Jan. 31 women's basketball chat

Jan. 31 women's basketball chat

Friday, January 31, 2014 - 11:00am

Ask beat writer Jeff Huth about the Illini's Thursday night performance at Ohio State.

Jeff Huth wrote on January 31, 2014 at 10:01 am
Profile Picture

Welcome to our weekly chat on Illini women's basketball. We'll get started in a few minutes.

-- Jeff Huth

BRucks wrote on January 31, 2014 at 11:01 am

Are either Cattenhead or Shakleford going to play this year or are both going to redshirt?  What's going on with Piper?

Jeff Huth wrote on January 31, 2014 at 11:01 am
Profile Picture

Kennedy Cattenhead and Mikaala Shackelford both are redshirting this season due to injuries. At a practice a few weeks ago at State Farm Center, Shackelford was very much involved, but it is so deep into the season that it makes more sense to apply for a medical redshirt than to play her and use up a season of eligbility. Both are true freshman, and Illini fans might be glad they are still available to play when each is a fifth-year senior.

I checked with the team's sports information director, Ben Taylor, this morning, on Piper's situation and he had no update on her status. We've reported that the issue is playing time, specifically her unhappiness with not playing as much as she would like. So far, Matt Bollant has not discussed any specifics about her status, other than  that she has been away from the team recently and that they had a meeting this week followed by what he termed "a discussion," which I interpreted to mean a conversation by phone.

KT wrote on January 31, 2014 at 11:01 am

Hi Jeff,

Nice to see the team get a couple B1G wins under their collective belt.  What do you think about Coach Bollant and how things have progressed so far? I understand that the Illini have weaknesses down low but besides Chatrice White (who is a great get) it doesn't look like we have many highly-rated recruits to help fill those and other holes in the lineup.  If you have opinions on the improvement of younger players and Coach Bollant's ability to scheme (i.e. the "Buzz") that would be great, too.  Go Illini

Jeff Huth wrote on January 31, 2014 at 11:01 am
Profile Picture

If White can make a quick impact as a freshman, it allows Matt Bollant to move Jacqui Grant from her current post position to her more natural position (at least at the college level) of power forward. The Illini currently don't have a true "4" and it has caused some defensive matchup problems. A pairing of White and Grant next season is a promising combination that could address some of the weaknesses to which you refer.

I would disagree with your statement about highly-rated recruits. Of course, it depends on your definition of highly-rated.

White is part of an incoming class that includes Amarah Coleman of Homewood-Flosmoore and Brooke Kissinger of Minden, Neb. Coleman is rated the No. 19 point guard and No. 81 overall player in the Class of 2014 by ESPN HoopGurlz. Kissinger, a shooting guard, is the No. 18 guard in her class by HoopGurlz.

Illinois also will add redshirt junior guard Kyley Simmons next season. The Council Bluffs, Iowa, native is sitting out this season per NCAA rules after transferring from Missouri, where she started 27 games as a sophomore and was picked to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team one season earlier.

When you add those three with Shackelford and Cattenhead, it's a pretty big infusion of players for next season.  And considering that Amber Moore is the only senior on the current team, there should be plenty of competition for playing time next season.

My opinion on the younger players is that Jacqui Grant has been a high-impact player on offense who needs to continue to make strides on defense. It will be interesting to see whether she makes it onto the Big Ten All-Freshman Team in a season when a remarkable number of freshmen in the conference are excelling.  It's been a slower go for the other Illini freshmen who aren't redshirting. If they don't make big jumps next season, that's a bad sign.

Anthony McCullum wrote on January 31, 2014 at 11:01 am

I've been watching this womens basketball team and the one thing I noticed is that they don't have the pesonnel or depth to run the coaches defensive system. Do you think he needs to adjust to the personnel he has.

Jeff Huth wrote on January 31, 2014 at 11:01 am
Profile Picture

After one of the Illini's recent games, Matt Bollant talked about playing more zone so I think he is open to making some adjustments.

However, I think he and associate head coach Mike Divilbiss, the architect of the Illini's "Buzz" defense, believe in and are committed to their defensive schemes and systems.

If they currently don't have the optimal personnel for it, the UI staff still needs to take a longer-view approach in this area. At this point, they only have one of their own recruiting classes in place and will welcome a second class next season. As Bollant and his staff get more of their own recruits into the program, it will be fairer to judge, I think, the effectiveness of the way they teach defense and the types of defenses that they choose to play.

Bill-e-bob wrote on January 31, 2014 at 11:01 am

Hi Jeff (Volleyball question),

Based on what you know of her as a former player and what you've been able to find out about her as a coach so far, can you give us some ideas about that to expect from the new hire, Hilary Haen??  Thanks. 

Jeff Huth wrote on January 31, 2014 at 11:01 am
Profile Picture

Hillary Haen played the game at a high level in college, and people outside the program recognized it. She was a third-team All-American as a senior and an honorable mention All-America the year before.

After leaving Illinois for the corporate world, she also got into coaching at the club and high school levels. In two seasons as head coach at Chillicothe Illinois Valley Central High School, her teams had great success.

With a background as a setter, Haen was a coach on the floor during her Illini career. That can only help her in the entry to college coaching. The fact that she does have club and prep coaching experience also should be of benefit.

And she's a "people person" -- which should help in her eventual role as the Illini's recruiting coordinator. Her most recent job at Caterpillar, Inc., in Peoria was in the human resources department.

With that backgound, I think she has the potential to be a terrific college coach. And in recruiting, as Haen put it so well, she will be selling a program and a head coach that she herself bought.

Perhaps the biggest challenge, which Haen herself acknowledged, will be to identify and assess the type of player head coach Kevin Hambly wants to bring into the program from a skills standpoint.


mattk61 wrote on January 31, 2014 at 11:01 am

Re: This morning's story about UI recruit Chatrice White, have you had a chance to see her play? What can you tell us about the qualities she'd bring to our team?

While we're at it, same question about the other recruits.

Jeff Huth wrote on January 31, 2014 at 12:01 pm
Profile Picture

I have not seen White or the other incoming recruits play. Those who have watched White indicate she is a strong post presence with the strength and size that you need in a physical Big Ten. Judging from her statistics, she also can score. The McDonald's All-American is much higher rated coming out of high school than current Illini freshman center Jacqui Grant was, and Grant certainly has made a significant impact in her first college year, so that's encouraging when you project what White might be able to do for the Illini next season.

Amarah Coleman seems to project as a combo guard in college. She's extremely athletic, which should help Illinois push the ball and also apply defensive pressure. Offensively, she is more of a slasher who will need to work on her shooting range.

Brooke Kissinger's calling card is her outside shot. Great range and, at least at the prep and club level, very accurate. With Illinois losing senior Amber Moore -- its best three-point shooter -- after this season, the Illini staff is hoping Kissinger can help fill some of the void that Moore's departure creates.

The Illini staff is very high on Missouri transfer Kyley Simmons, who is spending this season learning the team's system and pushing her teammates in practice while sitting out 2013-14 per NCAA transfer rules. The 5-7 guard has 63 college games and 58 college starts under her belt. A good distributor, a good shooter and someone who can play defense (she had 69 steals in two seasons at Missouri).


BruckJr wrote on January 31, 2014 at 12:01 pm

What happened to Jayme Gergen, the assistant volleyball coach? 

Jeff Huth wrote on January 31, 2014 at 12:01 pm
Profile Picture

Jayme Gergen was not retained after one season on the Illini volleyball staff. As you might imagine, Illini head coach Kevin Hambly isn't publicly commenting on specific reasons why she was let go. Coaches aren't going to bad-mouth or embarrass other coaches in a situation like this.

I don't know why she was let go, other than to speculate that Gergen didn't meet Hambly's expectations for her in the role and duties she had.

Her resume coming to the UI certainly was solid. She spent five seasons as an assistant at Virginia Tech, a period when that program produced its first two All-Americans ever.

Then Gergen spent three seasons on the staff at Ohio State, during which the Buckeyes reached the NCAA tournament every year and twice advanced to the Sweet 16. Gergen's Big Ten background coming to the UI seemingly was in her favor.

In a situation like this, Hambly bears responsibility, too, for making a hire that apparently he judged pretty quickly wasn't working out or meeting the program's needs. Just as Illini AD Mike Thomas ultimately will be judged on his hires in the major sports of football and men's basketball, coaches should be judged on decisions in putting a staff together.

Jeff Huth wrote on January 31, 2014 at 12:01 pm
Profile Picture

We've run out of questions, so we'll wrap this up.

We appreciate the interest. Talk to you next week.

-- Jeff Huth