May 28 college basketball chat

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - 12:30am

Our beat writer, Marcus Jackson, will answer your questions at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 12:32 PM on Wed, 05/28/2014

Good afternoon, thanks for taking some time for today's chat. Looks like you've all got a lot of questions, so I'll get right to it.

Antihawkeye — 12:32 PM on Wed, 05/28/2014

The Illini Caravan scheduled for Thur. May 29th in St.Louis has been cancelled, is this due to lack of fan attendance and interest? I was told that Illini night @ Busch Stadium Fri. Nite is still on, if so, what events are going on?

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 12:36 PM on Wed, 05/28/2014


I'm told the Caravan was canceled because football coach Tim Beckman had a late change to his schedule and couldn't make it and with John Groce already not attending (his family vacation has been planned for a while now) it didn't seem right to have an event where admission had been charged without the men's basketball coach and the football coach. Refunds will be issued.

Illini Night is still on. There will be a luncheon in Waterloo, a community service visit to the Boys and Girls Club in East St. Louis and then a meet and greet with Mike Thomas and Tim Beckman for the fans who bought tickets while picking up their orange and blue Cardinals hats.

Big Dave — 12:37 PM on Wed, 05/28/2014

Did Groce pursue PG Larry Austin after he decommitted from Tennessee? If Illinois doesn't use Paul's scholarship this year on an incoming player, it'd be great to see LaTulip rewarded for his hard work. Any updates on 5th year transfer possibilities?

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 12:38 PM on Wed, 05/28/2014

Big Dave,

Larry Austin was not pursued. At the time he became available, Darius Paul was still very much a part of next season's plans. Not sure they would have in either event. Nothing's changed on the fifth-year front, not a whole lot of options there.

Anonymous User — 12:38 PM on Wed, 05/28/2014

Hi Marcus,

Is Michael Finke being short changed on the talk about his potential or will he always be considered a role player at the collegiate level?  Everything I am seeing says he is underrated and is a skilled big man which seems to fit Groce's system well.  Should the UI fan base be more excited about his arrival, similar to Leron Black?

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 12:42 PM on Wed, 05/28/2014

I think Michael Finke, who graduates from Centennial High School tonight, has been short-changed somewhat when it comes to the potential impact he could have on the program. I think a big part of that is the fact that he's a local kid. Local kids, for whatever reason, always seem to not be as highly thought of as kids from Chicago or elsewhere. 

I was talking to someone recently, a former assistant coach and head coach and he said Bo Ryan wanted Michael Finke and that should mean something and he should be good enough for Illinois. 

He's a very skilled big man who can shoot. He will be good. Plus, he's got a bit of a chip on his shoulder because of the lack of national respect he's received and that's usually not a bad thing. You're lucky to be getting him.

Cameron — 12:43 PM on Wed, 05/28/2014

With the Darius Paul suspension, what are the odds Finke sees the floor this year?  I would think the possiblity of a redshirt is out, but Leron Black may win that playing time.  I have high expectations of him.

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 12:45 PM on Wed, 05/28/2014


He's got as good a shot as anyone else to see the floor. It all depends on how quickly he comes along once he gets on campus. There's going to be a lot of competition at that spot, but with Paul out of the picture, at least for this season, Finke has a shot. Leron Black can also play the 3, but Groce likes to bring those guys along slow and teach them one position at a time. We'll have a better idea at the end of the summer how playing time might work out.

Devan — 12:45 PM on Wed, 05/28/2014

With the recent troubles that Darius Paul has run into, what are the chances he transfers to a Division I JUCO to get some live playing time under his belt before returning the U of I? 

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 12:48 PM on Wed, 05/28/2014


Basketball is secondary for Paul righ now, but there is a good possibility he ends up somewhere, most-likely a JUCO, playing ball. The problem is finding a place where he can still make progress toward a degree at a school like Illinois. He's already finished two years of college in the classroom and finding courses that will transfer while not repeating some is the challenge. 

Anonymous User — 12:48 PM on Wed, 05/28/2014

Hi MJ,

There appears to be a lot of rumblings after this weekend about Thomas, Brunson and Evans.  Apparently Thomas and Brunson are closer buddies than Thomas and Evans and Thomas has at one point tried to persuade Brunson to go to UI with him.  I wanted to see if you had any insight?  Also, would you prefer to have Brunson for one or two years or Evans for 4?  Trying to play out the value scenario in my mind.

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 12:52 PM on Wed, 05/28/2014

Yes, Illinois appears to be in very good shape with Elijah Thomas right now. I don't know a whole lot about their friendship, but don't think Brunson's going to be persuaded because a buddy is going somewhere. He's going to go to wherever he feels is the best for his future. I did talk to D.J. Williams last week and he's been hitting up Thomas regularly. They're good buddies, too. Williams thinks he's doing a good job with Thomas, but he joked that he thought he was doing a better job with Charles Matthews, whom he calls a brother, and look how that worked out.

Brunson for 1 or 2 or Evans for 4? That's tough, but I'd lean toward Brunson because he's a product of the state, playing for a high-profile AAU program and if he's good enough to leave here after a year or two, that opens eyes up there with other players of his ilk.

Anonymous User — 12:53 PM on Wed, 05/28/2014

Hi Marcus,

Is Thomas considered a C or PF?  I see some sites show him as the former and some the latter.  Do you think Groce would use him in one position over the other?

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 12:54 PM on Wed, 05/28/2014

I'd call him a center, but really, the way the game is played these days, it really doesn't matter. Most likely he'd be a 5 here, but the 5 plays a lot like a 4. It's kind of how Nnanna Egwu does it, but Thomas is more of a true 5 than Egwu is. With so many guys on the roster who can play the 4, Thomas, if he ended up at Illinois, would likely see most of his time as the 5.

Chuck Norris — 12:55 PM on Wed, 05/28/2014


I frequent,,,, twitter and youtube.

Do you know of any other free sources for Illini recruiting/sports infomation?

What type of information am I missing by not subscribing to or I assume that you're such a good reporter that I'm not missing anything.



Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 12:59 PM on Wed, 05/28/2014

Mr. Norris,

The difference between myself and the recruiting services is they follow recruiting 24/7 and devote more than a few people to it. They're at all the summer tournaments and a lot of high school basketball games throughout the year, so they see the players much more often. And Scout, Rivals, 247, etc., all do a great job with that stuff. They keep up with all the rumors and such whereas I usually get more involved when something actually happens (commitments, visits, etc.) plus the occasional story on a big-time target when I'm able to track them down. I'd say if you're paying attention to all the sites you listed above, then you're pretty well-informed.

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 01:00 PM on Wed, 05/28/2014

Thanks again for the questions. I'm going to get back to not working for the rest of the week, though I will be on SportsTalk tonight with Steve Kelly at 5 p.m. on WDWS.