Each Wednesday, basketball beat writer Marcus Jackson takes your questions. Submit them early to better your chances of a response.
Hello and thanks for coming by for another Illinois basketball chat. A lot has happened in the last week with a couple of big-time visitors over the weekend. I'll be here for about an hour or so answering your questions.
Since Jerrance went to KU, it jogged my memory about a question I've had for awhile.
Never made sense to me that Groce didn't bring Jerrance on board. The third assistant he hired was a guy he barely knew and who left us for Marquette weeks after he was hired, therefore unlikely had a relationship with Groce previously. Why wouldn't he have taken Jerrance? Do you think it was a way for Howard to get paid out for the year, because he didn't want to stay?
Groce and Jerrance sat down shortly after he was hired. At the time there were a group of folks who felt since the search went on for so long that Jerrance should be named the head coach. The freshmen class even went to social media to express that desire, too. With all that going on, it was best for all involved to have a fresh start so that there wouldn't be any cliques forming withing the team. For example, Player A takes issue with something and decides to confide in Jerrance. It made sense for Groce to want to avoid any such issues and it made sense for Jerrance to leave Illinois and build his resume under Larry Brown and now Bill Self.
What are you hearing about where Brandon will be drafted Thursday night
Most of the major mock drafts online on't have Brandon among the 60 players who will be selected Thursday. Kris Habbas at NBA Draft Insider has BP going 39th to Portland. Portland is one team that has shown some interest in Brandon and certainly they've received a glowing report about BP as a person adn teammate from Meyers Leonard. That will help. He's worked out for the Bulls twice, so there is definitely interest from the hometown club and Philadelphia called Monday and asked for Brandon to fly out Tuesday for a workout. They've got interest in him, too. In all, he's worked out for 13 NBA clubs. It takes one to like him. If he is selected, it won't be until later in the second round, more than likely.
How did the visits last weekend go for the big men on campus ?
How did the Alexander and Carleton Bragg visit go? It was storming pretty bad on Saturday, hope that didn't negatively affect anything. Also could you tell us more about Christian Williams? Just heard that he's getting interest from Illinois and Iowa.
Like all reports after visits, it sounds as though everything went well. Each player spent time wth the coaching staff and the current players. I believe Nnanna Egwu was one of the point guys with Bragg and the Chicago freshman were a part of Alexander's visit. The weather was not and will not be an issue. I know Carlton Bragg really enjoyed meeting with Mike Thomas. The Illinois AD spent some time in Bragg's part of Ohio, so that helps. Cliff Alexander really likes what the Illinois coaching staff has done in a short time. As it stands right now, Illinois is going to have to win battles with elite players like Bragg and Alexander with its people and building relationships. Those guys are being recruited by the best of the best and at the moment, Illinois isn't going to blow them away with facilities. That will change in the coming years, but it's a reality right now. Kids like flashy, fancy things.
Christian Williams is a 6-4 guard, very athletic, likes to attack the basket. He's still developing. He was impressive at the team camp a couple of weeks ago. He's received interest from Missouri Valley programs, most notably Wichita State. And programs from the larger conferences are staring to take note of him.
Will brandon Paul b drafted? How have his workouts gone? Any specifics from Alexander and Braggs visits?
Sounds like Big Cliff is goin to Kansas Midnight Madness. That is not good news at all for us Illini fans. It would be his second visit there. What are your thoughts?
Kansas will be a major player in Cliff's recruitment. The Jayhawks will be a major factor in just about any player they're going after, that's just the way it is. He'll likely take an official visit to Lawrence and it sounds like he's looking at taking an official to Arizona. It will be tough to get him, but Illinois has done everything it can to this point and they'll remain in the hunt.
This past weekend Alexander and Bragg came for unofficial visits. Could you explain the difference between an official and an unofficial visit? Thanks
Players can take as many unofficial visits to campuses as they wish. They're allowed only five official visits and those can't happen until classes begin for their senior year of high school.
Unofficial visits are done on the recruit and his family's own dime, institutions cannot pay for travel expenses or lodging. The only thing you can receive from the school is three tickets to a game during the visit.
Official visits are completely paid for by the schools, but all test scores and transcripts must be sent to the school prior to the visit.
Where in the process is the Starks waiver? Any positive/negative feedback from the Bragg and Alexander visits this past weekend?
The waiver process started almost two weeks ago and we won't know anything for at least another month. Everything has been turned in adn is now in the hands of the NCAA. I ran into Starks over at Ubben last week. Great kid, says he's real excited to be here. His dad was on his way to campus that day to drop off Ahmad's car. He loves that his family is so close now.
All feedback has been positive. It was an exciting weekend for the basketball staff.
What should we expect from Egwu this season? Obviously his motor will continue to be good, but I've heard more about him working on his shooting going away from the hoop- expanding his range all the way to the 3?- as opposed to developing his post-game. Is he developing into a stretch 4, or will we see him turn into more of a traditional, or face-up, 5?
Yes, he's working on extending his range while continuing to develop his low-post offense. The understanding is he won't be a dominant low-post scorer, but his strength is in his ability to knock down jumpers. They want to maintain confidence with his jumper. He lost that during stretches last season. Nnanna's ability to step out and knock down jumpers will open the driving lanes for Bertrand, Rice, Abrams, etc. He'll add to his low-post arsenal, but it won't be a featured part of his game. Defensively, he's continues to make strides and we saw that development during the NCAA tournament.
Why aren't more big men in 14 and 15 committed to Illinois yet
with the quality if guards we will have only a big man or two away from being very good
reminds me of when dee and deron were on campus in that would think more big men would say yes to coming here
Well, the big men they're going after (Alexander, Black) are two of the more heavily recruited players in their class, so it's going to be a while. Everyone recruiting them has a great group of guards, so it isn't just Illinois. Remember, you've got Darius Paul in the fold already for '14-15. Finding a good big man is the priority right now.
Do you think we will see any time for LaTulip this season? We keep talking about the contributions of freshmen- I assume we both agree we will see minutes for all of our freshmen- but do you think LaTulip could cement a few minutes (3-5?) as a 3pt specialist and an energy player? I don't have tons of faith in our 3pt abilities, especially with a potentially waiver-less Starks and a questionable Ekey, so I'm curious if you believe in the possibility of LaTulip coming in just to run around and maybe pop a few 3's. I think our slashing game will be fine, but a general analysis of our 3pt threats would be great, as I don't know what we ought to expect from Bertrand/Rice/TA/Nunn/Hill/ and even Egwu.
It's possible Mike could get a few minutes here and there. He did early last season, but the times he got in there later and during Big Ten play didn't work out so well. He's going through all the summer workouts just like the rest of the guys, so it's possible he will improve just as they are expected to. Shooting is a priority this summer with all the guys you mentioned, so I would expect they will knock down some long-range shots. Jon Ekey will be the go-to guy in the regard. If Mike LaTulip can help you, that's big-time, but I wouldn't count on it at this point.
Will Darius Paul get to go back to Gurnee to watch the draft with Brandon? On that note, what are the latest rumors you've heard? I know the Bulls worked him out twice and Portland seems to like him. Any new suitors?
Also, how did you celebrate the Hawks cup victory? I bet the Esquire was bumpin'!
Yes. Brandon told me yesterday that he's going to have a small gathering of close family and friends at home to watch the draft, nothing huge. Philadelphia is the latest suitor, the 76ers flew him out yesterday for a workout.
I celebrated by nearly knocking my TV off the wall after the Dave Bolland goal and then I enjoyed a few drinks with some friends downtown. It was a nice little pub crawl. I'll be at the parade Friday.
NBA draft question....who goes first in tomorrow nights NBA draft Jackie Carmichael or Brandon Paul? I'm going with Jackie Carmichael and think he'll have a long nba career. Also who is the first B10 player out of the green room.
I would go with Jackie Carmichael. His name is on just about every mock draft out there by the guys who follow the NBA process very closely. I think Victor Oladipo will be the first Big Ten guy gone followed by Trey Burke.
Are we looking at any point guards in the 2014 class? It seems like plan A fell by the wayside, but there is talent out there in guys like Larry Austin and Marcus Bartley that are local and would consider us.
At the moment, no. The priority with JaQuan Lyle out of the mix is the get a big man and with the scholarhship situation the way it is right now, they're zeroing in on bigs. Larry continues to be on the radar.
I've got a couple of phone calls coming in, so I've got to get going. Thanks again for all the questions. Email if something was unclear or if you have anything further.