August 1 Illinois basketball chat

August 1 Illinois basketball chat

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 - 2:00pm

What does Deron Williams think of John Groce? Is Illinois going to make the cut when Kendrick Nunn announces his five finalists on Aug. 3? When does the doggone 2012-13 schedule come out? Ask beat writer Paul Klee, who will be glad to answer during his weekly chat at 2 pm today.

Paul Klee wrote on August 01, 2012 at 2:08 pm
Profile Picture

Afternoon everyone. Beat writer Paul Klee joining you for another Illinois/USA/college basketball chat. The Illini held a couple scrimmages this week - complete with referees - in their final week before the August break. Among the highlights: Myke Henry made some shots and guys competed. Among the lowlights: ballhandling remains an issue. Plenty to discuss today - keep the questions fresh and I promise to go for about an hour. Fire away. Klee

Illini_Fan78 wrote on August 01, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Paul,

I see Illinois has made an offer for Sterling Brown out of Chicago. In your opinion how would he fit in and what are the chances of landing him?

Paul Klee wrote on August 01, 2012 at 2:08 pm
Profile Picture

Illini- In my opinion, he would fit awfully well for how they want to play. There are potential guys and production guys. Sterling Brown's a production guy. Not a drop-your-jaw athlete but puts up numbers. And Brown wouldn't be a redundant piece with Malcolm Hill - different, interchangeable skillsets. Klee

Konnie wrote on August 01, 2012 at 2:08 pm

I really enjoy these chats.


About how many men's season basketball tickets does Illinois sell?

Paul Klee wrote on August 01, 2012 at 2:08 pm
Profile Picture

Konnie- Thanks for writing in with this question again.... this time I have the info for you. Illinois has roughly 13,000 season tickets, including student tickets. That number fluctuates from season to season, so it's a ballpark figure. Season-ticket renewals were mailed out about a month ago. Monday's the deadline. Hope that helps. Klee

Shark Bowl Plastic Shark wrote on August 01, 2012 at 2:08 pm

There's been a lot of scuttlebutt about the Nike Rebranding that will happen with the football team hemets and unis and the replacing of the turf and the marketing of the new era beckoning.

 

With the new court and a new coach in bball, are the hoopsters going to get new unis and a new marketing campaign to match football?

Paul Klee wrote on August 01, 2012 at 2:08 pm
Profile Picture

Shark- Couldn't tell you right now. The coaching staff isn't certain, either. That hasn't been a priority for them yet. I'll ask around. Here's my idea. Have a throwback day during the season. Bring back those Flyin' Illini uniforms with "Fighting Illini" arched across the front. Love those uniforms. Do it for one game and get Steve Bardo on ESPN's call. Connect the past with the present. Then auction off the jerseys for a good cause. Players would dig it. Fans would dig it. But make certain to win the game, too. Klee

Spokane Illini wrote on August 01, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Dear Paul,

Thanks very much for all of the outstanding stories on the basketball Illini. You are indispensible.You have written previously that Coach Groce wants 3.5 big men to play in the rotation (or at least that is what I think you have previously written). What is the ideal number of point guards?  1.5? 1.25?  2? 2.5?  I understand that the recruiting window is closing for this season and possibly the next, but does the coaching staff hope to have 2 or 3 point guards on the rooster by say 2014 or 2015? Is it possible or even desirable to have two point guards (or at least a point guard and combo guard who can run the offense if necessary) on the floor at the same time with Groce's offensive sets?

Paul Klee wrote on August 01, 2012 at 2:08 pm
Profile Picture

Spokie- You're right on with the 3.5-player big man rotation. Guess you could call it a four-man rotation. Dustin Ford, who works with the bigs, says they need to have four big guys in order to play at their preferred pace. Big guys get winded. Your top three right now are Egwu, Griffey and McLaurin. As for the number of point guards, that's a tough question and I'm not certain there is an exact answer. Instead of "point guards," I would say at least three ballhandlers - including at least one natural point guard. But Illinois desperately needs more guys that can handle the ball - that is the basic skill this system is built around. Can't attack if you can't dribble. In terms of personnel, John Groce's biggest question mark right now is the backup point. That's what he told me last week. They've tried all the names you would assume - Devin Langford, Joe Bertrand, Mike LaTulip. Remember, too, that Brandon Paul's been sidelined, so they haven't gotten a look at him as the backup point. He's the most likely candidate, as he was last season.

I'll have some more on the backup lead guard spot in the coming weeks. It's a critical spot, because Tracy Abrams can't play 40 minutes per game.

Yes, Illinois wants to take a point guard in '13 and '14. There's another question about Larry Austin Jr. in this chat. But it's not written in a very pleasant way, so I'll answer it here. If you land a bona-fide point guard in '13, you can take Larry Austin Jr. in '14. I don't think you would be comfortable taking an okay PG in '13 - and then rolling the dice with a guy that might (or might not) be a PG in '14. I've had a lot of questions on why Larry Austin Jr. hasn't received a scholarship offer from Illinois. It's about fit. If they feel he can play the point - dribble, pass, shoot - you'll see a scholarship offer. I think he's a guy like that needs a certain system in which to excel. He's a havoc guy. Creates havoc on defense, plays better at a fast tempo. Throw him in a scheme that uses fullcourt pressure and emphasizes pressure defense - Iowa? - I think he could be very good. Really plays hard. Good athlete. Super teammate. I'm less convinced with the ballhandling and outside shot - two key attributes for a point guard in this Illinois system. Hope that all makes sense. We'll see how it plays out. Klee

BrianA wrote on August 01, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Paul,

When will we see the schedule announced? How do you expect the attendance to be this year with a not real fan appeasing home non conference schedule?

 

Its obvious the perception of Illinois basketball in the state is not very high right now. How is the perception nationally?

 

Paul Klee wrote on August 01, 2012 at 2:08 pm
Profile Picture

Brian- Schedule's usually out in late August or early September. Last year it was released the first week of September. In 2010, it was the last week in August. As for attendance, I don't expect the home schedule will affect it as much as the results of the past 5-6 seasons. Fans want to see a winner. That's especially been true at Illinois. As for your final question, the perception of Illinois basketball gets better the further you get away from Illinois. That's one reason - and not the only reason - you've seen John Groce extend their recruiting reach in the early going. I've written often about rebuilding the perception of the program. Mainly, that's within their own state. A positive season would help. Illinois hasn't finished a season ranked in the Top 25 since 2006. Klee

Chuck C wrote on August 01, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Hi Paul,


Two top centers of the 2014 class, Jahil Okafor and Cliff Alexander, are from Chicago.  Does Illinois have a realistic chance to land one of them and would they fit into Coach Groce's system. Thanks.


  


 

Paul Klee wrote on August 01, 2012 at 2:08 pm
Profile Picture

Hi Chuck- To answer your first question, no. At least not right now. As for the second question, yes. Both are super prospects, particularly Okafor, whose post game is as advanced as you will see from a high school big man. Impressive player. I remember his father watching Jahlil Okafor during a UI team camp a few years ago. He was impressive even back then and he's only gotten better (and bigger). He's an NBA guy. As I wrote a few weeks ago, your best option for an in-state big man in 2014 is Sean O'Mara of Benet Academy. And he now has a scholarship offer from Illinois. Klee

Mike in Philly wrote on August 01, 2012 at 2:08 pm

At point in the advent of the Internet did covering a college basketball team become a 24/7 365-day affair?  I love reading about my favorite team in August, but sometimes I think to myself, “it’s August, I should be out fishing.”  Do reporters reminisce about the good old days when only the serious recruiting nerds cared about the summer or this a brave new and exciting world?

Paul Klee wrote on August 01, 2012 at 2:08 pm
Profile Picture

Mike- First, everyone should go fishing. It's good for the soul. I hit the rivers a few times this summer and plan on getting out again in two weeks. It's hopper-and-dropper season. Depending on conditions, usually tie on a No. 12 Stimulator with a beadhead emerger of some type. Maybe a three-fly outfit (Copper John, to get it down?) if I'm feeling bold. As for your question, I don't miss it. I enjoy this. Talking basketball and recruiting in August is fun for me. I'm just fortunate because it's my job. Klee

JC in Cali wrote on August 01, 2012 at 2:08 pm

How do you think the players are going to respond under Groce's system? It seemed last year the players weren't successful within that system, like learning a dance move they could never quite master, and the frustration reached a tipping point. Do you think Groce's more open offensive system will play to these player's strengths? And will that translate into wins? (or at least no late season collapse)?

Paul Klee wrote on August 01, 2012 at 2:08 pm
Profile Picture

JC- If Illinois can clean up its turnovers, the current roster can succeed in this system. That's the biggest "if." It's a system that relies on multiple ballhandlers. These Illini struggle against defenses that pressure the perimeter. But I am convinced these players will be enamored with John Groce's system. That much has been evident already. Myke Henry needs to make shots if he's going to play - and he hit a couple three-pointers and a spin move in the lane on Tuesday. D.J. Richardson got an earful because he passed up an open three-pointer. "Shoot the ball. That's your job," John Groce said later. "So shoot the ball." It's a system that allows players a great deal of freedom. That's the description Evan Turner gave Brandon Paul, and it's what D.J. Cooper told D.J. Richardson. Those are two players that played for John Groce, don't know each other like that, but said the same thing. Will it translate to wins? Wish I could tell you. But I do expect John Groce will open it up and allow that freedom - if for no other reason than to showcase the system for recruits. He wants people to see how he wants to play. Klee

Tywin Lannister wrote on August 01, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Hey Paul,

Do you have any updates on the 2013 PG recruiting situation over the last few days?  Will Illinois be able to get a visit out of Tyler Ennis, Demetrius Jackson, etc?  Seems like this staff so far has done well when players get on campus

This is a broader question-it seems like most preseason lists seem to favor Indiana as the Big Ten favorite (or at least they seemed to be ranked highest of the Big Ten teams nationally)...I tend to think Michigan State might be the favorite.  While they lose Draymond Green, no small loss and they might kick it around in the nonconference like MSU does many years, they seem to be the most complete team in the Big Ten grind, especially assuming Gary Harris is as good as advertised.  Do you agree?

 

Paul Klee wrote on August 01, 2012 at 3:08 pm
Profile Picture

Ty- Illinois picked a bad time to be a Midwest program that needs a point guard or three. The well is dry. Look at the 2013 and 2014 in-state recruiting classes. As my friend Joe Henricksen pointed out the other day, you've got one guy over two recruiting classes that is a sure-fire, high-major point guard (Garrett). That's the biggest issue Illinois faces over the next two classes - finding a dynamic point guard. You're in good with Tyler Ennis, and I expect you will get a visit, but Syracuse remains the team to beat. Doesn't hurt that Jim Boeheim is getting NBC air-time with USA Basketball. I expect Demetrius Jackson to continue listing Illinois. I don't expect Michigan State will be involved there with Jackson. More like UK, KU, Notre Dame, Butler and Illinois. And that could change. Roddy Peters (Suitland, Md.) was a possibility but he has cut his list to six and Illinois wasn't one of them. It probably won't be Josh Brown (New Jersey). Rashawn Powell (Orlando) isn't looking like a possibility. I'd say Wes Clark (Romulus, Mich.) would be a good candidate, but there are obstacles there for Illinois. And I expect Michigan State will be a player for the in-state point guard. All of these things can change, of course. But the new Illinois staff walked into a very difficult spot as point guards go. There just aren't enough of them that you can get.

As for your second question, I like Michigan-Indiana-Michigan State-Ohio State next season in the top four. More important is the big picture: Right now I see Michigan State establishing itself as the Big Ten program to beat over the next few years. Tom Izzo is in tight with Chicago. The Branden Dawson/Gary Harris pickups (out of Indiana) were big for perception. And he said again here that he's doing it by playing within the rules. Let's hope that's true, because he says it a lot. Why Michigan State over Ohio State, which has won five of the past seven titles? The in-state pipeline in Ohio isn't as strong as it was over the past decade. That was a remarkable run for in-state talent, and Thad Matta grabbed almost all of them. The next few years figure to be more of a challenge. Hope that helps - going quickly here. Klee

Nick B. wrote on August 01, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Paul,

Thanks for the chats.  You keep talking about the Illinois system.  Could you go a little more into what exactly that means.  What is the team trying to do on offense (i.e. drive and kick, motion, etc.). Also, on defense what type of pressure can we expect to see and what is the philosophy?

Paul Klee wrote on August 01, 2012 at 3:08 pm
Profile Picture

Nick- On offense it's heavy on ball screens. Straight-line drives and attacking the basket - either for layups or kickouts. Ideally, they shoot a lot of free throws. Ohio led the MAC in free throw attempts last season and was second in free throw attempts in 2010-11. On defense, it's packed in tighter than you saw in recent years. That's been an adjustment for the veteran Illini, who are accustomed to extending their defensive pressure. "It's more of a packed defense," D.J. Richardson said. That's the quick answer, hope it helps. Klee

Nick Bauer wrote on August 01, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Hello Mr. Klee. How good of a chance does Illinois have to get quality ranked recruits to come to the University of Illinois? I mean it looks like John Groce has been working hard and people really seem to like him, but in reality do we have a lot to offer? We were 17-15 last year and lost our best player to the draft. I guess our best chance is to convince them they will get major playing time. What do you think? And what are the expectations of this team in the next few years?

Paul Klee wrote on August 01, 2012 at 3:08 pm
Profile Picture

Nick- The staff uses different recruiting pitches for different players. With a point guard, for example, they will sell their history with point guards and how the system revolves around that position. John Groce will show them that their point guards - whether it was Lionel Chalmers (Xavier), Mike Conley Jr. (Ohio State) or D.J. Cooper (Ohio) - were the focal points of their system and played professionally. (Cooper has one season left but will draw a paycheck.) As for the expectations, suppose they are what you make them. Right now I expect an NCAA tournament berth and/or top-six Big Ten finish would be an accomplishment. This won't be an overnight fix. John Groce tells me there are two pieces in getting Illinois into Big Ten title contention: Recruiting and player development. He said he values both equally.

"I think if we continue to focus on those things – getting the right guys on the bus and then developing them as talented people and players at Illinois – the sky’s the limit," Groce said.

Hope that answers your question. Thanks for writing in. Klee

Paul Klee wrote on August 01, 2012 at 3:08 pm
Profile Picture

Going to wrap this up for this week. Excellent chat today - thanks to your questions. There were a handful I didn't reach, and we'll try to get you next week. I'll be on with Steve Kelly's SportsTalk from 5-6 p.m. tonight. Brandon Miller, the special assistant to the head coach, is scheduled to join us on the show. Talk to you later. Klee