April 9 college hoops chat

April 9 college hoops chat

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 12:30pm

Marcus Jackson listened to John Groce's season wrapup news conference on Tuesday. Here's your chance to ask him what Groce really was thinking. Submit questions any time.

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Good afternoon, I'm getting started a little early today and will go pretty quick. I've got to get over to Ubben this afternoon to get a couple of things done. Already a very busy college baskeball day. Woke up to the heartbreaking news about Lacey Holsworth's death, she's the little girl who became best friends with Michigan State's Adreian Payne and the entire MSU community. She was 8. And UMass guard Derrick Gordon announced he's gay, becoming the first active Division I men's college basketball player to do so. That was all before 10 a.m. I'll go ahead and get started with the chat.

Pogo wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm

With so many teams recruiting foreign players to fill needs, have you ever heard JG and staff show any willingness to look beyond the U. S. for players?  The Brimah kid along with two other Germans from UConn got me to thinking about it, but there have been many, especially bigs, over the years who have played well in college and the NBA.   

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm


I have not heard anything from the UI staff about recruiting foreign players. DOn't know that they're against it, but it's not something that has come up. I know they prefer to stay within about a six-hour radius to Champaign-Urbana, but certainly not opposed to going outside that. Perhaps it's something they'll look into in the future. I'll ask them about it some time.

dc1 wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm

I saw you excluded Illinois from your top ten for next year (not that I expected them to be that high). As long as we're playing way early ranking games,do you have the Illini in your preseason Top 25, if so, where?

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm


I only went to 10, but if I had a Top 25, Illinois would not be in it at this point. I do think the team will be better, but would like to see it play out to see how all the parts fit together. Only one of the publications I looked at the last couple of days even mentioned Illinois and it was as a team that could spend time in the Top 25 at some point next season. That sounds fair at this point, plus there are so many good teams returning some quality rosters.

Big Dave wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Unless I somehow missed his name, I didn't see Illini recruit DJ William's name on the News-Gazette all-state team--even on the honorable mention list. Admittedly, I did a quick scan. Did I miss it?

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Big Dave,

You didn't miss it. We didn't have Williams included in our list. In terms of shear talent, he's one of the top players and prospects in the state, but his overall production didn't match with some other guys we included. It's tough making those lists because there are different levels of competition and so on. He's still a very good player and he's got a chance to have a really good career at Illinois.

John anderson wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Saw the comment that Darius Paul has put on 29 pounds this year. How physical is/will be his style of play. Will he be able to body up a Braden Dawson-type player, and provide an inside-scoring option we've lacked? Will Leron Black bring that type of game? Who do you see manning the 4 position next year? Will Colbert have a role there?

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm


Darius has the physical tools and size now to be a force in the paint, but playing like that requires a certain motor. If Darius can exhibit that, he's got a chance to be pretty good. His strength will be down low, scoring and rebounding. Leron Black has shown that motor during his high school career, the key for him will be to develop strength and work on his body so that he can hang with the older guys he'll be up against. You'll see a lot of different guys at the 4, the depth of this team should be a strength. Black is a 4 who can play the 3, Paul is a 4/5, Hill is a 3/4, Finke is a 4, Colbert is a 4 who learned the 5 and Groce said yesterday they'll work on Egwu's game so that he can play some 4 as well as the 5 and maybe go really big with he and Maverick Morgan can play together at times. Lotsof options at that position.

Love the Illini wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm

What Illinois players do you see improving the most during the off season this year? Also how good do you see Paul and Morgan being next year I think depth in the front court is one of the keys if Illinois is to be better next year?

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm

You hear all the time that players make the biggest gains from their freshman to sophomore seasons, so I'd expect those guys to improve the most. You saw just how much Nunn and hill improved through the course of the season and an entire sprong and summer with the coaching staff should only help that. John Groce said the bigget thing for all those guys is to get physically stronger and changing their bodies will be a priority during the offseason. This is the time where they can really get after it in the weight room.

Groce wants Morgan to improve his body and also be more aggressive in the paint, develop a go-to move in the post. That's where his focus will be. I see both of those guys figuring into the rotation in the front court.

Anonymous User wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Hey MJ,

With the incoming talent for UI and the exiting talent around the Big 10, do you think the Illini have a shot at coming in second or third behind Wisconsin and maybe Michigan next year?  Based on rosters right now, who do you see rounding out the top five in the conference?

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Right now, that's way too high to be predicting for this team, they've got a lot to show on the court still. Top five right now would be Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, Michigan State (if Dawson comes back) and Ohio State. Maryland will probably be right there, too. Not saying Illinois can't crack the top five, but it's too early to make that leap.

Anonymous User wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Hi MJ,

Besides an increased ability to shoot and depth, what do you think will be the most noticable change between this year's team and next year's team?

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Those are the noticable changes. Not sure there's much else besides that. With this being Year 3 of the coaching staff, guys will have a better understanding from Day 1 what is expected of them in the system, so it might not take as long for things to come together more consistently like the first two seasons. The offense should flow better because more shooters help spacethe floor and open driving and passing lanes. They're just overall going to be more talented.

Anonymous User wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Hey Marcus,

With the addition of three guys who are 6' 7" or taller, will the Illini still be considered one of the smaller teams in the B1G?  I'm surprised how well they rebounded towards the end of last year with the lack of size.  Next year has to be even better, right?

Egwu - 6'11"

Morgan - 6'10"

Colbert - 6'9"

Finke - 6'9"

Paul - 6'8"

Black - 6'7"

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm

I haven't studied the rosters of all 14 teams, but based on the size of the players on the Illinois team, it should improve some. Jon Ekey was a tremendous rebounder, but you figure with the front court additions, his production can be made up for. The guards will have to continue to be aggressive on the boards, too. Rebounding shouldn't be an issue for the Illini, it's something they stress and it's a part of why they were such a good defensive team.

RC in Indy wrote on April 09, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Hi, Marcus - Thanks for the chats.  Real quick question.  How successful do you think Mo Watson can be in the Big Ten?  Thanks!

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 09, 2014 at 1:04 pm


I don't see any reason why he can't be a very good guard in the Big Ten. He was sensational against Illinois, he was top three in the country in assists and he performed well in the few games he had against big-time competition. 

He had 13 points, six assists against UConn, 13 and seven against Maryland, 14 and 8eight against Harvard, 21 and seven against St. Joe's and then seven and 12 against the Illini.

He's pretty good.

The Chief5 wrote on April 09, 2014 at 1:04 pm

It's pretty obvious that the highly touted 5-star recruits almost always end up at one of the elite college basketball schools (of which we all must admit we are not one of them).  It would seem to me that the only way we land one of those 5-star recruits is if we can find one who has one of the two following mentalities:

A) I want to play for my state's premier university


B) I want to be a part of rebuilding something big and starting from scratch rather than joining an already established winner

Are there any 5-star or highly touted recruits out there right now with either of these mentalities?

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 09, 2014 at 1:04 pm


I don't know the personalities of the recruits well enough to know if any of them have those beliefs. Not an Illinois kid, but Emmanuel Mudiay turned down the blue bloods to stay home and play at SMU. It's rare, but it happens. But, again, Illinois does not HAVE to land a five-star player to get the program back on track. I don't believe UConn didn't have any five-star guys and they just won the national title. It certainly helps, but it isn't the ony way to do it.

Konnie wrote on April 09, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Thanks for the chat. 

I have read a few reasons why Groce is recruiting BU point guard Maurice Watson.  Why do you think Groce is recruiting him?


Marcus Jackson wrote on April 09, 2014 at 1:04 pm


Not sure what you've read, but the main reason is because they need a point guard whose strength is creating for other guys. They're recruiting hard in the 2015 class for one, but if you don't get any of those guys, having a proven star like Maurice Watson makes up for it and gives you a very good option at a position of need.

Illini in longhorn land wrote on April 09, 2014 at 1:04 pm

I read on your twitter coverage of the post season conference that JG said Darius Paul has gained about 29lbs of muscle.  This comes on the heels of Rayvonte doing what he did in his redshirt year, and Egwu getting up to 250 over the summer. My question is what kind of programs/lifts (I remember reading that JG said they deadlift) do the Illini do in the weight room, both in season and out of season? Are they doing minimal rep heavy lifts to increase strength, power and explosion? Are they focusing more light weight, high rep for endurance and speed? Or do they do some sort of hybrid?

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 09, 2014 at 1:04 pm


I've got a message out to Mike Basgier, the strength and conditioning coach to help a little bit with this one. Haven't heard back from him, so might have to fill you in further next time. When John Groce was talking about the offseason yesterday, he mentioned that they get after it a bit more in the weight room during the offseason, it's more intense than during the season because they don't have to worry about games and such. I think it's different for each guy. For a guy like Paul or Egwu, trying to add weight, it's heavy weights and fewer reps. Squatting and the Olympic lifts, cleans, etc., are a big part of it. I'll get more info for you when I can and fill you in.

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 09, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Thanks again for participating and reading. Send emails if you have more questions. I'll have some season wrap-up stuff in the coverage this weekend here on the website and in The News-Gazette.

Check out the Blackhawks game tonight, if you can. John Groce will be the celebrity Shoot-the-Puck contestant at the United Center.