Nov. 16 hoops/volleyball chat

Friday, November 16, 2012 - 11:00am

Can Kevin Hambly's Illini still make the NCAA volleyball tourney? How about Matt Bollant's first Illinois team? No one better to ask than beat writer Jeff Huth, who is all over both teams. He's chatting at 11 a.m. Friday but submit questions any time.


Jeff Huth (moderator) — 11:03 AM on Fri, 11/16/2012

Hi, we'll get the weekly chat going now. I see there already are a number of questions. As always, we appreciate the interest.

Jeff Huth

Palatine — 11:04 AM on Fri, 11/16/2012

Hello Jeff!

I am curious, with 6 letters of intent signed this week for women's basketball and only two seniors currently on the team, are some of the current roster non-scholarship players?  If so, which one's are non-scholarship players?

Jeff Huth (moderator) — 11:16 AM on Fri, 11/16/2012


Here are some of the basics on scholarships in women's basketball, and then we'll get into Illinois' situation.

NCAA Division I women's basketball teams are allowed a maximum of 15 scholarships. The Illini will lose two scholarship seniors after this season: Karisma Penn and Adrienne GodBold. GodBold currently is academically ineligible, but the Illini coaching staff is hopeful she will be cleared to play after the first semester.

With those subtractions but the six recruiting additions, Illinois currently projects 14 players on scholarship next season, so the Illni still would have one available. Matt Bollant said Wednesday at his Signing Day press conference that he could offer that remaining scholarship for next season or he could hold it back for a Class of 2014 recruit. He'll just wait to see how things develop.

Among the current players, walk-on Eriel Davis is not on scholarship. Junior college transfer Cassie Dumoulin is receiving a scholarship this academic year, but it's my understanding that is not guaranteed beyond that.


BRucks — 11:16 AM on Fri, 11/16/2012

2014 looks like a fantastic year for prep volleyball talent in the state of Illinois.  To date, seven Big Ten teams have commitments from nine of those preps.  None of those commitments have been to Illiinois.  Are we looking elsewhere for recruits or are we just getting beat for instate talent?

Jeff Huth (moderator) — 11:34 AM on Fri, 11/16/2012


As things currently stand, Illinois has one scholarship available for the Class of 2014. The Illini lost out on their top target, Azariah Stahl of Elkhart, Ind., when the outside hitter decided to stay in her state and committed to Purdue.

The Illini also were very much interested in outside hitter Ali Frantti of Richmond-Burton, but they lost out on her to Penn State.

There has been speculation that the Illini were strongly recruiting outside hitter Adeja Lambert of Rockford Keith Country Day, who ended up committing to Michigan. However, it's my understanding that after Illinois was unable to land either Stahl or Frantti, it re-evaluated it's situation, and Lambert wasn't persued.

Hambly recently told me: "We're not going to take a kid that we don't feel like can help us. ... The '15 Class is a strong class and we may just move (the 2014 scholarship) to '15."

Hambly also raised the possibility that the scholarship could go to a transfer. As Illini fans know, transfers like Colleen Ward and Annie Luhrsen have been a significant source of talent for the Illini in recent seasons. It's not Hambly's preferred route, but he is open to adding a transfer if it's the right fit for both sides.

"We'll wait around and see if there's transfer situations that make sense," he said. "I'm not opposed to it, but I'd much rather get a young kid and train (her)."

BRucks — 11:35 AM on Fri, 11/16/2012

Why was Karisma Penn wearing number 0 at the Evansville game, rather than 00?

Jeff Huth (moderator) — 11:43 AM on Fri, 11/16/2012


Is it possible your eyes deceived you? I did not notice that, but I checked with the team's sports information contact, Mike Koon, to ask him. He said Penn wore her usual 00 against Evansville.

Illinois does have a player, Sarah Hartwell, who is assigned number 0. However, the newcomer from Georgia Tech is sitting out this season under NCAA transfer rules and doesn't dress in uniform for games.

Koon also told me that the NCAA does not allow a team to assign the numbers 0 and 00 in the same season. I assume the reason is to avoid potential confusion in identifying players during a game, particularly for the folks who keep the statistics.

Because Penn is a senior and won't be on next season's team, it will be within NCAA rules for Hartwell to wear number 0, which she specifically asked for when she arrived on campus.

Palatine — 11:43 AM on Fri, 11/16/2012

Jeff - What happened to the women's basketball team last night?  I was expecting a lot better showing.  What are the biggest concerns that Matt Bollant needs to correct before the Cleveland State game?

Jeff Huth (moderator) — 11:57 AM on Fri, 11/16/2012


Not a good performance by the Illini. Considering the long wait the media had after the game to interview Matt Bollant, I suspect he had plenty to say to his team afterward.

I think some credit needs to be given to Bradley, too. Their first-half shooting was remarkable: 62.1 percent overall and 7 of 8 on three-pointers. The Illini were fortunate to trail by only five points at halftime. And Bradley ability to pass the ball and hit the open player really stretched the Illiini defense at times.

Bollant emphasized afterward that his team wasn't nearly as aggressive on defense or on the boards as he expects and demands. He pointed specifically to Bradley's 16 offensive rebounds (the Braves outrebounded Illinois 40-37) and the 24-8 advantage the Braves had in free throw attempts. Teams that attack the basket get to the line.

Illinois also shot extremely poorly from long range, going 3 of 24 on three-pointers. The Illini had so much success inside the arc (59.3 percent shooting) that as the game progressed, the number of three-point attempts the Illini were lofting raised a lot of eyebrows. That's the one comment I heard more than any other after the game.

Looking ahead, I suspect this will be a much more active Illini team against Cleveland State.

For Bollant and his staff, this is one of those teaching situations, too. This group of players appears highly receptive to the first-year Illini coach and his staff, so that's a good thing in the wake of Thursday's performance.

Dan Bloeme — 11:57 AM on Fri, 11/16/2012


So Matt Bollant is "shocked" is he? Shocked that "We didn't come with a lot of aggression and a lot of fight" in his own words. Shocked that Bradley had 16 offensive rebounds and many more foul shots than Illini. While Bradley was more aggressive and earned free throws, Illini were satisfied to take 24 three point shots even though most were rushed or poor shots and Illinois only made 3 of the 24 they took. 

I was really impressed with the job Bradley Coach Mike Brooks did getting his team ready to play Illinois and the effort his team gave. Seems Bradley led the whole game and never caved in from the Illini pressure. In fact Bradley made many layups after breaking Illini press. Seems Bradley just played smarter overall than Illinois. That's my synopsis.

What changes if any will Coach Bollant undertake or do Illini just need more time to jell under his system and develop new habits?



Jeff Huth (moderator) — 12:06 PM on Fri, 11/16/2012


We addressed several of your points in a previous question, and I don't disagree with any of your thoughts. Ever thought of becoming a sports columnist or blogger?

You should have seen Mike Brooks at the postgame press conference. He was absolutely beaming. These games against Illinois for the in-state schools are a BIG DEAL. Illini players need to understand that. The Bradley team that barely won against Eastern Illinois on Monday and the Bradley team that entered the Assembly Hall on Thursday seemingly bore little resemblance to each other.

Looking forward, certainly Bollant believes in his system, which has been so successful elsewhere. And this was just one game. Bollant and his staff will address the shortcomings as they come up. The key will be execution and developing consistency. If this Illini team can do that, performances like Thursday's shouldn't be too frequent.

Lucy Lou — 12:07 PM on Fri, 11/16/2012

Mr Huth,

I am so over this most disappointing volleyball season, please tell me the end is near.

Tell us why next season looks like Illinois may contend nationally again? What big changes are on the horizon? Will the players be more aggressive and become more talented by fall?

Jeff Huth (moderator) — 12:23 PM on Fri, 11/16/2012

Lucy Lou:

Kevin Hambly has said a number of times this season that the team's youth and inexperience at this level explains a lot. The Big Ten can be a very unforgiving conference, and there are a number of teams in the conference with veteran-loaded lineups. Hambly very much likes the talent on his team and, as it matures, he expects Illinois to again become a national force.

The spring training period will be an important time for this team, especially with Alexis Viliunas taking the full-time reins at setter. It will be interesting to see, too, if Liz McMahon remains on the left side or returns to the right. That might depend on whether incoming freshman Michelle Strizak of Cincinnati pushes her way into the lineup. Hambly is very high on the 6-foot-1 outside hitter.

Your disappointment is understandable, especially after last season's remarkable run to the NCAA title match. Illini fans are eager to learn whether this was just a blip in the Illini's rapidly rising arc since coach Don Hardin's last year at the helm or if there is more to the weaknesses Illinois displayed at times this season.

One thing I would advise is to look at how the Illini, in general, have been competitive. All those five-set losses damaged the record. Maybe, as Hambly says, a more experienced team handles those situations better. Next year's team will be more experienced.

Anonymous User — 12:23 PM on Fri, 11/16/2012

Did it surprise you that Coach H mentioned, or alluded to, the possibility of two recruits becoming first team All Americans? Is that to take the focus off of this years teams performance? Or why would he place those expectations on high school kids?  I just havent heard of a coach talking like that about recruits before...

Jeff Huth (moderator) — 12:31 PM on Fri, 11/16/2012

Anonymous User:

I don't think his comments were any attempt to take the focus off this season. Wednesday was the first day Hambly could speak publicly about his latest recruiting class, and what you heard from the coach was a lot of pride in this group.

Regarding placing such expectations on players like Michelle Strizak and Katie Stadick, I suspect it depends on how the players took Hambly's comments. They might have been pleased that he thinks so highly of them and has such confidence in their future at this level. I know I would.

If neither rises to that level during their Illini careers, then you can call Hambly on his enthusiastic comments. We'll just have to wait and see how that plays out.

Jeff Huth (moderator) — 12:31 PM on Fri, 11/16/2012

We'll wrap up the chat now. Thanks for your interest and talk to you next week.

Jeff Huth