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Beat writer Marcus Jackson takes your questions during his weekly chat (12:30 p.m. Wednesdays). Feel free to submit them in advance.
Good afternoon, thanks for taking some time out of your day for today's chat. Today begins the final weekend of the July evaluation period, lots of Illinois targets playing all over the country. The current guys are still here for a few more weeks going through workouts. Let me know what's on your mind.
What does the rest of the summer look like in terms of recruiting and the AAU circuit on a national level? Are things starting to wind down? I assume official visits and verbal commitments will soon follow?
Today through Sunday at 4 p.m. is the final week of the evaluation period, meaning Illinois' four coaches can be on the road watching players compete in AAU tournaments across the country. After that is when you'll start to hear about guys setting up visits, most of which will occur in late August and in September. early September is when you get the first real wave of commitments. Jawun Evans will be visiting the weekend of Sept. 13, Carlton Bragg has also said he'll visit Illinois, but no date has been announced yet.
Assuming Kentucky is the favorite, do you really think Carlton Bragg will sit back and let Kentucky sign another PF (Diallo) in the early signing period and miss out on his chance or do you think it would trigger an early commitment from him?
Something tells me he would not succumb to Calipari's ultimatum like Matthews did. If Kentucky was his clear choice, I guess he would have already commited.
I feel like I am answering my own question.
I don't get the sense, talking to those close to Bragg, that he's interested in rushing his decision, regardless of what happens at Kentucky or anywhere else. It's been a pretty thorough process with Bragg and he's very much looking forward to taking his visits and making an informed decision. If Kentucky gets a commitment from Diallo, maybe it'll force him to look elsewhere, maybe it won't matter. So, in short, I wouldn't expect anything to happen on that front soon.
People are saying that Brunson's recruitment is still a touchy one. Any idea on whether or not his dad is still getting the job at Temple? Where do you think Illinois stands after everything that has transpired?
It is touchy because of the situation with Rick Brunson. I doubt, with the legal issues that will take some time to be resolved that Temple would make the move to hire Rick Brunson at this time. When Rick was in line to be hired at Temple, many had the owls as the favorite, but now with that doubt, I feel like all the schools recruiting Jalen are very much in play, including Illinois. The Illinois coaching staff has continued to track Jalen and they're still recruiting him as hard as they were before. I don't know that the situation has changed much with ther ecruitment, other than Temple not being an overwhelming favorite.
At this stage, do you still think Brunson is more valuable than Evans? I am seeing a lot more hype on Evans in recent weeks than Brunson. Not sure if that has to do with off court issues.
The hype you're seeing about Evans is more about the improvement and leaps Evans has made than it is about him surpassing Brunson overall as a player. Jalen Brunson has been a great prospect for a long time, Jawun Evans has recently become a great prospect, so there's been more attention on him. Brunson has had an outstanding summer, which was expected. He led Team USA to a FIBA championship on the U18 circuit. The off-the-court issues have nothing to do with Jalen at all and shouldn't affect how people view him. Who's more valuable? The gap has losed, but Brunson is still the better overall player. Illinos fans should be excited if the Illini were able to land either one he or Evans.
Bertrand and Ekey seemed to be our guys that liked to play above the rim and had the most bounce. Who steps in that role this year? Looking at the roster, I don't see too many guys that will throw it down with wreckless abandon. Maybe Black?
Playing above the rim and going for tip dunks like Ekey and Bertrand did regularly is a mindset you have to have consistently for that to be your thing. Leron Black has that, along with the athleticism to get up there. He's your guy. When 100 percent early last season, Rayvonte Rice showed he was capable, too. If Austin Colbert improves enough to see significant time, he's another guy who could fit that bill. He's long, rangy and has some serious bounce.
Do you think alex austin can really make any type of impact at illinois? Also how close do you think groce is to having a big time recruit commit to illinois I really like our chances with Evans and Thomas ur thoughts it's just a matter of if and when your thoughts?
I wouldn't expect much from Alex Austin. Not that he's not a good player, but historically Illinois hasn't gotten much from its walkons, nor has it expected much. Plus, there are a lot of good wing players currently on the roster and committed that I see Austin's main contribution to the program is a very good player to matchup with in preparation for the opposition.
If I had to pick today, I'd say Illinois gets Evans and still has a real good shot at Thomas and Carlton Bragg. (Did you see Dee Brown tweeting about Bragg this weekend?) They're close to getting one and I've maintained for a long time it was just a matter of when and not if.
Do you think any of the 2015 kids will decide before school starts ?
think it's possible that Tate will redshirt this year to work on his game ? Since won't be a lot of minutes open at point barring a injury
I doubt any of the guys Illinois is after will decide before school starts. They've all maintained they want to make their visits and let the process play out.
Tate redshirting has not been discussed yet and likely wouldn't be until much closer to the start of the season. I understand where you're coming from but it's a tough sell to a kid who has already played, plus he's the only true point guard you have on the roster and if he can help you, then you're going to need him in certain situations.
Has anything been decided yet on where the team will play those games in 2015 with the arena construction forcing them out? I vote Chicago. That would be a big recruiting tool for us.
Nope, a decision has not been made. Not sure what the timetable is on that. I wouldn't get too excited about Chicago. I think I mentioned this before, but you've got the Bulls and the Blackhawks in there, plus the circus comes to town and forces the two main tenants out of the building for two weeks in November.
The site that makes the most sense to me is Springfield. It's close enough to where to team can set up shop there and not have to worry about making a long drive four or five times, or whatever it is. My opinion doesn't matter much, but that's what I'd choose.
Hey MJ. You made an interesting point I didn't think about, in response to my question last week, about how Groce's offense is more structured than people might realize and that's largely the basis of him wanting players to learn one position. I'm interested in how this pertains to Malcolm Hill, as he probably has the most multipositional potential of anyone on the current roster. He mostly played the 4 last year and projects to probably do the same this year. Do you think his skill set actually portends more effectiveness from him at the 4 than the 3 in Groce's system (or just generally in terms of the respective players he matches up against at those positions), or is it more out of need with Illinois having a deep backcourt and a relatively thin frontcourt?Secondly, bigger picture on the same subject: for the longest time it's been that players want to move down a position size-wise: centers want to be forwards, forwards want to be guards, swingmen want to be point guards. Do you find that this is still mostly the case? Or has the small ball/positionless trend permeated the game's lower levels and overall culture enough that, say, big-time wing prospects see guys like LBJ, Melo and Durant playing big minutes at power forward and see the mismatch potential of moving up a positon?
Malcolm will be playing the 4 a lot this year, but he's really a 3. The coaches would prefer to play him there, but as you said, circumstances dictate otherwise. But he's a guy who gives you a lot of flexibility. If a couple of the wing guys get in foul trouble, he can move up to the 3 and let one of the other guys (Black, Colbert, Finke) play the 4.
I still see a lot of centers who want to be 4s and play on the perimeter, that hasn't changed. But I do think for the most part, the wing guys are comfortable where they are. A lot of guys aren't pining to play the point. But guys are starting to understand that no matter what position you're labeled, if you can put the ball in the basket, coaches are going to find ways to get you the ball and put you ion position to score. The power forward spot has changed so much in rencet years with so many systems implementing a stretch-4 that there's not really a negative stigma attached to playing that spot.
There's been a lot of buzz about Jawun Evans and the Illini, do we really have a shot. Who does his game compare to? Thanks.
Yep, they've got a shot. He's had an outstanding summer. I've heard some comparisions to T.J. Ford, the former Texas star and national player of the year. Again, he's not that good yet, but he plays similar to Ford: fast, smart, makes other guys better. The jumper needs some work, but he's what Illinois is looking for in terms of his style of play.
Hello Marcus, I really enjoy your writing and insight. What do you think of the reported Bulls offer of Gibson, McDermott and Mirotic for K. Love? It seems like a very steep price for one player. Is K. Love that good? Thanks
I don't like it. It seems like an awful lot to give up for a guy who's not a very good two-way player. Love is a great offensive player, but you give up a strong defender in Gibson and you're giving up on a couple of potential offensive stars in Mirotic and McDermott before you even know what you have. Maybe they're just forcing Cleveland to up their price.
How is Jalen Tate doing this summer?
Jalen's had a good summer. His biggestarea for improvement was in the weight room and he's really dedicated himself there. I don't have numbers in terms of weight gain, but it's something he' recognized as a priority. And he's been working on that jumper. The kid can play and he's continued to play well, it's just a matter of wheter he can prove physically strong enough to allow his game to stand up.
Thanks again for the questions and for stopping by. Good stuff today. I'll be back next week with more.