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On Wednesdays, beat writer Marcus Jackson answers your questions. Submit them any time.
Good afternoon/evening. Thanks for bearing with me on today's delayed start. Spent some time down in Robinson today with Meyers Leonard, whose got a camp going on in his hometown. Meyers is doing great and he had Portland assistant coach Kim Hughes along with him. We'll have a little bit from Meyers in tomorrow's paper and here online and more on Sunday.
We've got a ton of questions today, so I'm going to get through them as quick as I can before jumping on the radio with Steve Kelly at 5:10 on WDWS 1400-AM.
Have there been any developments in the Brunson recruitment?
You might alrady know this, but there are reports out there that his dad, Rick Brunson got a job as an assitant coach at Temple today. That's got to put the Owls up there in terms of landing the point guard. Rick Brunson starred at Temple during his college playing days before his NBA career. Jalen helped lead Team USA to a gold medal in the FIBA Americas U18 championships this week. I'm sure we'll learn more about what Rick's new job means for Jalen's future in the coming weeks.
1. How is Aron Jordan doing so far this summer?
2. With Jeff Huth retired who will cover Illinois volleyball this winter?
Thanks for doing the chat.
From what I've been able to gather, Aaron Jordan is having a good summer. He had 32 points in a win against Thornton recently to help Plainfield East win a tournament. He had 33 in a game earlier in that tournament against Bolingbrook. I know Jordan wanted to work on becoming better at getting to the basket along with gaining some size and strength, and those are each coming along.
Scott Richey, who most recently worked at the Decatur Herald and Review is joining us at The News-Gazette next week and he will be covering volleyball, women's hoops and UI baseball for us. Scott will also handle some preps. We're lucky to have him and I'm looking forward to him starting.
I saw that Mizzou hired Huntington Prep's head coach to be a recruiter. According to basketball analysts, it looks like Mizzou has now taken the lead on Teki Gill-Caeser who is going to follow his high school coach. Why don't more major programs hire elite high school or AAU coaches to get some of the big name players? I'm sure it happens, but I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often.
Those top three spots on coaching staffs are very important and you want to make sure you have the right guys in place. While having a guy with some AAU and high school ties will certainly help you get a few players, at some point their pipeline might run dry, or their influence might not be very long lasting. You want to make sure your top three guys can help you when it comes to scouting reports, coaching your guys and all the day-to-day stuff that comes along with being a top assistant coach. So while you might get a player or two becuse of a guy's reputation, it's much more important to have a well-rounded guy and a lot of those guys aren't quite ready to step into that role.
Sorry MJ I had one more question I really wanted to ask. How has Malcolm Hill progressed this offseason? I really think he could be a difference maker at the 4 spot this year and a very important piece to IL's success. Huge fan of the kid and think he has a very high ceiling! Thanks
Malcolm is what John Groce calls an 'extra' guy. He was asked to make 11,000 shots last summer and he made more than 30,000. This summer they want Malcolm to work on his body and his physical conditioning and he was among the guys who came back in great shape, but they still want him to continue making strides this summer. He's been good and he's going to work. Ideally Malcolm would play the 3, but they way things are with the roster, he'll play 4 and 3 for this team. He finished last season strong and there's no reason to believe he won't pick up where he left off.
I think Malcolm has a chance to be a really, really good player at Illinois.
Being a baseball guy with Chicago southside roots (like myself), could you answer a baseball question? When does Conner Gilllaspie of the White Sox qualify for the league batting average stats lisiting. He would probably lead the league (337 avg.) if he had enough at bats. He was out with an injury for a while but has been back playing everyday for a while now and still isn't listed among the leaders. I saw something about 3.1 times at bat for each game but that would take forever to make up since it's hard to get more than 4 official bats a game.
I'm not overly excited about the White Sox right now, but I'm not mad at them. They're keeping me interested, and that's really all you can ask right now. The future is bright. Conner is having a heck of a season, good for him. I believe he needs to have an average of 3.1 plate appearances (not official at-bats) in order to qualify for the batting title. That would mean approximately 502 plate appearances at season's end. I'm not sure how long it will take him at the current rate to catch up, but I'd imagine he'll get there.
Hey, MJ. Been a long time since I submitted a question, so I'll give you two.First, one I'm sure everyone will ask: where has this Doral Moore-to-Illinois buzz come from? I barely knew the dude's name before last week, now Jerry Meyer is predicting him picking Illinois over Kentucky.Second, am I nuts for starting to prefer Melo over Love for the Bulls? Not only can they potentially get Melo without giving up important rotation pieces like Jimmy or Taj, but even in a sign-and-trade I still love it. We know Thibs' D can survive having one bad individual defender in it (bye, Carlos!), and I see him making a Paul Pierce-like late career transformation to a team-first playing style to win a ring.
Good to hear from you.
Doral Moore is a guy they've been keeping in touch with for some time now, though there hasn't been much chatter about him until recently when he placed Illinois in his top 5 along with Kentucky, Ohio State, Wake Forest and Florida. The coaching staff made an impression on him and that's why Illinois is in the mix. The reason it's Illinois over Kentucky right now for Meyer and a couple others is because Kentucky has yet to offer and there's no guarantee the 'Cats will offer. Obviously, they'd be a major player if the offer comes because he's got them in his top 5 without having an offer.
I've kind of preferred Love over Melo in recent weeks, but I do like the fact that you wouldn't have to give anything up to get Melo. Neither Melo or Love likes to play much defense, so that part of it is pretty much a wash. Both are at points in their careers where it's really about winning more than getting buckets, so I'd be fine with either if he comes in with that attitude. If Derrick Rose is healthy, a Big 3 of Rose, Noah and Melo or Love would be real nice.
Hey Marcus, thanks for the chats. Gives us basketball junkies something to talk about in the offseason other than debating about politics on The Duece. I've got two questions:
First- Is the moat around the SFC going to delay any of the progress on this stage of the remodel? I drove by and noticed 2-4 feet of water in the trenches.
Second- A % from you on the chance the IHSA state bball tournament actually comes back to the U of I in 2016?
I haven't heard anything hinting that the recent rain is having much of an impact on the construction, but I think weather issues are factored in when giving an initial time table.
If you read Fred Kroner's take in our paper last week, he was less than optimistic that the tournament would return here.
My opinion is Illinois and the Champaign Visitor's Bureau will put together a very solid bid. They really want the tournament back here, so they'll make certain to have the right support. That being said, it's going to be real tough to beat out Peoria because they've done such a good job with it over there the last 19 years. I'd say Champaign has a 40 percent chance to get it back, with Peoria getting the nod. Could be wrong, but there's a lot of catching up to do.
With the additions to the ACC last year and with Louisville joining this year, the ACC definitely gained stronger teams through expansion than the BIGTEN. Does the BIGTEN have a legit shot at winning the callenge this year?
It's all about matchups and there are some dynamite matchups among the 14 games this season. Duke-Wisconsin, Ohio State-Louisville, Syracuse-Michigan. There are some real toss ups. Not giving it a real thorough analysis, I see it coming down to a game or two. It could got 7-7, or 8-6 either way. Does the Big Ten have a legitimate shot? Yep, it does, but it's going to be a battle.
Please fill us in more on what sounds like a breakout performance for DJ Williams this summer-I have a feeling the young man is going to end up a big basketball star for the Illini and beyond.
It seems the good relationship Coach Groce has with Coach Smith is really paying dividends. Any other Illinois HS basketball coaches it would be good to have such a relationship with?
When I brough up DJ's lack of production to a few people last season, they kind of laughed and said he's going to be all right. He's not a late-bloomer, so to speak, but he's not been the man from Day 1 like a lot of big-time prospects. The talent has always been there, it's just been a matter of him believing in his abillity and being more assertive. He's improved his jump shot and he's got a very good handle and sees the floor well for a guy his size. He's so versatile. Looking forward to seeing how DJ does on the July AAU circuit and during the high school season.
Tyrone Slaghter has produced some real nice players in recent years at Whitney Young. Simeon and Whitney Young seem to chrun out great players year after year. I'm not sure another program in the state is at that level in terms of producing college talent like those two programs.
Brunson isn't coming, we all know that... But Evans is starting to blow up! Time to get excited about a PG we can actually get?
Evans' star seems to continue to shine brighter. It sounds like he had a very good showing at the NBA Top 100 camp last week and Illinois is right there at the top for him. Other programs are coming around, but the Illini have been there for a long time. It should help them quite a bit when decision time rolls around. Feel good about where you're at.
In your opinion, who will have the most NBA championships by the end of their career between Jabari Parker, Jahil Okafor, Cliff Alexander, and Jalen Brunson?
I have no idea. It depends on what franchise each player ends up with and how he fits into their system, etc. I mean, Matt Bonner has more rings than Kevin Durant. He's not a better player than Durant, but he's in a better situation.
I heard a rumor that the Bulls may trade both their 1st round picks to move up to target Doug McDermott. I've never seen McDermott play, and I am admittedly stereotyping here, but Jimmer Fredette comes to mind (i.e. great star in college who rides the bench in the NBA). Do you think McDermott is going to be a good pro?
I don't know that trading up to get McDermott would be wise. There are plenty of really good players in the draft to get a real good one if McDermott is gone before they pick. I think McDermott will be a good pro. He's a big guy who can shoot it and he can score inside the three-point line, too. Some wonder about his defense. Not physical enough to guard a 4, but not quick enough to guard a 3. But the way defenses are played now, there are a lot of zone principles where you can help guys who might not be great defenders. I think he'll be a very servicable pro.
Which recruit would have the best chance of putting the Illini in the discussion for a national championship when he stepped on the floor given the talent on the team now that he would be suiting up with? Do any of the recruits that still have the Illini in the mix have the type of individual talent to carry a team or better yet, a game that would benefit the players already here? That one guy might not be a 5 star if you get the right guy to fit the system that makes everyone better. Your thoughts on who that would be. If there is no one guy, what two recruits would push the Illini over the top if we can get them to sign?
You'd need someone who'd be considered a program-changer. I think Jalen Brunson, a dynamic point guard like that, paired with what Illinois already has could elevate them to that status. Or a combination of Jawun Evans, Elijah Thomas, DJ Williams and Aaron Jordan, along with the current Illinois roster could. I think a lot of people forget that Illinois already has two really good players committed for the 2015 class. But it's really hard to predict those things. You've got to have the right chemistry and a little bit of luck to start talking about national titles. I wouldn't be thinking or talking national titles right now. Just keep putitng together good rosters and see where that takes you.
Marcus, Interesting to read your mock NBA draft. What led you to show Wiggins at #1 (Cleveland) and Parker at #2?
The Toronto STAR this morning also has a mock draft and hold a similar view. Their rationale: "Reports suggest the Cavs are torn between Wiggins and Jabari Parker; Parker might be more ready now, Wiggins could be special and since Cleveland isn’t going to be really good for a really long time, why not take the more promising kid?”
The STAR also think, like you, that former Illini recruit Tyler Ennis will slip to #20 where his hometown team, the Raptors, will nab him as a back-up to their PG dynamo Kyle Lowrey who happens to be the NBA's top PG free agent this year. Can a freshman at the PG position -- even as talented as Ennis -- really be ready to contribute at the NBA level? Who in recent drafts are examples of making that jump?
I've also heard the Cavs are legitimately torn between Parker and Wiggins. Owner wants Wiggins, front office guys want Parker. Last year owner wanted Oladipo, front office guys wanted Bennett. Something tells me the owner is going to win this time around, based on how that turned out. Plus, Jabari is more NBA ready right now, but Wiggins has the higher ceiling long term.
Without spending too much time on it, a freshman PG who came into the league and made a big mark right away recently was Kyrie Irving and he only played a handful of games at Duke. Ennis isn't Kyrie Irving good, but if he's not asked to do too much early, he can be fine.
Former Illinois asst. basketball coach Jerence Howard owned an older model cadillac when he was here at Illinois. It was painted orange and blue. What did he do with it when he left. Also, has he interviewed for any head jobs since he has been at Kansas.
I checked in with former beat writer Paul Klee, who's living the life in Denver (with chocolate lab and best friend Maya), for your question about Jerrance. They still chat frequently. Jerrance sold the orange vehicle. He has been asked to interview a few times, but has not actually interviewed for a head coaching position. Have to admit, he's got a pretty sweet gig right now.
Sick of talking about recruits (maybe for the rest of my life); so tell me how the coaches interact with each other. What is their primary source of disagreement as it relates to Illini basketball? Just looking to understand how the management team interacts, solves problems and leads.
Excellent question. The way this coaching staff interacts with one another, I don't know there are necessarily many things they really disagree on. John Groce last week said the one things he likes about his staff is they bounce ideas off one another and everyone has an understanding of why they do what they do.
For example, when they meet and go over the practice plan, one coach will say, "Let's do A, B and C." When Groce says "OK, I like that, but why are we doing this?" The answer is usually "Well, we struggled with this" or "This guy really needs to work on this." The answer shouldn't be "Because that's what we've always done."
Hoping this makes sense.
Essentially, Groce says he doesn't want to be surrounded by "Yes men." He hired each of them because of what they bring to the table and he wants them to be comfortable sharing ideas and changing things up if they see fit.
They spend a lot of time together in meetings and they talk through everything. It's very detailed and everyone's opinions and ideas are considered.
Again, Sorry for the late start, but I've really got to get going and make it to the radio station in time for the 5:10 show. If I missed your question, apologies, but if it's pressing, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or I'll try to get back to it next week.