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It's media day Wednesday. No better time to grill beat writer Marcus Jackson on the Illini. Submit questions of any kind at any time and MJ will answer during his weekly chat (pushed up to 11 a.m.)
Good morning and thanks for stopping by for an early edition of our Illinois basketball chat. We're going early today because the Illinois basketball programs are conducting media day this afternoon and I'll be there for that. I'll be here for about an hour taking your questions.
Thanks for your efforts to Illini hoops. My question is do you think this team has the shooters, and I don't consider any of them elite shooters, to be competitive night after night against the B1G's best teams? Toughness, physical play, and defense can make you able to compete, but you have to score against teams of similar ilk if they can score at a consistent pace both inside and out, like the OSU teams of recent years, IU the last couple, and MSU in most any year. Better yet, since this season is one of building for the future, who do you see developing into that kind of player in a year or two? That takes perimeter guys 6'3" or bigger who can rise and score from anywhere at any time. Hill may fit the bill, and I know nothing about Ekey, Can Hill, Nunn, Rice, Bertrand, or anyone for that matter, be counted upon to bury it from 15 to 25 ft. in the clutch? Guys like Deron, Head, Meacham come to mind, though Trent could be shut down by a big, quick, defender.
Are there elite shooters? That's debatable. I think Jon Ekey can fit into that category. He's been a 40-percent three-point shooter during his career. It's important to remember that I wouldn't call anyone on last year's team an elite shooter either, but for stretches, Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson and Tyler Griffey shot at a high level. Griffey led the team shooting just below 35 percent. Paul and Richadson were both about 32 percent and they made it work. Between Ekey, Rice, Abrams and Bertrand, this group is capable of threatning from the outside, though I wouldn't call it elite.
Rice is probably the most gifted in what you decsribed. He's worked on his outside shot for more than a year now, so we'll see if he's able to be a threat this season. Ekey as a stretch 4 can knock down shots. Malcolm Hill was an elite scorer in high school, but it's going to take him a while to get comfortable with the college game before we know if he'll develop into that at this level. I wouldn't count on that kind of production from him this season.
When in town for dads weekend did Coach Weber talk to Groce or anyone involved in the program
How important is it for Tate to learn the program and establish himself as a player this year with Snider coming in at the same position next year? Seems like your article recently said, he is the freshman that very few people talk about but plays a position that needs depth
My understanding is that he did not. He came into town quietly he night before, spent the day at Memorial Stadium with his daughter, maybe saw a few friends and was on his way back to Manhattan to continue practice with K-State.
It's important for Tate to establish himself and learn the system this season regardless of who's coming in behind him. It would be huge for this year's team if he's able to play quality minutes and that will only help things going forward. He's been good sa far, but he's still got to show that on a consistent basis. If he can develop into a solid option at point guard, that position appears to be set for the near future.
I was looking at the men's roster and it seems we only have two bigs (colbert and Morgan) to sub for Egwu and Ekey. Since they are freshman, if our starting bigs are in foul trouble, do you think Groce would release a "Run and Gun" offense with four guards to counter the oppositions advantage? You remember Loyola Maramount, correct? They were definitely entertaining!! Thanks!
Class doesn't matter much when you're dealing with a roster that only has 11 eligible players. Guys are going to play if they prove worthy of playing. Colbert and Morgan will get minutes as backups if the frontline guys get into foul trouble. You'll also see some creativity with the lineups, too. There will be opportunities to go small and use Bertrand at the 4. He did some of that last season. But if the other team has a good big man or two, you're going to need some size to give yourself a chance, no matter how fast you intend to play.
LMU highlights are entertaining, but I don't remember the ins and outs of what they did. I was like 6.
Looking ahead to 2015 and the excellent junior class, are the Illini targeting Charles Matthews as their top guy ? And how serious is Carlton Bragg on the Illini ?
I don't know that it's fair to label one guy as the top guy, but Charles Matthews is a priority for Illinois in that class, along with Aaron Jordan, Carlton Bragg, D.J. Williams, Jalen Brunson.
Illinois is still a serious player for Carlton Bragg. They were in to see him earlier in the week and so far he's built a good relationship with the staff. He's going to be a top-10 guy in his class and all the big boys are going to be after him. Kentucky was in to see him recently, too.
Marcus...What is the official date for basketball national signings..so is cliff making his decision before or after signing day...So, according to your colums it looks as if Jaylon Tate may have a significant role in this years team...that's very good to hear..I always felt he was a "sleeper"
The signing period opens Nov. 13 and players are able to sign from that date until Nov. 20. Cliff's announcement, as of this moment, is set for Nov. 16, so he can sign that day.
If Tate continues to improve and perform at the level he has so far, he'll help a bunch this season, but consistency is the key with him, as it is with the majority of freshmen. He'll backup Tracy Abrams at the 1.
I know the newcomers have only been on campus for a few months now, but any noticeable improvements in body-type and strength/conditioning for Malcolm Hill and Austin Colbert?? I remember Hill had some stomach issues before his Sr year at Belleville East that kept him from training for a while. I think they will have to contribute considerably this year if the Illini are to make any run as Big-10 contenders. The more muscle and size they put on before the season will do nothing but help them come conference play. Thanks
Colbert has gotten stronger since he arrived on campus, added a small amount of weight, but he's still very thin. He's not going to be a bruiser, at least not early in his career. He's built kind of like Mike Davis. Hill's issues were in the past and he told me last year that he recovered 100 percent from that in terms of his conditioning and strength. He's plenty big enough right now, but the key for him will be changing his body composition and that will come as his conditioning continues to improve. They're mixing conditioning with these early practices, so there's still a chance to make some strides in these next four weeks. Remember, these last two weeks and the next week used to be big conditioning times for college basketball programs.
How concerned should we be about Cliff Alexander qualifying - even if we get the verbal commitment?
I've been given no indication that getting Cliff into school would be an issue. We'll know more if he commits and we get closer to the date of arrival, but as of now, everything is a go.
Looks like that's all for today for our early chat. I'm headed over to Ubben later to hear from John Groce and the players, so look for some coverage of that later today and in tomorrow's paper. If you got here late (at the regular time) and had something you wanted to ask, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll get back to you.