June 21 Illinois basketball chat

June 21 Illinois basketball chat

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - 12:30pm

Illinois not only added a pair of 2017 big men in Greg Eboigbodin and Matic Vesel but also got started with their summer workouts with beat writer Scott Richey on vacation. WIth the next phase of the offseason underway, what questions do you have for Richey as he returns to C-U and jumps back in to all things Illini hoops? Is there another player to be added for 2017-18? Should there be? What about 2018 recruiting and beyond? He'll take any and all queries in his weekly chat restarting at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Scott Richey wrote on June 21, 2017 at 12:06 pm
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Welcome back! It's a fine afternoon here in Champaign, and I'm on day three of my return to work after a couple weeks away. My return also means that our weekly Illinois basketball chat has returned. A few things happened while I was gone (never a dull moment, you know) and the Illini are in the midst of an important Class of 2018 recruiting week with Ayo Dosunmu visiting yesterday and Talen Horton-Tucker currently on campus. 

So there's plenty to discuss in the chat. A handful of questions are awaiting my response(s), but I'll keep the chat open as long as there's interest. Feel free to keep asking.

Let's get to it ...

Chief62 wrote on June 21, 2017 at 12:06 pm

First let me thank you for these chats. I am now living in Ohio and without you I would receive no Illini related news. Does coach Underwood allow you to observe practices?  If so, what can you share about chemistry, effort, skill level of the newcomers?  With so many new parts/players, it will be interesting to see how the team evolves this year.  Thanks for all you do for us displaced alums.

Scott Richey wrote on June 21, 2017 at 12:06 pm
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Glad you enjoy the chats and all the Illini coverage we can provide you in Ohio. Brad Underwood has told us his practices will be open, so us media types will be able to observe. The start of Illinois' summer workouts, though, also coincided with the start of my vacation, so I haven't seen the Illini this month or heard much about how the workouts were going. 

The obvious summer note is that Da'Monte Williams is still recovering from knee surgery so not yet at 100 percent. Also, from the video posted on Twitter, Trent Frazier pretty much ran roughshod over the Celtic Drill (smooth looking three-point stroke).

The 2017-18 season is something of a mystery considering the turnover in both coaches and players, but Brad Underwood has already started to shape the program the way he wants (particularly with the last two additions of Greg Eboigbodin and Matic Vesel). 

Gregg G wrote on June 21, 2017 at 12:06 pm

Is Matic Vesel on campus and what have you learned him about since he has signed?  I saw some video.....he looks very athletic and can run the floor......seems to be a good match for BU's system.

Scott Richey wrote on June 21, 2017 at 12:06 pm
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Gregg G,

Matic Vesel is not on campus and actually hasn't been officially added to the Illinois roster yet. But there's a reason he's not in Champaign. Vesel is a member of Slovenia's U20 national team, and Slovenia will be playing in the FIBA U20 European Championship in July.

I probably watched the same video you did would be my guess. I did think Vesel ran the floor well. He's got what appear to be pretty good handles at 6-foot-9 (attacked the basket from the perimeter) and he finished around (and above) the rim.

What I don't have a good grasp on in his shot. He's that long, athletic type of big Brad Underwood seems to prefer, but being able to knock down some jumpers is part of that. Maybe he's got that side of his game, too, but I haven't seen it yet.

Red Grange wrote on June 21, 2017 at 12:06 pm

The News-Gazette is currently running a feature of the top 50 most important Illinois football players. Who would you rank as the top 5 (in order) most important Illinois men's basketball players?

Scott Richey wrote on June 21, 2017 at 1:06 pm
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Red Grange,

Questions that don't leave me any wiggle room are tough, but I can come up with a quick basketball top 5 for you going mostly on first instinct. But, as always, I reserve the right to change my mind.

5. Leron Black ... Brad Underwood has typically had strong rebounding teams. Black can rebound at an elite level and probably needs to do more of it while also becoming more consistent offensively.

4. Michael Finke ... Even though he shot an improved 41 percent from three-point range last season, Finke's scoring average dipped slightly. The growing consensus is Finke might be in position to improve the most in the new system, which would be good for the Illini.

3. Kipper Nichols ... If the Cleveland native continues to defend, clean up around the rim offensively and make open three-pointers, his 2017-18 season will be a success. A likely larger role will increase his opportunity for production.

2. Mark Smith ... No pressure, right? There's a fairly significant portion of the fan base expecting Smith to, well, save Illinois basketball. His combination of scoring, passing and what I see as a strong, quiet leadership could allow for an immediate impact for the freshman guard.

1. Mark Alstork ... The Wright State transfer was essentially added to pick up the scoring slack on the wing created by Malcolm Hill's graduation. That's a pretty big role, and one the Illini do need Alstork to fill.

Illini Hoops Fan wrote on June 21, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Scott -

Welcome back as we miss you in chats while the Illini landed two tall hoopsters. It appears that coaches are still looking for more bigs, especially experienced bigs, to fill the '17 class.  Who are among the available tall hoopsters might Illini land before basketball season begins in November?

Scott Richey wrote on June 21, 2017 at 1:06 pm
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Illini Hoops Fan,

If Illinois adds any more players for the 2017-18 season, it would be another 4/5. Also, I would expect that big man to be of the graduate transfer variety in order to ensure there are three scholarships available for the 2018 class. That seems to be a priority for the Illini given the position types they're targeting.

The full transfer market did pass the 700 player mark while I was on vacation apparently, but my recent persual of the available players still reveals few options for teams looking to add another big. I haven't heard any new names tied to the Illini either. A likely addition just doesn't seem to be out there, but I've been wrong before.

As always, we'll see.

larry harnly wrote on June 21, 2017 at 1:06 pm

MATIC VESEL played in a pro league in his home country.   why is he eligible to play for the illini as an amateur?

Scott Richey wrote on June 21, 2017 at 1:06 pm
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There are scores of young European players that play for professional teams and then play college basketball in the U.S. They can do so because they don't sign contracts with the teams and aren't paid. Once they reach 18 or 19 years old they either sign a contract or, like Vesel did, find a college home.

Brosox wrote on June 21, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Scott, I noticed that Coach Groce did not hire Paris Parham when he went to Akron.  Has Coach Parham taken another position elsewhere?  Also, any news about a replacement for the coach who recently went to Gonzaga? 

Scott Richey wrote on June 21, 2017 at 1:06 pm
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I haven't heard that Paris Parham has gotten a new job yet. I saw him in Indianapolis in April at the EYBL session (an opportunity to network given all the coaches on hand) and then again in May on campus since he was working out Malcolm Hill before graduation. 

No news at the moment on a possible replacement for Stephen Gentry. His departure to Gonzaga leaves two staff positions Brad Underwood can fill -- Gentry's as special assistant to the head coach and what Underwood has basically described as a social media coordinator for the program that could also help with video and operations.

Scott Richey wrote on June 21, 2017 at 1:06 pm
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Looks like that's it for today's chat. Thanks to everybody that submitted questions for my first post-vacation chat. Keep 'em coming next when the chat continues its regular weekly appearance -- same time, same place -- at IlliniHQ.com.

Until then, enjoy the week!