Got a college basketball question? We've got the guy with answers: Paul Klee. Fire away at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday or submit questions now and check out the transcript later.
Afternoon everyone. Paul Klee joining you for another basketball chat. Plenty to discuss today. I'll be here for about an hour before heading back to Ubben. Fire away.
Really enjoy these chats. Keep up the good work! In Sunday's Klee's corner Tyler Griffey says: "We're excited every day to come in the gym. We can't wait to go to workouts with these guys. With all of their positive encouragement, this coaching staff makes you want to go (all out) for them." What does that say about the previous coaching staff?
Bernie- Think it says it was time for a change. Program got stagnant a few years ago. That’s pretty obvious, yeah? I remember writing often how the season, usually by February, became a grind more than a pleasure. That was true in 2009-10 and definitely true in '11-12. It’s been great to see Tyler Griffey inspired for workouts and basketball again. He's sincere about it, too. Really enjoys the new staff. Klee
First of all, love these chats. I've read that our top two priorities at the 4 are Colbert and Henry. Is this the impression you're getting as well?Which one is more likely to commit at this point? If not Henry or Colbert, who do you see jumping in the mix instead?Thanks,Coach M
Coach- Let's focus on Demetrius Henry, the 2013 forward out of Florida. Illinois was in to see him yesterday. I picture that recruitment going relatively similar to Demetrius Jackson's, where the prospect is making the calls, free of outside influences. Need to get him on campus to have a shot, however. Klee
Congratulations! Your objectivity is really remarkable. Keep up the good work.
What are some of the major philosophical/stylistic difference between the current and previous coaching staff?
What are Mr. McClain & Mr. Harrington up to these days?
AK, Crystal Lake, IL
AK- Thanks. It’s an entirely new philosophy in the Illinois basketball office. We’ll see if that’s good or bad. As I said on Saturday Sportsline, I expect the long-term returns will be very positive. A number of former players have reached out to me to give their take on the new regime. Every last one has been positive. This is a player’s system. As for your second question, I expect you will see Wayne McClain at Kansas State at some point, most likely in the near future. The K-State staff has been working on getting McClain there in the next 3-4 weeks. I don’t know of Sean Harrington’s plans, although he did watch the Broncos-Steelers on Sunday night. Best of luck to both. Good people. Klee
Klee why don't we ever play kentucky i would love to shut these wildcat fans mouths and two who do you think is the close to comitting to the illini
Reece- You don't want to play Kentucky right now. Second question, no one knows. Thanks for writing in. Klee
Paul, could you please talk about or write an article about the strength and conditioning philisophy differences between Jimmy Price and the new S and C coach? What gains are being made? How are the guys taking to it? My wife is an MU grad and I am constantly amazed at the physical gains and level of conditioning that the Tigers display consistently. Thanks!!
MAJ- Sure, that’s coming up in the next few weeks. Working on a story on Rayvonte Rice for this Sunday, so the notes on Mike Basgier got pushed back. As you’ve seen with most of John Groce’s hires, he values familiarity and sticks with what has been successful in the past. That’s one reason Mike Basgier, the former Ohio strength coach, was hired into the position previously held by Lon Record.
Here’s part of what John Groce told me about Mike Basgier: “I think the biggest thing is it brings a guy to the table that I know and can trust and he’s delivered previously. Mike’s a winner.”
My thought: The relationship between the head coach and the strength coach is usually underappreciated. The head coach needs to listen to the strength coach. That is particularly true late in the season, when guys are tired. The strength coach knows when to shorten practice and allow the players to get their legs back. Just my two cents. Klee
Love your chats. I read them every week. I wanted to get your thoughts on the big men from 2014. It appears that we have offered several PF or Centers. Do we have any chance of landing the top tier big men? What would increase our chances? Does Meyers Leonard doing well in the NBA help? Thanks for your thoughts.
Grad- Thanks. Benet Academy big man Sean O’Mara, a 2014 prospect with an offer, remains a priority for Illinois. Expect you'll continue to see them involved there – he’s their best opportunity for an in-state big man in ’14, at least for now. But as you’ve seen in ’13, these things change. If you string together several key commitments in ’13, that can open doors with prospects in ’14. As for Meyers Leonard, his success can help. Leonard met Demetrius Jackson on Jackson's official visit last week, for example. (So did athletic director Mike Thomas, but that’s unrelated.) The Leonard effect probably doesn't have an impact on Illini recruiting until down the road. Klee
Tell me why I should expect a tournament appearance from the Illini.
Anonymous- Sorry, can’t do that. This is the same roster as the one that went 2-12 down the stretch, minus your most dynamic player. I do believe an NCAA tournament berth is an achievable goal for these Illini. You need a number of things to happen, none more important than Tracy Abrams staying healthy and continuing to improve. He's on the right track. Point-guard depth is the biggest positional concern for the coaches. Klee
Outside of any Illinois games, what non-conference games are you most interested in seeing this year?
Also, if you could choose to be at any non-Big Ten game this year, what matchup would you want to see?
Springfield- Off the top of my head, the Xavier-Cincinnati grudge match would top the list. If only to count the security detail. Steve Bardo tells me he's never seen anything like the brawl last season. He was courtside and says he could feel it coming during the course of the game. So that should be interesting on Dec. 19. I know Mike Thomas will be watching. Others? Missouri-at-UCLA, in part because it comes right after the Illinois-Missouri game. Same for Baylor-at-Gonzaga. And Ohio State-Marquette, because it's on an aircraft carrier, and that's such a good idea. And these games impact Illinois, so there's interest for me there. Here's an excellent list from our friend Jeff Goodman. Lots of Illinois opponents - even if there's no Illinois. Non-Big Ten conference game? I might choose K-State/Kansas, for obvious reasons. In terms of nonconference games it doesn't get better than the Illinois-Missouri game, at least for me. That one tops the list every season. It's the only game where I've had beer (accidentally) poured down my back, and I didn't mind. Klee
So Nunn had a great in-home visit, and is a huge Illinois lean.....Why haven't him and DJAX committed yet? Seriously, what's the hold up?
Erik- Thanks for writing in. Illinois fans are anxious, in large part because of the past half-decade. Wish I could help you out with a commitment or two. I've found it seldom hurts a prospect to wait it out. Sometimes that can bite you, if spots close up, but that won't happen with these two. Illinois would hold a spot for both prospects. In terms of Demetrius Jackson, I expect you'll see him on the KU campus in the near future - perhaps as soon as this coming weekend, although I haven't been able to confirm that with Jackson. I know KU wants him on campus asap, but it might be too late of notice for this weekend. Talked on Saturday Sportsline about the likelihood of Jackson moving up his Kansas visit. As for Kendrick Nunn, he and his father will be on the Illinois campus this weekend. Big visit for Illinois, and I expect it will go well. As I've said (probably too many times) before, this staff will excel when it gets prospects on campus. They have an impressive attention to detail.
(Update before this chat's over): Demetrius Jackson tells me that he is, in fact, considering a visit to Kansas for this weekend but hasn't decided yet if it will work. Klee
I haven't heard much about Joe Bertrand lately. Is Groce going to use him off the wing or are they going to try and put him in the backup PG rotation with Paul missing so much time? Do you think the staff is more interested in developing his slashing ability or improving his outside shot?
Nice work on the football coverage and hoping Bob A. gets well soon!
Denny- Not a PG, they're working Joe Bertrand on the wing. He works with the foursome of Myke Henry, Devin Langford and Rayvonte Rice and position coach Paris Parham. His outside shot is a focus, but they like that he creates contact. Ballhandling also a focus. "We want him to get better with straight-line drives," John Groce said the other day, meaning straight to the basket, not laterally. Enjoying the football coverage. Nice change of pace. Also enjoyed watching football with Bob last Saturday afternoon. He's getting better and might set a record for most-games-watched while he's on the DL. Knowing Bob, he'll be back asap. Klee
How do you think Notre Dame's move to the ACC will impact it's basketball program?
Mitch- Initial reaction is that the move is a big boost for basketball. That's a league that already is adding Syracuse and Pittsburgh. The new ACC stands to become the strongest basketball league we've seen in a while. And through all of the moving and shaking, the Big Ten overall is as stable and impressive as any of them. Kudos to the Big Ten for not giving into Notre Dame's football demands. As it relates to the Illini, an Illinois-Notre Dame basketball matchup becomes possible if the ACC/Big Ten Challenge hangs around. The Illini and Irish haven't played in the regular season since 1973. Hope that helps. Klee
Do you think there will be a MAJOR improvement for Griffey this year? Will he become the player everyone thought he would be when he came to Illinoi? Why do you think he hasn't lived up to his early expectatios?
Anonymous- Speaking in general terms, not with Tyler Griffey, but prospects seldom achieve the expectations of fans and Internet scouts. These days expectations for prospects are too high across the board. That’s on the recruiting scouts that focus on a guy’s strengths. It makes the coaches that recruited the player look good, but it's tough on the prospect. There’s too much hype out there – it's awfully difficult for these kids to reach those expectations.
As for Tyler Griffey, so far he’s fit in well with how John Groce wants to play. Griffey said he particularly appreciates the defensive philosophy and how it can cover up a guy’s weaknesses. Asked him about it again the other day.
“On the defensive end I think it’s going to help me and some of the guys that aren’t as quick,” he said. “It’s a pack defense. Your positioning is your help. We’re not going to extend and deny a pass. We’re going to let them catch it and then we attack and get after them. It’s different defensive principles, but I think it’s going to play more to our strengths.”
On a related note, Tyler Griffey badly wants a win against Missouri. That's a theme in the Illinois locker room - each time I’ve asked a different player about the most important game, Missouri has been the first or second response. “We’ve never beaten them,” as D.J. Richardson put it. Klee
What's the latest on Demetri McCamey, Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis?
Dave- Mike Davis returned early from his overseas gig last season, nursing a nasty ankle injury. He returned to the U.S. to rehab the ankle. We'll catch up with him. Last I was told, Mike Tisdale's in the Riverton area. Good timing on Demetri McCamey, who told me this morning he will be in camp with Jeremy Lin's Houston Rockets. Klee
Does Rayvonte Rice have a similar game to Serge?
Brad- Similar size, different game. Rayvonte's right around 247 pounds, and he's all of that. Rice said he played last season at Drake around 250. "I’m going to try get some bad body fat off of me so I’m ready to play," he said. Coaches like his ability to score. That's the strength of his game. One challenge will be improving his shot selection, but he also will have more scoring options around him and won't be asked to do as much. And we're writing about Rayvonte Rice for Sunday's News-Gazette, so more coming then. Klee
Going to wrap this up. Excellent chat today - thanks to your questions. I'll be on with Steve Kelly's SportsTalk from 5-6 p.m. tonight on WDWS 1400-AM for the usual Wednesday basketball and recruiting conversation. Kyle Neddenriep, the award-winning preps reporter from the Indy Star, will join us to talk Demetrius Jackson and other topics of interest. Thanks for the questions - see you at Memorial Stadium on Saturday and in this space next week. Klee