Nov. 7 MJ college basketball chat

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 1:30pm

Is Colgate any good? Is Illinois? Who's the team to beat in Maui? Ask college basketball writer Marcus Jackson, who chats at 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays — after John Groce's news conference. Submit questions any time.


Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 01:30 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012

Good afternoon, folks. Welcome to another Illinois basketball chat. Just got back from John Groce's news conference and the new guy is excited to get going at Illinois.

This guy is excited to get to your questions, so let's have at it.

Dan Bloeme — 01:31 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012

Hey Marcus,

May not be anything, but then again. Concern about the team not having the killer instinct in them to close out the exhibition game against lowly Westchester. Yes, after a vbery slow start the Illini ramped it up and were blowing them out the last part of the 1st half, But shades of most recent Weber teams at UI, the Illini eased off the throttle and coasted home. I hope that is not indicative of a bad habit learned the past 3 years by the players under Weber where Illini leads would evaporate by lack of aggressiveness in the 2nd half. At question is the will and effort to stay aggressive and extend the lead rather than be lazy and coast. Maybe many of Webr's recruits were just mostly soft and Groce will have to wait until they move out of the system (or eligibility). It may be just to difficult for Groce to overcome and teach players new habits because if he doesn't this season's record won't be appreciably different than last year. 

How concerned is Coach Groce about the effort for 40 minutes and letting up?

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 01:44 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012


That's a very good point, one that John Groce addressed today. He wasn't happy at all with the way the team finished the West Chester game and he let that be known. I do think part of the problem with this group of players is that coasting is something they had grown accustomed to the past few years and it's a habit they're being taught to break every day at practice.

"We try to take a lot of pride in how we finish and that's why we were disappointed as a team and staff with Sunday in terms of how we finished," Groce said today. "We always want to finished well, whether that's a half, a possession, a class, whether that's a weight workout, whether that's a skill workout. That's something that we take a lot of pride in a something we talk a lot to our guys about is finishing every single thing that we do. Obviously, we didn't do that as well as we would have liked to on Sunday. It gave us a great chance to learn from it, learn from the film and hopefully be better off for it."

Again, it's a bad habit this group has developed and the hope within th staff is that the focus on finishing everything, not just on the court, but in every day life, is something that will help them develop that killer instinct as they go forward under the new regime.

Hope that helps.

illinibrave — 01:45 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012

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With what seems to be an 8 - 9 man rotation (number 9 being our preferred walk-on), do you think that this will cause some of the scholarship players (who aren't getting playing time) to consider transferring. Especially since the coaching staff will have 5 of their players (currently 4 incoming freshmen and Ravonte Rice) eligible for 2013!

Thanks for your insight,


Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 01:50 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012


Any time guys who have reached this level of athletics aren't playing regularly, it's going to be upsetting and they'll start to explore some options and wonder if they might have a better opportunity elsewhere. Not saying there are any rumblings yet within this Illinois team, it's way too early to make that determination. But ultimately it's on the player if he's not getting playing time and producing. Groce has said time and time again that players play players and he will reward the guys who get the job done when they get their opportunities, whether that's in practice or games.

Mike LaTulip got his shot Sunday and it remains to be seen if he did enough to stay in the mix. Mike Shaw is right on the cusp of being that guy and Devin Langford and Ibby Djimde are going to get chances, too. It's up to them to take advantage.

illinibrave — 01:50 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012


Any update on Austin Colbert?  When is he planning on making a commitment?



Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 01:54 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012


Tolbert was expected to announce his college choice today (his birthday), but he's not ready to do it today. Thought something would have leaked last night, but it didn't and the New Jersey product is still deciding between Illinois, Seton Hall and Villanova. Haven't heard when he plans to announce, but we'll let you know as soon as we hear something.

Anonymous Jim — 01:55 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012

Marcus, do you see this team conforming to Groce or Groce adapting his coaching to best fit the team? 

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 02:01 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012


Groce said at Big Ten media day that each player has different strengths and weaknesses and just because D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul are both guards, you don't coach them both the same. So, in that way, he adjusts to the players.

Overall, however, the idea is to get the team to adjust to his style of coaching and play and it's very much a work in progress, though there is some give and take there. It does lean more toward the players adapting to the coaching staff. I asked Groce about that today:

"We're adjusting to the players, they're adjusting to us. It's amazing, after you're been doing something for four years, even the shootaround, the first time we had shootaround just teaching them what we do on the day of the game. When we eat, when they have to be there, what position work looks like and how the shootaround starts.

"We've got an older team that's got some experience, Sam, Brandon, D.J., Tyler's got some experience. But, in some respect, with some of those things, it's like coaching 14 freshmen. They haven't done daily dozen (drill) before; none of them. It's the first thing we do before shootaround. So, you're teaching them. What happens is you start to build something and build a program. Next year's returnees are teaching the new guys, then it starts to gain momentum and that's program building. Right now, we're at the introductory stages with some of that stuff, but that's what makes it fun and challenging.

"The guys, as I've sad all along, have been very coachable, very teachable, their attitudes have been terrific, so that makes it a lot more fun to get up every day, go to practice and work with them."

Miami Illini Fan — 02:03 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012

What are the chances the Assembly Hall will be able to host the state championships again? In the past huge names ran through there and enjoyed the expience. Would it help with recruiting?


Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 02:06 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012

Miami Illini fan,

It would be a huge recruiting advantage for Champaign to get the state championship games back, but the problem is it's found a comfortable home over in Peoria. It's been well-received over there and with the March Madness experience they have in conjunction with the finals, that appears to be the place for it right now. I do think it belongs here, but it might be a while.

Anonymous User — 02:08 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012

Can someone explain to me how both football and basketball can return 80% of their starters yet we want to fire Beckman immediately but give Grose 2-3 years to recruit his players. Are we looking at a double standard? Don't get me wrong, I don't think Beckmann can ever turn the football program around. On the other hand, I don't  see Grose recruiting top players he says he needs to turn the basketball program around either. As far as coaching style, looks a lot like Weber.

what do you think of the Indiana punishments just handed out?  I would take getting 2 promising players for a slap on the wrist anyday. Thanks.


Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 02:13 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012


There does appear to be a bit of a double standard between the programs. You've got to give football coaches time, but I think the biggest gripe about Beckman is not that they're losing, but the way they're losing.

Not sure why you don't see Groce being able to recruit the types of players here that he needs. He was one scouting service's recruiter of the year during his time at Ohio State and every college basketball person I've talked with publicly and provately has told me he's got what it takes to get guys to Illinois.

Basketball recruiting is different than football recruiting in that the relationships with basketball prospects start back in junior high. Most football players aren't getting looks until their sophomore year. It takes time to get in with these kids and get them on board.

JELLIS1 — 02:13 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012

Does Illinois need to make it to the NCAA tournament this year to have any chance of the 2014-2015  4*-5* recruits?


Do you feel this is going to be a 3-4 years of rebuilding to see where the Illini basketball should be in the top 15 every year? (Save us from rebuilding please, thats all we do in football, ughh!)

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 02:16 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012


It would certainly help, but the biggest thing this staff needs to do is show that they've got things going in the right direction and it's not going to be the same old Illinois they've seen the last five, six years.

These guys aren't looking to land five five-star guys every years. You get a couple and fill in with the right parts around them and then you've got yourself a solid program and a base to keep the ball rolling for years to come. From there, winning consistently, getting into and making deep runs in the tournament will all be beneficial when it comes to recruiting. These guys know what they're doing. They'll need to land a big one and then get the ball rolling from there.

chipgolf1 — 02:17 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012

Does this team have any chance to be successful.  The players can read and I still believe that had a lot to do with the fall last year.  Now they are being told they aren't any good again this year.  Kids are kids and negative breeds negatives.

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 02:21 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012


It's got a chance to be successful, sure. It's a matter of these guys buying in to the change — which they have — and going out and executing. The negativity got to these guys last year and they buckled under the pressure. While the players were feeling it, the coaching staff last year was feeling it, too, and they all kind of crumbled together.

There's a different energy within the program this year and inside their locker room, it's all positive. Outside expectations might not be great for these guys, but they understand that's going to be the case given how last season ended. Listen to John Groce on the sideline during games. The overwhelming majority of what he says is positive. If you miss a shot, that's OK, take the next one. Tracy Abrams missed a wide-open layup against Lewis and Groce called him over and seconds later, they were laughing. It's a totally different vibe and these players are refreshed. Don't think the outside stuff will bother them too much.

Bryan — 02:22 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012

These chats even worse then before!  A chat means quick response, not 15m and counting!  What a joke!

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 02:23 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012


Appreciate you checking in.

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 02:24 PM on Wed, 11/07/2012

Thanks for all the questions today. I've got to run. Expecting a phone call any minute now to help with a story that we're running Friday to preview the season opener against Colgate. I'll be back with you all next week.