April 23 MJ college hoops chat

April 23 MJ college hoops chat

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - 12:30pm

On Wednesdays, basketball beat writer Marcus Jackson answers your college hoops questions. Nothing is off limits. Submit them at any time.

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 23, 2014 at 12:04 pm
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Hi, welcome back to the chat world. I took a week off to recharge the batteries and am ready to get back after it. I'll be here so long as you have questions, so let's get going.

apatterson wrote on April 23, 2014 at 12:04 pm

What do you think the chances are that Groce would try to pick up both Brunson and Pipkens to create his own Dee and Deron type back court?

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 23, 2014 at 12:04 pm
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With what UConn did in winning a national title witht wo smaller guards in Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, don't be surprised to see more major programs try something similar. The problem Illinois has in doing something like that is it only has two scholarships left for the 2015 class as we speak and you'd really like to get a big guy like an Elijah Thomas or a Diamond Stone to go along with a point guard, D.J. Williams and Aaron Jordan. But those guys (Brunson, Pipkins) are playing AAU ball together, so if a coach wonders what that would look like, he can see it this weekend during the live evaluation period.

Wondering in Melbourne wrote on April 23, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Hey MJ:

What part of your game are you working on this off-season?

Interviews, videos, witticisms with Loren? 

Enjoy your coverage.  How's Klee?

OK, my real question (although I did like them all) is do you have an update about former Illini Mike Shaw, Ibby Djimde, Devin Langford and Myke Henry? 

Are they in a good system for their strengths?

Did they get any playing time in 2013-2014?

OK do 6 (wait for it, wait for it ... 7) questions make the CHAT cut?


Marcus Jackson wrote on April 23, 2014 at 12:04 pm
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I'm working on all parts of my game. Can't every get too comfortable.

Klee is doing great. He's covering playoff hockey right now and he's texting me all the time tapping into my hockey knowledge. He's rooting for a Blackhawks-Avalanche series in Round 2 so he can return to this great state.

Of the our guys you asked about, only Devin langford played this past season at his new school, Kentucky Wesleyan. He was able to play because it's a Division II school. After missing the first nine games because of a suspension, Langford started the bulk of the 21 games he played, averaging 11 points and 5.7 rebounds. Looks like a good fit for him.

The other guys: Shaw (Bradley), Henry (DePaul) and Djimde (SIU) all sat out as transfers. Haven't heard much about their development, but I did hear a while back that Shaw had been performing well in practices at Bradley. They're going to need him to hit the boards hard. A guy I know in Carbondale said the folks down there were excited about Djimde's potential.

Love the Illini wrote on April 23, 2014 at 12:04 pm

What's it say about Illini that with five starters back they are not considered close to a top half Big Ten team or top 25 team. Are the players at Illiniois over hyped as recruits? Roster is almost all four star or transfers who were top starters yet we are told all the time we don't have enough talent to compete.  Or has the staff done a poor job of developing the players once they get them on campus?  Other teams are winning all the time with our level of recruits or lower so what is the issue at Illinois?

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 23, 2014 at 12:04 pm
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Love the Illini,

They'll be considered to finish near the top half of the Big Ten. If eberything comes together like it can, they should be right there challenging. In terms of Top 25, I wouldn't get so upset about that, especially at the start of the season. Yes, there's an influx in talent for next year's team, but there are still a lot of unknowns. Most people outside this area aren't aware of what Cosby, Paul and Starks can add to the team. They'll have to be seen by the national folks before a quality evaluation can be done.

To be honest, yes, sometimes players are overhyped coming in. That has happened a lot. There was a lack of talent in certain areas with last year's team, but you were also dealing with a lot of youth playing major roles. 

No one's saying next year's team can't compete, but it's going to have to prove it before expectations are bestowed upon it.

Illini in longhorn land wrote on April 23, 2014 at 12:04 pm


Just wondering if you got an answer from the strength coaches as to the specific workouts/lifts they're doing?

Thanks for the chats. 

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 23, 2014 at 12:04 pm
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Thanks for following up. I talked woith Mike Basgier about thier approach and the short answer is they do a little bit of everything. There's Olympic lifting, which is your cleans, squats, deadlifts, etc. They use free weights, machines and do some "prehab" exercises like core workouts and plyometrics, etc., designed to prevent injuries and some functional exercises. The taller guys are using more machines because it's better on their bodies because of the long limbs.

Right now is their high-volume time, a lot of sets and a lot of reps. Now you're getting more low weight, high rep workouts. As they progress throughout the offseason, it'll be more high weight, low rep workouts.


Evan L wrote on April 23, 2014 at 12:04 pm

The pg position for next year seems plenty deep with Abrams and Tate returning, as well as Starks finally being able to play.

Does this effectively mean that Groce and the Illini staff will not re-engage in recruiting with Larry Austin, who was released from his Tennessee LOI today?

On that note, which position is weakest at this moment both in talent and depth? I would say PF but could be convinced otherwise.


Marcus Jackson wrote on April 23, 2014 at 1:04 pm
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The problem with going after Larry Austin is you don't have any available scholarships for 2014. And, he's not the true floor general type of lead guard they're looking for. Terrific player, but not the right fit for what they need right now. They're got a couple of players like him on the roster already.

To answer your last question, I'd say the point guard because of what they're looking for at that spot. All three that you have are fine players, but Abrams isn't a true point, though he's done a fine job of developing the last two seasons. Tate can get there, but he's still got a ways to go in his development and Starks is pretty close to what they're looking for, though he's really wired to score.

At PF, you've got Black, Paul, Finke, Colbert, Hill can play there and Nnanna might see some time there, too.

EvanCollins92 wrote on April 23, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Hey Mark. Was wondering out of the PG's we are recruiting for 2015, which(if any) guy do you see Groce reeling in? Evans? Robinson? Or Noskowiak? Groce needs a big time PG in his system! Thanks!

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 23, 2014 at 1:04 pm
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I could try to predict this, but it wouldn't be anything more than a guess. With recruiting, you jsut never know. With the number of guys the staff has targeted at the position, it tells you how important landing the right kind of point guard is. They've identified guys who would be fits and have made offers. It all depends on which guy feels like Illinois is the right fit for him, too.

West Coast wrote on April 23, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Marcus, thanks for all your work.  I will put this directly to you.  As (1) a relatively recent college student, (2) former college athlete, (3) African-American, (4) college basketball sportswriter, and (5) Champaign resident, you have a  unique perspective into the recent arrest and the subsequent firestorm.  There is no one with your vantage.  I know you weren't there, but I would be very interested to hear whatever thoughts you are comfortable sharing regarding the facts and subsequent developments.  

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 23, 2014 at 1:04 pm
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West Coast,

Great question, I appreciate you asking.

The only things I know about the situation involving Darius Paul are those Mary Schenck had in her report yesterday, so I'm not sure we know 100 percent of what happened.

Personally, I have never been approached or questioned by police while walking around Champaign late after a night of drinking. I've walked by police in those situations and I have never been bothered.

I will share a quick story from college. Some friends, a few teammates included, and I were out late, had been drinking and were on an area of campus we shouldn't have been. You could say we looked suspicious. So some campus police shined their lights on us. A few of them ran. Myself and another person did not. For some reason, in that instant I just knew that wasn't the wise move. The officers asked what we were doing, why we were there. We didn't really have any good reason and told them as much. They asked if we had been drinking. We said yes. We were honet with them and they let us go.

That's my experience in a similar situation. It doesn't always go down like that and with so many stories inr ecent years of young black men being harrassed unnecessarily by police, I can understand the fear and mistrust some have in dealing with authorities. I've been lucky that hasn't been my experience.

Hope that helps somewhat in what you were asking.

Brent Moore wrote on April 23, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Groce is going after quite a bit of big men and point guards.  My question doesn't pertain to who is the most talente or who fits our team the best but rather, which PG and big man combo would work together the best.  Which two compliment eachother's game the most?  This is what I am after as a fan because it gives the offense flow if the players are in eachothers heads.  This, along with talent, were the primary reasons the '05 team was so great.  Thanks.

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 23, 2014 at 1:04 pm
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That's part of the evaluation, but you really don't know how it's all going to come together until you get the guys on campus together and see them play together. That develops over time playing alongside one another. I think you go after guys who fit your system for that particular position and then they develop chemistry through playing with one another. Most of the guys on the 04-05 team had played together for a couple of years, they had great chemistry. You'd like to go after guys you envision playing well with one another, but what are the chances you get both of them?

JimmyJack wrote on April 23, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Groce and staff are busy with a bunch of in-home visits recently, when do you expect some of these kids to make decisions? Since many are 5 star recruits, should we expect them to wait longer than the guys we've landed recently, i.e.Hill, Nunn, etc?

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 23, 2014 at 1:04 pm
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You don't really see guys making commitments until the fall when they get on campuses to make their visits, especially the 5-star guys. They like to get out there and see as much as they can with so much attention being shown to them. It's rare to see commitments at this time, though not out of the question.

LA-Illini wrote on April 23, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Hey Marcus,

With the Illini's relatively big 2-guards (BP3 and Rice) over the past two years, I would have loved to have seen more of an effort to invert them and get them in the post against smaller defenders.  Without a back to the basket post-up presence, that might give us more of a chance to create an inside-out game without relying so heavily on the head down bull-rush drives to the bucket.  Any chance we'll see more of that this upcoming year?  If Ray can pass out of the post to cutters, he could be a real weapon down there.  Thanks.

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 23, 2014 at 1:04 pm
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When talking about Rice's strengths, the coaching staff will say he can post up smaller guards. The problem with last year's team was there weren't enough shooters to leave him in situations where he was one-on-one with a smaller guy down low. He'd jsut get doubled down there. With the floor being more spaced this season, I'd imagine you might see more of that. Malcolm Hill, if he's playing one of the guard spots, could do this as well. With the balance you should have this year, there will be a few more looks than last year.

Marcus Jackson wrote on April 23, 2014 at 1:04 pm
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Looks like we're done for the day. Lots of good stuff, thanks for all the questions. We'll have our first full-page of basketball in Sunday's paper, so be sure to be on the lookout for that this weekend. Talk to you all next week.