Ask basketball beat writer Paul Klee about John Groce's team. Chat is 2 p.m. today.
Afternoon everyone. Hope you guys are staying cool. I'll be here for about an hour to answer your Illinois/college/USA basketball questions. Bear with me - might get a phone call or two and need to break away. Let's get started. Klee
Mr. Klee: Correct me if I'm wrong but you like Malcom Hill. What do you like about him? Seeing as how our other recruits maybe havent been as good as scouts said?? And is Hill in AAU now? Thanks for your work I especially like your sunday column... takes a hour to read all of it!
Always- I do like Malcolm Hill's potential quite a lot. Got a chance to be really good. One of the few guys I've watched that I feel is actually being undervalued in terms of recruiting rankings. But that's also a product of not being a Chicago guy. There are guys rated ahead of him that shouldn't be. Malcolm has some Evan Turner to his game - versatile, initiates contact, gets to the line 10-12 times a game. Of course, ET has a unique inner drive - he's always wanted to be great. And he reshaped his body in college. Turner had an NBA body by his sophomore year. You don't know if Malcolm Hill has that edge, but I've seen signs of it, and I know he's told the Illinois coaches he wants to be great. That's a start. To answer your question, Patrick Smith (his longtime coach with Southwestern Illinois Jets) told me this morning that Malcolm is recovering and resting at home and doing much better. They're hoping he will be recovered from the arm injury in time to play his high school season as a senior. Hope that helps. Klee
Thank you for doing these chats. Who are the staff's top targets for the 2013 class now that Parker is not in the mix? Who do you think is the most important recruit for Gross and staff out of that group?
O&B- Your priority is still a PG. You need a dynamic one, or this system doesn't run like it's supposed to. That could be any number of guys - Tyler Ennis, Jaylon Brown, Wes Clark, Xavier Rathan-Mayes (more of a combo guy but could play PG in a pinch). Demetrius Jackson's high on that list but will be a tough get. And there are others, that's not a comprehensive list. Speaking of priorities, you will see that Keita Bates-Diop (2014, Bloomington U High) is a priority this weekend, when I expect you'll see three Illinois coaches watching him in Milwaukee. You don't put three coaches at the same event unless a kid's a priority. The Illinois coaches just hit the road this afternoon for the second window of the July evaluation period. Klee
I'd hate to see us go without a Tyler on the team, so tell me about Tyler Ennis. Does Groce actually have a chance of landing a guy from across the country? Did he have a relationship with him while he was at Ohio? Or with his coach? Or is this just an example of a kid naming a bunch of random schools any time he gets asked where he's going.
Tyler- There's a chance. Good relationship there with the family. Syracuse is still your concern, but things change if the Orange lands another PG. That's something to keep an eye on. But he's the type of dynamic PG that John Groce would flourish with. Klee
You have to WIN before you can get top recruits, so with that, do you agree it will be AT LEAST 3-4 years before the Illini get back to the top tier in the Big Ten?
What mid majors recruits do we have a legitmate shot at getting in the next 2-3 years?
JE- Thanks for writing in. Not sure I understand your question. Pretty general there. Don't expect it will take 3-4 years to get into the "top tier of the Big Ten." I wrote a few months ago you're at least 2-3 years from competing for a conference title, and I think people are starting to see why. It's going to be a process rebuilding perception of the program. I expect John Groce and this staff is going to win big at Illinois - but it will take time to get there. That's the quick answer. Klee
What is your take on where Brandon Paul is mentally right now? Is he ready to lead and turn in a big senior season? He finished the season so poorly last year, especially against Iowa, and his teammates spoke loud & clear when they voted Abrams MVP. Can Paul be the go to guy, or is this Abram's team now?
Anonymous- Not to speak for him, but it's a safe bet Brandon's just ready to play again. I'll talk to him soon and get his take in Sunday's News-Gazette. His broken jaw was wired shut longer than they intially anticipated. He's going through shooting and ballhandling workouts, but it will be some time before he returns to contact drills. The MVP vote by the players was a not-so-subtle indication they want more from some upperclassmen. If Illinois is going to exceed expectations next season, those guys will have to lead the way. If you read D.J. Richardson's comments to me last week, you'll see the players enjoy the new staff quite a bit. Klee
Heard the Bulls played a summer league game last night. How did McCamey do?
Anonymous- Demetri McCamey played about eight minutes, scored four points and had one assist and one steal in their first summer league game. The Bulls play again Wednesday night. "They really like me," McCamey told me the other day. "They called as soon as I came home from overseas." Jamar Smith had 11 points with three 3-pointers for the Celtics. Boston's gone heavy with the Big Ten on its summer league roster. E'Twaun Moore (25 points last night), Jared Sullinger and Jamar Smith (the roster's sixth man, really) have played well in July. Klee
I believe Coach Gross and Mike Thomas both stated they weren't big on one and dones. Could this have had anything to do with Jabari Parker's decision? Also Coach gross never talked much about Jabari. Did he just feel he didn't have much of a chance with him?
Anonymous- First, John Groce didn't speak publicly about Jabari Parker because he knows he can't under NCAA rules. Hopefully that answers your second question. For your first question, Groce and Thomas aren't against one-and-dones. They would take a great one-and-done talent in a heartbeat. Both men would prefer a player to stay four years, obviously. Groce is in favor of MLB's rule that requires players to turn pro after high school or stay in school for 2-3 years. For your final question, Illinois was well aware Jabari Parker was going to be extremely difficult to land. This wasn't a surprise. Klee
I know your a big NBA fan.... my question is why would we have an NBA game at the Assembly Hall with a noted anti-Illini figure like Derrek Rose? And will you cover the game
J- I am, yes. I enjoy watching the best athletes in the world do what they do. Not sure where you get that about Derrick Rose. During his recruitment I never got the impression Derrick Rose was anti-Illinois, as you say. He was actually fond of the program. I remember talking to him outside Ubben Basketball Complex and he had very pleasant things to say. And I remember talking to him at an AAU event during the summer before his first (and only) season at Memphis. He A) talked about how the pickup games at Memphis were highly competitive and said he was nervous about whether he could earn playing time B) asked how Illinois' offseason was going. Turns out, he earned playing time at Memphis. And yes, I'll cover the exhibition game. It's hard to believe the Bulls-Jazz exhibition at the Assembly Hall was four years ago. Even harder to believe that was Derrick Rose's rookie season - his second or third exhibition game as a pro. I remember Deron Williams landing on Derrick Rose's foot and limping off the court. That made you nervous, but the injury wasn't serious. Looking forward to the NBA returning to C-U. The Bulls-Cavs game is Oct. 12 - concidentally, the first day of practice for Illinois. Klee
In the interest of mixing it up, can you give us your thoughts on how the lack of centers on Team USA will affect its play? Other than Tyson Chandler, I don't believe that there are any 5s on the team. Not to put everything on Chandler's shoulders, but is he even an all star? He's not as wide as some. This all seems to fit in with your comments that Meyers Leonard may contribute sooner rather than later in the NBA.
Dave- Thanks for mixing it up. These questions get repetitive. Don't expect size will be an issue. I've always thought speed and quickness are the most important qualities on a basketball roster - more so than size. And this roster has plenty of both. The Heat won a title without playing a true center most of the time. I do expect Meyers Leonard is more advanced than he's been given credit for. It might not be an immediate impact, but I expect he'll play more than most people expect. Thanks for the question. Klee
Paul,love your chats,never miss one.How long do you feel it will take for Groce and co. to make inroads in Chicago. I knew this year was going to be difficult,is 2013 possible or is it more realistic for the 14 and 15 kids.
Tony- This staff will emphasize Chicago, but it won't overemphasize Chicago. You saw with the Paris Parham hire that it felt like it needs more help in Chicago than initially expected. You can still make headway in 2013. But like John Groce has said, there's a lot of ground to make up there. Take a guy like Demetrius Jackson, for example. He's been recruited by Notre Dame since his eighth-grade year. This staff has been recruiting him to Illinois for roughly four months. That's an uphill battle. It should get "easier" in '14 and '15. You've seen this staff spend more time on '14s and '15s in July than it was able to do it April. Klee
So now that we know Jabari Parker isn't coming to U of I, what do you think of our chances with the next great Chicago prospect, Jahlil Okafor?
Ray- To answer your question, right now the chances with Jahlil Okafor aren't good. They never were. In 2014 you've got a better shot with a guy like Sean O'Mara, the big man out of Benet, in terms of in-state targets. Klee
Read your recent article covering Kendall Gill's golf tournament and I know you had mentioned that Groce was in Vegas with the Olympic team recently and I was curious about what some of our most notable alumni (Colangelo, Deron, Bardo, etc.) think of Groce and do they believe he is the one to turn our program around?
Anonymous- Just to be clear, Marcus Jackson deserves the credit for covering Kendall Gill's golf outing and doing an excellent job with it. As for your question, connecting with former Illini has been a top priority with John Groce. He's reached out to a number of them, from Dee Brown to Trent Meacham to Bardo to Gill to Colangelo to others in between. I expect the new staff will take a different approach to on-campus reunions with former players - more likely, they will host reunions in the fall, during football season, instead of during the basketball season. Groce goes into coaching mode during the season and won't do as much off-the-court stuff. Colangelo was involved with the hiring process. He spoke with Mike Thomas on a handful of occasions. The alums I've talked to - those that have met Groce - have all come away with a positive first impression. He'll need to win games to win them over completely. Klee
A few more notes.... Deron Williams (one of only five players from the 2008 gold medalists on this Olympic roster) and Robert Archibald will face off in an exhibition game tomorrow. And Illinois coaches are in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Augusta and Louisville this week for the second window of the July evaluation period. More on that in Sunday's News-Gazette.
Going to wrap this up. There are a number of questions that didn't get answered, but we've gone over. Apologies for the missed questions, try to get you next week. Good chat today - thanks for mixing it up a few times. I'll be on with Brian Moline on SportsTalk from 5-6 p.m. tonight. And a full page of college basketball coverage coming Sunday. Thanks. Klee