of July! Couple of random questions.
#1. Who do you want to win the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest?
#2. How much should we look into getting Cliff Alexander down here last week?
#3. I know BW had a nice little series with the Zags. Does Groce try and do the same type of thing? If so who would you think would be a good fit for a home and home series?
Don- I'll take Meyers Leonard in the first one. His career high is 42 wings at Buffalo Wild Wings, and I'd guess that kind of eating ability translates to hot dogs. As for No. 2, always a good thing to get those guys on campus. Still a lot of ground to make up with Cliff Alexander. Illinois needs to continue improving the perception of the program before it can get those guys. As for scheduling, Groce's main objective right now is increasing the number of home games on the upcoming schedules. He will follow the Thad Matta blueprint for scheduling - heavy on home games. There are a lot of home-and-homes I'd like. One that makes sense is Cincinnati - stable program, regional, ties with the AD. And there are others. Weber just signed another deal with Gonzaga. Kansas State will play the Zags in Seattle next season - one week after Illinois plays the Zags in Spokane. Illinois plays at Gonzaga on Dec. 8. Klee
PAUL, Thanks for taking your vacation day to chat with us. Based on who Coach Groce has available now and disregarding a season ending injury, who do you think will be the starting 5 for the opening game this fall?
John- Right now, if everyone were healthy, the starting five would be Abrams, Richardson, Paul, Griffey, Egwu. Coaches also expect Sam McLaurin will be in the mix for starter's minutes. His grad-school classes begin this week and he'll be involved with workouts after that. "I'm excited about him," Groce said the other day. Of course, lots of time between now and then for the rotation and starting lineup to change. Klee
Hello and Thanks for this Holiday chat.....My question is concerning recruiting, I see that the football team has been landing recruit after recruit and i understand that basketball has a much smaller roster.. but.do you feel that the football program having players go to the NFL has a lot to do with recruits deciding to pick Illinois and will Meyers being a lottery pick do the same for basketball..Thanks and enjoy the Holiday
Lamont- Having pros become pros always helps a program. I don’t think that’s the main reason you’ve seen a run of commitments on the football side, however. With basketball, having another guy in the NBA will help Illinois. There’s really only one NBA name that young prospects associate with Illinois right now – Deron Williams – and it’s been that way for a few years. So it helps to have another one, particularly if Meyers can carve out a successful run over the next few years. Even though John Groce and his staff didn’t coach Meyers, the staff still can sell the idea, “You can get there from here.” I tend to think Meyers Leonard's personality, along with his unique abilities, could make him a very marketable guy, as well. On a related note, we asked him how much he will be involved with the Illinois program as he continues his NBA career.
"I love my Illini family, and I always will," he said. "I take pride in it, and I love the school. Obviously Bruce is gone now (as coach) but it was very special to have him at my table. I will always be back and give back to the university."
Meyers is a unique situation to make an impact on a lot of people, especially with kids. Knowing him, I expect he’s going to take advantage of that platform. I hope he does. I know Brian Siler, who has been a father figure for Meyers in Robinson, has already talked to him about coming back to speak at the high school and sign autographs. He’s good with that sort of thing. Klee
Going to wrap this up. Enjoy the 4th. Here's the podcast from last night's SportsTalk - talked about recruiting (and recruiting rankings) and point guard prospects. We'll have a page of college basketball coverage later this week on HQ, including John Groce's approach to this July evaluation period. Thanks and talk to you later. Klee