Who's John Groce taking with him to media day in Chicago? Who's he going to start at Monday's Orange and Blue Scrimmage? Who's he going to sign in November? Ask beat writer Paul Klee, who is chatting at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Submit questions any time.
Afternoon everyone. Pleased to be joining you for another Illinois/college basketball chat. Plenty to discuss, as always. I'll be here for about an hour to take your questions. Fire away. Klee
2 Questions...1st: How many schollies do we have left and 2nd: Since we weren't able to land DJ, XRM or Benny, are we still after Colbert or are we/should we go after another PF?
SS- You have one more available in '13, but the staff is willing to take six in that class if it's the right guy. Yes, Illinois is still involved with Austin Colbert. Miami is the team to beat, but Illinois is a player there. Illinois would like to land an athletic forward to the 2013 class, and he would fit the bill. Klee
With D Jackson and XRM off the board, are there any other PG prospects in the class of 2013 that the coaching staff is keeping a close eye on? With one scholarship available who would you rather have Ben Moore or Austin Colbert, and Why?
can't wait for the season to start
Can't- For your first question, no, the number of quality PG prospects still available in '13 is limited. There weren't many to begin with. Illinois considered or pursued Nic Moore... Monte Morris... Tyler Ennis... London Perrantes... Pookie Powell... Demetrius Jackson... and on and on. There's another one in there I'm misremembering off the top of my head. For your second question, Austin Colbert is the only one left between the two. Ben Moore's off to SMU. Klee
Have you been keeping close tabs on Meyers? Looks to me like he is doing alright when he is on the floor, but he seems to be having the same problem as in college (too many fouls)?
Brave- Yes, I have. He's one of the most enjoyable personalities I covered at Illinois. Media circles in Portland already are smitten with him. As the Oregonian wrote today, big Meyers is averaging 8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 0.7 blocks and 4 fouls in 17 minutes per game over three preseason games. I noticed in his preseason debut he seemed far more comfortable in the second half than in the first. He also has a noticeable rapport with Damian Lillard, which bodes well for their future together. Meyers told me after the draft he really enjoys playing with a "true point guard" like Lillard. He's more of a scoring guard, but he's speaking to his talent. And Leonard is going to make an NBA impact before people expect. The consensus was that he's a few years away. I expect you'll see more from him before that. Klee
Does Groce have a policy or thought process for redshirting players. (That aren't hurt) Is it primarily a coach's decision, player's decision, or joint discussion. Don't really see any possiblilities for this year but was curious anyway. Thanks!
Anonymous- Glad you asked, I asked them this morning. The staff didn't redshirt any (non-transfer) players at Ohio. But they aren't against the idea if a guy — particularly a big guy — could benefit from it. I can tell you this staff doesn't expect to redshirt any members of the 2013 recruiting class. The staff believes those guys — especially the perimeter guys — are going to play as freshmen. Klee
Despite the recruiting efforts of the Illini staff, both Jackson and XRM committed to the schools they had long favored. Other schools had backed off allowing the Illini staff an opening that in the end didn't pan out. Would it have been better to use of recruiting resources on other players that there is/was a more realistic chance of signing?
BN- No, they saw an opening and pursued the best players they had potential with. When you have and can build on a relationship with a talent like Demetrius Jackson — at a position of need — you go all in. At the high-major level, John Groce is accustomed to signing the likes of Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook. When he sees a chance, those are the caliber of players he's going to pursue. I don't have any doubt Groce is going to win big at Illinois. It's more a matter of when, not if. And like I wrote back in April in May, it's going to take more time than most people expect, probably 2-3 years, before he's got Illinois in contention for Big Ten titles. College basketball isn't complicated. It's about players. Get 'em, you win. Don't, you won't. The good ones recognize (and admit) that, and Groce is one of the good ones. Klee
Are there any problem childs/disruptive influences on this year's roster?
PeterE- Not really. If anything, this roster needs some dog in it. John Groce calls them, "Woofs." Walter Offutt, he says, was a woof. Armon Bassett, he says, was a woof. I don't know if you have that kind of go-getter personality among the players that are eligible this season. At least, no one's shown it for extended periods of time. But in terms of bad guys, no, you don't have any. It's a nice, friendly, smiley locker room. It's enjoyable to be around. Sometimes I think they could use a guy that would rile 'em up, start a practice fight, scratch and claw, something like that. But in terms of malicious, disruptive personalities, no, this roster doesn't have any. The key — in terms of intangibles — is whether Groce can knock down the walls between classes. You had class division last season, as Tracy Abrams told me here. This team isn't good enough to overcome those types of issues on talent alone.
This reminds me of something I meant to write about but never got around to. People close to him tell me John Groce actually is attracted to players that have an edge to them, guys that can be hard to coach, players that don't operate by the company line. D.J. Cooper wasn't an easy guy to coach. And the staff got him to a place, mentally, where he could whip Trey Burke, the Big Ten's best guard last season, for most of an NCAA tournament game. I remember a story where John Groce told Cooper to sit in his chair — the coach's chair — in his office. And the coach asked the player, "How would you handle me if I was you?" And Cooper suggested he would make him run, come off the bench, etc. Groce reversed roles. That, and other strategies, turned him into one heck of a lead guard. So he's very good with challenging personalities. And I rambled there. Klee
It seems that all of this talk about we don't have enough competent ballhandlers is a smokescreen. Fourth year Big Ten guards like Richardson and Paul should be capable of helping Abrams bring the ball up the court and should be able to beat people off of the dribble. They've done it for three years. It seems that our backcourt is the strength of this team, not our weakness. I am more concerned with our frontcourt. If Egwu goes down with an injury we have no size. If that were to happen is Shaw or Ibby ready to contribute?
Dave- Thanks for the question. Not a smokescreen. Ballhandling against pressure is their weakness. It's one reason Purdue's won seven or eight in a row in the series. Last season, the Purdue bench would yank a player out of the game if he wasn't pressuring the Illinois ballhandler, no matter who it was. As for your question, under that scenario, you would lean toward Sam McLaurin. He can play both frontcourt spots. Klee
enjoy the coverage
- did we get a confirmation on 2016 Josh Langford?
- if Colbert goes elsewhere, does the staff roll the scholarship over to 2014?
- right now does it look like the staff will be able to get in on 2014 PGs Kevin Zabo / Shelton Mitchell?
Shark- I'm told it's not Devin Langford's brother. Second question, you would be more likely to sign a fifth prospect in the spring than roll it over. The staff feels it needs players. Third question, yes, Illinois will recruit Kevin Zabo, who is more of a scoring combo, and Shelton Mitchell, who plays for CP3 All-Stars and will be tough to steal out of ACC country. If Illinois isn't able to secure the elite-caliber PG in 2013 or 2014, you could see them change the way they play. Go with several combos (that aren't true point guards) but can handle the ball. And I expect Illinois is going to increase its efforts with Larry Austin Jr. in coming months. Klee
Thanks for the chats! I am worried about our bigs this year, especially in another guard oriented system. Are there any reports of improvements from guys like Shaw, Djimde, or Griffey? I've got big hopes for Egwu, but he needs help down there!
It seems we will be overmatched down low in almost every game, how is coach Groce working with the bigs on posting up/back to the basket plays - or are the bigs going to be setting screens at the top of the key like in the past?
Skib- Most of the scoring (and shots) on this team will come from the perimeter guys. You still need a scoring threat down low, and they feel Egwu can provide that. One coach said, "He's earned the right to play through mistakes." So they won't yank him when he throws a pass into the Krush. Recent practices focused on defensive rotations and ballhandling. They've continued to do quite a bit of skillwork. The coaches have been pleased with the effort. Myke Henry's had a good week. He's leading the team in rebounding through 4-5 practices. Now he needs to keep that up and secure a spot in the rotation. Great, great kid. I met Mycheal a while back when I made a trip to Chicago Orr. Haven't met anyone that could come out of a tragedy like his family did... and still greet strangers he doesn't know or friends like me that he does... every time with a smile. Here's hoping it all works out and he excels at Illinois. Klee
Going to wrap this up, need to run over to Ubben. Thanks for all of your questions — wish I could reach more. We'll have a full page of college basketball coverage in Sunday's News-Gazette. And I'll be on SportsTalk from 5-6 p.m. tonight and Saturday Sportsline if you have more questions for me. Appreciate you guys and love this job. Klee