Illinois basketball beat writer Marcus Jackson takes your questions at 12:30 p.m. Wednesdays. Submit them any time.
Good afternoon and thanks for taking the time to participate in another Illinois basketball chat. Hard to believe that this is the last one before practice begins for the 2013-14 season. Hope you had some time to read about Kendrick Nunn and Jon Ekey over the weekend. I think you all will enjoy those guys and getting to know them over the course of the season. I'll be here for about an hour or so taking your questions.
Yes, Marcus, there are Illini fans in Canada. Already planning to come to the games with Ohio State football and Bradley basketball.
Sorry Wiggins or Rathan-Mayes didn't select U of I, but more young basketball studs from Canada are coming in their trail like Montaque Gill-Caesar whom Groce is tracking.
Do you share my view that all the tweeting between Cliff Alexander and JaQuan Lyle about playing together is just Cliff having fun and trying to generate more attention in twitter space. Other factors will determine which school he selects. Why would he hitch his wagon to a school just because another player whom he’s played with only a couple of times decides to go there? The other schools which he visits, especially Illinois, also will have great players whom he knows.
That said, for Illinois to get a commit from Alexander, it's critical that he remains uncommitted up to the time he arrives at U of I for his official visit. Two reasons to think he will stay uncommitted till then. First, I read that Cliff has acknowledged that his mother, Latillia, really wants him to play close to home, at a school in Illinois. To honour his mom, I think Alexander will not commit until after he’s given Illinois a chance to impress him.
Second reason for hope: we saw the effect of Groce’s siren call when Black and Snider visited Illinois. Game over! They cancelled visits to other schools and committed to Illinois within a very few hours or days. Since Illinois will be Cliff’s last official visit, we can expect that Groce will pull out all the stops in order to erase Cliff’s fond memories of the other campuses and programs which he visited. Add to that his mother’s preference for an in-state school, and that he's surely not going to pick DePaul, we have good reason to think that he will decide in favour of U of I. Mom’s gentle encouragement and the wooing of Groce will win the day, over the enticing thoughts of spending a year with his girlfriend (enrolled at Kansas) and the blandishments of Bill.
What say you, Marcus?
I'm going to be honest, not sure I was able to read and comprehend all that, but I appreciate you sharing your inner-most thoughts.
Sounds like basketball in Canada is making some strides. There's a good chance the top pick in consecutive NBA drafts will be Canadians with Anthony Bennett going No. 1 last year and Wiggins a favorite to go No. 1 next year.
I think Cliff is having a lot of fun with the process and he's really enjoying the attention. Others handle their situations differently, but you can't blame a 17-year-old who has a nation hanging on his every tweet. I think there's genuine interest in both Alexander and Lyle playing together, but ultimately, they're going to have to do what's best for themselves individually.
Cliff likely won't commit anywhere until he makes all his visits. He's targeting a mid-December date to make his decision. It is very much an advantage for Illinois to go last in terms of visits, but that doesn't guarantee anything.
What 2015 recruits do you think we have the best chances with?
Any update on Air Bertand? Such a talented guy, hoping for a great senior season for him!
It's hard to get a real read on most of those guys right now because it's so early in the process, but one guy who comes to mind immediately is Aaron Jordan. He seems genuinely excited every time he interacts with the Illinois team and staff and though his profile is rising rapidly this fall, Illinois is in excellent shape with hm early. And Charles Matthews recently included Illinois in his top 10.
Bertrand is healthy and back in the full swing of things with the team. Saw him last week after conditioning and he had a smile on his face, despite having recently run the dreaded 17s. That's a conditioning drill where players run the width of the floor 17 times for time.
Despite Illinois being in Cliff Alexander's top six, it still seems they're a long shot in landing him. Especially with him and Lyle wanting to play together. So what do you think Groces plan will be on Alexander's official, what will he try and do to convince him Illinois is the place for him.
With a guy like Cliff, he's got to be sold on the chance to become one of the all-time legends, not necessarily for the contribution he'll have on the program over a number of years, but coming in for a year or two and returning the program to national prominence. With the players already in place, Cliff can have that kind of impact at Illinois. He will always be a beloved figure here if he's able to come in and have the type of impact most people think he can have. That's got to mean somehting to him. The biggest thing with this staff is their ability to build relationships and make the players and their families feel like this is a place they can grow as players an dpeople during theirtime here.
To the best of my knowledge, Bruce Weber has achieved every requirement to have a banner lifted in the Assembly Hall right alongside the other four coaches who have been so honored. Any idea when this honor will be bestowed upon him?
You're almost right: Weber won better than 65 percent of his games, won a Big Ten title and went to a Final Four and was here for more than eight years. But he's still an active coach and for a coach to be honored with a banner at Illinois, he has to be inactive. So, as long as Weber is coaching, he won't have a banner raised. I'm sure it will happen one day. The further removed you get from his tenure, the more impressive his accomplishments will look. In my opinion, he definitely deserves it.
I keep thinking about how perfect it would be for Starks to play this year. With so many new players it would be nice to have a veteran like Starks to help out Abrams in the backcourt. He would also bring some needed shooting and playmaking. How often do hardship waivers get approved by the NCAA?
That's a great point. So many fans want Starks to be approved to play this year simply so it frees up a scholarship for the 2014 class. The most important thing with regards to Starks' status is his ability to help this team now. He was dynamite late this summer and remains such now in the workouts. He can handle it and he's really comfortable in a ball-screen offense. He can get to the basket off it, make a pass or shoot it. He would make this team instantly better and the chances of getting back to the NCAA tournament with him in the fold this year would increase so much. I don't know the numbers or stats on how often waivers are approved. It's an inexact NCAA science.
When are the people that are "supposedly knowledgeable" about college basketball going to come to their senses and elect Lou Henson to the Basketball Hall of Fame?
I really hope they do some day. I think there was another vote recently and Lou didn't get in. Loren Tate raised an interesting point when we had Coach Henson on our show the other night, the powers that be aren't putting enough weight toward what Coach henson did when he was at New Mexico State. That, plus his success at Illinois are enough. Hopefully they come to their senses soon while Coach is still here to enjoy it.
If there are no more schoralships available for next year, how do you recruit/attract the likes of Cliff Alexander and JaQuan Lyle?
Illinois is not recruiting JaQuan Lyle, just Cliff Alexander. You recruit a top player in the country like Alexander and figure everything else out later. I've said over and over, I don't know what's going to happen should Alexander choose Illinois, but I think people worry way too much about that.
Who Do U poroject to be our starting power forward when the season begins? Colbert or ekey. Ekey provides a better outside shot and expereience. But colbert seems to have alot of talent as well.
Right now it's Ekey. He's great in pick-and-pop situations and he's got a firm grasp of the system. He ran a very similar style at Illinois State under Tim Jankovic. He can defend and rebound well, too. Colbert is going to play and he'sa guy who's role likely will increase as the season goes on the more he plays. He's got a great motor and runs the floor well. The coaches like that.
If Starks doesn't get to play this year and Alexander commits to Illinois, who do you think would be the first man out in the 14-15 season whether by choice or by coaxing from the staff?
No idea, it's way too early to start predicting those things or that anyone would even necessarily leave the program. There's still an entire season to play and so much can unfold over the couse of 30-plus games.
I noticed that Alexander has not planned a trip to Michigan State yet; however, they are being labeled as one of the front runners. Do you see MSU as Alexander's last stop before committing or do you think UI will be the freshest visit on his mind come his announcement in December?
You're right, he doesn't have an official visit planned there, but he's been there before and he can take an unofficial there if he chooses to do so. They've been one of the frontrunners for a long time along with Kansas and Illinois, so MSU is very much a serious contender. I'm sure he will take a visit there before he makes a decision.
A little off topic, but how do you see Maverick Morgan used this year? He is a big body that the Illini lacked last year, but does he have a decent upside?
There's nothing off topic when it comes to talking about a current player. Maverick, like the other freshmen, will see the floor. He's chaned his body quite a bit already and he's still got a ways to go, but his progress has been promising. He'll backup Nnanna Egwu at the 5 and is one of those guys who will just have to get better the more he plays. His role will likely to come in and add some toughness, defend in the post and grab some rebounds. Anything he gives you offensively at this point would be seen as a bonus. I think he'll be a very solid player as he progresses in his career. There's some potential there.
What players would be "creaned" to make room for Lyle & Alexander? thx
No one is getting creaned and Lyle isn't coming here. If Alexander commits, I don't know what's going to happen, a long way to go before that becomes an issue.
What are Illinois' chances with Carlton Bragg?
Has Ahmad's transfer been approved?
Illinois made an early impression with Bragg and though he's going to be courted with the same type of intensity as Cliff Alexander, I think Illinois will be a serious player for much of his recruitment. A lot of recruiting experts have felt for a long time that Ohio State might be the program to beat there, but this one will go on for a while. The Illinois coaching staff have known on to Bragg since before they arrived here.
No news still on Ahmad Starks.
It's hard to look at a rotation before practice starts, but just for kicks....
What freshman made the biggest case this summer to have a role in the rotation for this season? I would assume that the experienced newcomers and returnees from last year would have an advantage to seeing minutes early. Based on players that are assumed to be in the core of the rotation (Abrams, Egwu, Bertrand, Rice, Ekey, Starks(?)), who would you expect to see in that next group of players that should see minutes?
Also, is all the love for Darius Paul and Cosby overblown since they can't play for another year? I seem to hear a lot of chatter about how good they have looked, especially Paul.
Highway to the Carlos Danger Zone
Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hil will figure prominently into the rotation and Austin Colbert should be right there with them. With the backcourt so loaded, I don't see Tate playing as much as those guys, but he'll be needed to spell guys at times and Maverick Morgan will get some minutes behind Nnanna. But expect to see a lot of Nunn, Hill and Colbert.
Not sure what to make of the second question about the love for Cosby and Paul being overblown. Cosby missed a good portion of the summer after having hernia surgery, but when he's bene out there, he's been really good. He started two years in the Big East and put up good numbers, so that's not surprising. Even though those guys can't play this year, they'll be important with their effort in practice, giving the eligible guys some resistance in practice daily.
Looks like that's going to do it for today. Thanks for all the questions and thanks for taking the time to stop by. Remember, the Illini Street Jam is this Saturday night and Aaron Jordan, Michael FInke, Leron Black and Quentin Snider are expected to be there. I'll be there, should be a fun event.