May 1 MJ college basketball chat

May 1 MJ college basketball chat

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 - 12:30pm

College basketball beat writer Marcus Jackson chats at 12:30 p.m. Wednesdays. Ask him anything about everything and he'll be sure to respond.

Marcus Jackson wrote on May 01, 2013 at 12:05 pm
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Good afternoon and that for stopping by for another Illinois basketball chat. We've got a lot of question today and I'm surprised because it's so nice outside. The pool at the ARC today was busy, I'm guessing most of you here today weren't out there.

Big week for Illinois basketball. The Assembly Hall project moved forward with the State Farm Center branding (which so many of you are excited about), Ahmad Starks is coming for a visit tomorrow and Darius Paul will be here for a visit Friday. Not sure if that had been out there yet, but Brandon's younger (can't call him little) brother will be visiting the campus this weekend. There's plenty going on in regards to this program.

I'll go ahead and jump right into it.

Myke Henry's Future Agent wrote on May 01, 2013 at 12:05 pm


I'm a Huge Myke Henry fan, the dude can fill it up and has a huge nose for getting the ball on the offensive glass.  His handle needs to improve and his defense has improved greatly.  My question is do you see him averaging 30 minutes 12 points and 7 rebounds like I do, or does Ekkey and Colbert take some of his minutes and I'll be watching him with his warmup on too much like last year?  Can he get any minutes at the 3 in the next two years?

Marcus Jackson wrote on May 01, 2013 at 12:05 pm
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You make some good observations about Myke's handle and his defensive improvement. Myke has the ability to post those numbers, remember the performance at Michigan State. He was terrific and active on both ends that night. The key for Myke is to display that motor on a nightly basis and that's been one of the main talking points with him from the coaches. He has to play with energy 100 percent of the time. With Ekey and Colbert both expected to contribute, 30 minutes a night won't happen, but if they're all able to spell one another, Myke might be better off as he can play hard for spurts, get a break and come back in fresh. I think having those two guys in the fold at similar positions is a good thing for Myke's development. it will push him.

Roach wrote on May 01, 2013 at 12:05 pm

On one of your WDWS appearances last week in discussing the futures of the now departing seniors you mention that Tyler might try to play overseas because "a guy that can shoot like Tlyer can have a nice long career" (or words to that effect). Corey Bradford he's not.  I find it interesting that you would describe Tyler as a good shooter.  (Shooter maybe, maker, not so much.)  After watching him over the course of his career at Illinois there has always been this unrealized potential.  Why is it that people would still consider him a shooter.  Is it becasue he's a nice kid,  tries hard and looks good in practice, or do you really think that someday he might break the code and truely become a consistent, volume "maker" during games.

Marcus Jackson wrote on May 01, 2013 at 12:05 pm
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Thanks for listening. I understand where you're coming from. I guess when I talk about Tyler Griffey as a shooter, I'm thinking more than just games. I've seen him shoot probably 100 times before games and before the doors of the arenas open and the kid never misses. So when I talk about how great a shooter I think he is, I factor that in as well. Obviously when it comes to playing professional basketball, the thing that matters most is how you perform when the lights are on. In the right situation, I think Tyler could be a dangerous guy on a team because if all he's asked to do is come in and make a few jumpers, I think he could be successful. When he's on during games, like he was in the NCAA tournament, he's a big-time luxury to have.

Alexander the Great wrote on May 01, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Hey MJ,

Is Ekey going to be the only 5th year senior to transfer to Illinois this year? No power forwards could be convinced to come?

With the Cosby transfer and now 5'9" Starks visiting, it looks like Groce is giving in on recruiting any of the 5* 2014 talent and taking easier but less heralded pickings instead. Illinois needs elite players like Cliff Alexander and Jaquan Lyle to become elite themselves and compete for a Big Ten and national championship. It concerns me Groce may be undershooting or underachieving in recruiting the 2014 class.


Marcus Jackson wrote on May 01, 2013 at 12:05 pm
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Fifth-year guys, yes, Ekey will likely be the only one. The only power forward they really considered was Josh Davis from Tulane and it seems his pool of schools changes each week. He's still undecided, but Illinois is not in the running there.

I wouldn't say they'e giving in at all. When there's the opportunity to fill a need and add a player you feel is good and can help your program, you do it. They're still recruiting the 2014 guys, I wouldn't classify it as giving up at all. Trying to win now as well as building roster balance for the future is the focus.

Jared wrote on May 01, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Do you think the State Farm center will help with recruiting?

Marcus Jackson wrote on May 01, 2013 at 12:05 pm
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The renovated State Farm Center will absolutely help in recruiting. Kids want to play in fancy arenas with all kinds of bells and whistles. The Assembly Hall/State Farm Center is outdated and coaches use that against Illinois in recruiting. I talked to John Groce earlier this year about facilities and the impact on recruiting:

"It’s a huge affect. Facilities, there’s an arms race, you’re trying to keep up with the Joneses. We want our building to be, if we have aspirations of our program being among the best in the country consistently, then we’ve got to shore up some areas and one of those areas is facilities," Groce told me.

A rendering of what the facility will look like after the renovation is displayed prominently in Groce's office at Ubben and they make a point to show that to recruits.

Illini in Longhorn Land wrote on May 01, 2013 at 12:05 pm


I saw that Ahmad Starks was considering transferring to the Illini, and would request a medical hardship waiver so he could be immediately eligible.  I have also read that the NCAA requires the student-athlete to transfer to a school within 100 miles of his family's home. When I went to U of I, it was 110 miles from my house in Calumet City to my apartment on 1st and Springfield, and Calumet City is clearly closer than Chicago.  Does the NCAA have a history of extending that 100 mile radius if it is in the best interest of the student-athlete, or are we getting excited for something that just can't happen per NCAA rules? I ask this, because I would like to see Ahmad Starks in O&B next year.

Mr. Cub wrote on May 01, 2013 at 12:05 pm

According to the ESPN article, to get an NCAA waiver for Starks' grandmother's health, the school has to be within 100 miles of grandma. The last time I checked, both Urbana and Peoria were more than 10 miles from Chicago. If I am in the nursing home business in the south suburbs, should I be expecting a new patient soon?

Rich S. wrote on May 01, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Tell me about Ahmad Starks.  What is his potential elgibility for next season and beyond?  Does he get a waiver and when would he know that?  What are his stats and should we be excited about him potentially joining?

On a side note I'm starting to get more concerned about us getting Cosby as he is taking up some potential scholarships from players that have since opened up.


Anonymous User wrote on May 01, 2013 at 12:05 pm

I think Ahmad Starks could help us out at the point next year, but if he doesn't get a hardship waiver from the NCAA I don't think it's worth bringing him in to sit a year. What do you think? Does he have a good chance of not having to sit out?

Marcus Jackson wrote on May 01, 2013 at 12:05 pm
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The NCAA rule states that in order for a player to receive a waiver to play immediately, the immediate family member who is in poor health must be within 100 miles of the new school. Starks is considering both illinois and Bradley which are both more than 100 miles from the UI campus. I'm not sure what part of Chicago his grandmother is in, but she could be as close as 115 miles or so. The NCAA also states that if the family member is given a specific time to live, then that could potentially outweigh all other guidelines.

I don't know if he will get the waiver, but Illinois has done its homework on this and they wouldn't be going after him if they didn't feel there was a good chance of him being able to play immediately.My guess is that if he chooses Illinois, he'll get the waiver. Champaign is a heck of a lot closer than Corvallis, Ore. it's reasonably close enough where Starks could get home in short order. 

If he does end up at Illinois and eligible next year, he will help tremendously. Illinois needs ball-handlers and it will have one who played three years of major college hoops. Starks is efficient off ball screens whether it's knocking down a jumper or finding an open guy. He will certianly help and can share some knowledge with Abrams and Tate.

Marky wrote on May 01, 2013 at 12:05 pm

When do we expect that the 2013 recruits will be on campus and when are they able to start practicing?  My guess is they all play next year, so the sooner they can start the better.

Ryan P. wrote on May 01, 2013 at 12:05 pm

How soon are incoming freshman allowed on campus?  What are your thoughts on Tate.  Seems to have good handles and D. When do individual and team workouts start.  Finally, when does the final schedule come out for next season?Thanks.

Marcus Jackson wrote on May 01, 2013 at 1:05 pm
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Marky and Ryan P.,

The incoming freshmen will be making their way to campus some time in the second week of June and they'll begin classes on June 17, that's when workouts will start. Tate had a nice season at Simeon and there are some out there who think he might end up being a steal for the Illini. We'll have to wait and see on that, but I do expect him to get minutes. There will be an adjustment for him like all the new guys, but it helps tremendously that he'll get instruction from Jamall Walker throughout the summer to speed up his development. Walker did wonders with Brandon Paul and Tracy Abrams last season.

The Big Ten schedule is usually released some time in late August and the nonconference slate should be set by then, too.

Cameron wrote on May 01, 2013 at 1:05 pm

When do we expect the 2013-2014 schedule to come out?  Are there any tournaments that we could be participating in this year? 

What are the details of the contract we have with UIC to play them at the United Center?  I am not a fan of that going forward as that looks to be a losing proposition no matter how you look at it. 

If anything we should be playing some of the bigger state schools like SIU, NIU, etc. on a regular basis.

Marcus Jackson wrote on May 01, 2013 at 1:05 pm
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Illinois won't be participating in any tournaments this year, at least at last check that wasn't in the plans. The game at UNLV will likely be sometime around Thanksgiving when all those tournaments are taking place.

Illinois has to play UIC once every three years as part of its United Center deal, that's the contract and Illinois has been honoring that. 

Big Dave wrote on May 01, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Although I am probably in the minority, I am one who thinks that Illinois could surprise some people next year. Let's assume Ahmad Starks becomes an Illini and is eligible immediately, who is the logical starting five and top three reserves?

Marcus Jackson wrote on May 01, 2013 at 1:05 pm
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Big Dave,

We'll see how it all shakes out. Assuming Starks picks Illinois and gets the waiver, I think the starting five to begin the season would look something like this: Abrams, Rice, Bertrand, Ekey or Henry and Egwu with Starks, Nunn, Hill and Colbert playing big minutes and Maverick Morgan getting time at the 5. That will all play itself out once they get on the floor and working together. You could see a 10-man rotation depending on who's playing well.

Karl Shook wrote on May 01, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Hi Marcus,

People have been saying that the transfers that Illinois is getting aren't good enough for the Big Ten because of the schools they come from. I remember a transfer from Northern Illinois that helped the Illini go to the Final Four in !989. His name is Kenny Battle. I'm just saying players shouldn't be judged by the school they use to play for.

Marcus Jackson wrote on May 01, 2013 at 1:05 pm
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I actually thought about Battle the other day when I got an email from someone complaining about midmajor transfers. He worked out all right.

We don't know how any of these guys will fare, but the coaching staff seems to think the guys they've brought in are good fits, otherwise they wouldn't have considered them. I think Sam McLaurin worked out extremely well, though others would argue that his numbers weren't sexy enough. Everyone has a different role. Jack Ingram worked out real well, too, when he transferred from Tulsa.

Maybe Rice, Cosby and Ekey will be busts. We won't know until we see them play.

Ronny Woo Woo wrote on May 01, 2013 at 1:05 pm


Can you please tell us how the scholarship situation will work out if Groce takes both Starks and Paul? 

Especially for the 2013-14 season, where by all accounts, there is only one open scholarship left after the Cosby and Ekey commitments.

Also, how would potentially taking Starks and Paul influence the 2014 high school players being recruited? 

Marcus Jackson wrote on May 01, 2013 at 1:05 pm
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When do the Cubs play? Does it really matter, probably another loss, right? Apologies to Cubs fans.

I have no idea how it's going to work out. I don't think anyone does at this point. I know that Groce and Co.are going to continue pursuing players and plugging them in where they see fit, that includes the 2014 class that seems to have everyone's attention. 

I don't see either Starks or Paul affecting anything in terms of 2014 kids. Part of the recruiting pitch would be to assure the players in 2014 how they would fit if Player A or Player B was on the roster, too.

I can count too! wrote on May 01, 2013 at 1:05 pm



I know that HCJG likes to say that he can count when asked about scholarship offers and the number of scholarship available. When I look at the two players that are visiting on Thursday and Friday, I notice that there is a possiblity that both could eat up a scholarship for 2014 (Starks if he doesn't get a waiver).  As it is we have already given one of those scholarships to Cosby, and we have two remaining.  If one of the two vistors uses a scholarship for 2014 that will only leave us one for a loaded 2014 class in which we are going hard after three 5 star recruits.  Should I be reading the tea leaves and assume we aren't as well off as some may think with these top recruits?


I can count too!

Marcus Jackson wrote on May 01, 2013 at 1:05 pm
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I could tell you not to read too much into everything, but it probably wouldn't matter what I say. So much time is spent on scholarship numbers, but it rarely ends up being an issue. No one knows what the situation will be down the road, but judging by what I've seen so far from the staff, if a guy is out there and they think he can help them win games at some point, they're going to go after him. I know everyone is excited about the possibilities in the 2014 class, but when you're talking about the level of player Illinois is going after, landing just one of those guys would be huge, it's almost impossible to count on getting more than that.

I think Illinois is in pretty good shape with Alexander and Black, but you never know when dealing with 16- and 17-year-olds. Lyle might be tougher, but Illinois is a player there.

My advice is just relax a little bit and let's see what develops.

JC in Cali wrote on May 01, 2013 at 1:05 pm


I know it's way early, but based on your current info and insights, who would you list as the starters for next year, as well as the depth chart of backups behind them (including Starks if he signs and can play)? Thanks...

Marcus Jackson wrote on May 01, 2013 at 1:05 pm
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Hope you got what you needed from a previous answer.

Marcus Jackson wrote on May 01, 2013 at 1:05 pm
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That will do it for today, thanks again for all the questions and be sure to check in the next few days after the visits. 

Now, let's go outside and enjoy this great weather. Never know how long it is going to last.