Aug. 9 Illinois basketball & football chat

Aug. 9 Illinois basketball & football chat

Wednesday, August 9, 2017 - 12:30pm

Scott Richey is staying busy covering Illinois football training camp and keeping tabs on Brad Underwood's program. When will the final 2017-18 basketball schedule be released? Who is planning on coming for official visits once the school year starts? Will Lovie take the Illini to a bowl game this season? Anything is fair game as Richey handles your questions at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Feel free to submit them in advance.

Scott Richey wrote on August 09, 2017 at 12:08 pm
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Good afternoon everybody. Just glanced through the questions submitted so far, and this has the makings of a pretty good chat (if I keep up my end). Lots of questions are in, and they cover a wide range of topics. Even some Illinois volleyball. Thanks in advance to everybody that sent something in this week.

Let's get to it ...

Anonymous User wrote on August 09, 2017 at 12:08 pm

There seems to be so much talk about needing speed on a college football team. Numerous reports say that Julian Hylton might be the fastest on this team. His state championships in track would seem to back that up.  Any idea why he doesn't ever seem to be mentioned in talks about who might return kicks and punts?

Scott Richey wrote on August 09, 2017 at 12:08 pm
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Speed and quickness is good. In fact, it's probably downright necessary when it comes to returning kicks and punts. Returners want to put as much distance between themselves and the incoming tacklers and do so as quickly as they can.

Hylton would have that kind of speed. But speed isn't the only necessary skill when it comes to returning punts and kicks. Solid ball skills are also needed. Yes, Hylton turned a strong 2016 camp into a starting safety spot last season and even picked off a pass in the opener against Murray State, but he didn't show much else after that.

Speed. Elusiveness. Good hands. Some toughness. That's what's needed in a returner. Illinois is looking at several right now in camp, including wide receivers Carmoni Green and Trenard Davis and defensive back Tony Adams.

Pogo in Springfield, Mo. wrote on August 09, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Matic Vessel is an intriguing player in my estimation, not only for the upcoming season because he adds desparately needed size, but in the future as his accompanying skillset provides a huge upside if he can develop physically.   My question is in the time since his commitment and subsequent questions for which we had no answers pertaining to his immediate contributions, have you learned any more about him that can give a more defining estimate of his ability, or lack therof, to contribute this next season.   Personally, I cannot imagine he would wait until classes start before showing up, but maybe coach B assessed his time with the national team to be more needed than work with team.   Your thoughts?

Scott Richey wrote on August 09, 2017 at 12:08 pm
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Pogo in Springfield,

Since he's yet to arrive in Champaign, all I've seen of Matic Vesel remains the same highlights posted on Youtube I'm sure Illinois fans have already found themselves. In general, he runs the floor pretty well and can finish around the rim. In his first year that might be all that's asked (plus, of course, defense). The way Illinois' post depth stacks up, guys like Vesel and Greg Eboigbodin weren't added to the roster to sit the 2017-18 season. They provided needed depth, and at this point I'll assume they'll play.

Vesel not making it to Champaign for summer workouts is a consequence of scheduling more than anythign. His school year in Slovenia ran longer than schools here in the U.S., so he probably just would have made it for July if he wasn't representing Slovenia in international play. That's pretty special, and not exactly a cakewalk either. It's not like he just sat around home doing nothing.

Will Vesel be behind the rest of the Illini when he arrives shortly? Some, sure, but Brad Underwood said he didn't dive too deeply into installing his system because Vesel and Mark Alstork weren't on campus. Even so, the early fall (late August to early October) is spent with strength and conditioning coach Adam Fletcher. He'll get Vesel going in that regard at least.

Anonymous User wrote on August 09, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Do you think we are going to find a center by November? I am getting concerned. Aren't centers more important for us than guards. 

Who do you think will commit first?

Scott Richey wrote on August 09, 2017 at 12:08 pm
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Illinois has a center. Two actually. At least in terms of players that will likely play the 5 in Brad Underwood's system. Said system sort of redefines the word "center" to a big man that will operate out of the high post. Good passing and shooting skills required. That's why Michael Finke, who will play the 5, has been seen as one returning Illini who might benefit the most from the switch from John Groce to Underwood.

Freshman Greg Eboigbodin, I feel, represents the other side of the coin in what I'm going to call an "Underwood 5." He's athletic, strong, can run the floor and finish at the rim and then protect it at the other end.

In Underwood's system, guards are probably more important than centers in the fact he'll regularly play four of them at one time. Big men are still important, though.

Any answer to a "Who commits first?" question — and being right — is basically an exercise in blind luck. Still, I'll go out on a limb and say Florida big man Colin Castleton. He'll be on campus for his first official visit in three weeks. Maybe he's blown away by everything Illini.

MikeM wrote on August 09, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Hey, Scott, I have a couple of 2018 recruiting questions. Do you know if there's anything to the rumors that Ayo and THT don't want to play together in college? In either case, what would Underwood and co's wish list be for that wing/combo forward spot? Horton-Tucker and Tim Finke have been familiar names to Illini fans for awhile, but Zion Griffin and Aaron Henry seemingly, as the kids like to say, blew up this summer. (Note: I don't know what the kids say now. I'm an old, and I still say Q-Tip and Rakim are the greatest rappers ever.) Griffin's combination of range and athleticism in particular intrigue me, and I think he has the combination of physical attributes and skills to be either a full-time 3 or 4. 


Related follow-up question: a Rivals article last week about players ready to crash the 150 indicated that Illinois was recruiting about half the guys on that list (Griffin, Henry, Castleton, Conditt, etc). Is this an indication that Underwood and his staff are doing a better job than previous staffs at evaluating prospects? Or too small of a sample size to really say?

Scott Richey wrote on August 09, 2017 at 1:08 pm
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First, shoutout to Q-Tip. I'll point out I fit somewhere in between the generation that grew up with the rise of A Tribe Called Quest and the one that feels comfortable using phrases like "blow up" and "lit" (in short, maybe just too old to use said phrases).

As far as your questions go ...

I've heard the rumors, of course, about Ayo Dosunmu and Talen Horton-Tucker not wanting to play together. They both downplayed it at the time in interviews I saw, but social media is interesting. There have been posts representing both sides that seem to add some fuel to that rumor fire.

I'd say the goal at wing is pretty straightforward: Dynamic athlete that can play and guard multiple positions as a combo shooter/slasher with some facilitator skills. Any coach would take that, but the ability to float seamlessly between maybe even the 1 through 4 feels like a fit for Brad Underwood.

Of the wings offered, Zion Griffin would have the more Big Ten-ready body now it seems. He played as a big for Hinsdale South last season and then showed off his three-point shooting chops last month. Illinois has options at wing, but they've got competition for every one of them.

I'd say it's too small a sample size to really say if the Underwood staff is better at evaluating than the John Groce staff. Griffin and Aaron Henry both blew up at roughly the same time and Illinois was just one of many schools to offer or start showing more interest. However, the Illini were the first high major in on George Conditt and basically the first on Colin Castleton (an Orlando Antigua guy from his time at USF).

Ask me again in a year or two.

Panera Guy wrote on August 09, 2017 at 1:08 pm



Thank you for taking our questions today, appreciate the chats.

Time to get out your crystal ball.

Which is more likely this year, the football team gets a bowl or the basketball team reaches the NCAA tournament? What do you think the odds of both happening? 



Scott Richey wrote on August 09, 2017 at 1:08 pm
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Panera Guy,

Glad you enjoy the chats. Excuse me while I dust off my notoriously hazy crystal ball ...

As of Aug. 9, 2017, at just past 1 p.m. the likelihood of the Illinois basketball team reaching the NCAA tournament is greater than the football team getting a bowl bid. I'll put basketball at 10-1 odds or so and a football bowl bid at a 35-1 rough estimate.

B-man wrote on August 09, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Love the Chats! 

Any word on Dee Brown?  I haven't read, or been able to find, anything on what he has been doing since he left the program last fall. I hope all is going well for him.


Scott Richey wrote on August 09, 2017 at 1:08 pm
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Dee Brown was actually in Champaign last week. Saw him at Ubben putting his son through a workout. As far as I know, he's back in Chicago doing some coaching and some speaking engagements. 

TJF1306 wrote on August 09, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Some volleyball questions:

Have you seen the freshman on campus or over the summer and how do they look?

Is Van Dyke still hurt?  Also Bruder?  If so ,who does coach Tamas feel could be a back up setter to Poulter?

the 2019 Class has 3 middle blockers - does coach Tamas see any of them playing Opp?

What was done with Korte's open scholarship?




Scott Richey wrote on August 09, 2017 at 1:08 pm
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I'll know more by this weekend, hopefully. Until then, I'm not going to be a super wealth of information ...

I have not seen the Illini freshmen yet. From what I've been told, though, it was a good players-only summer in the gym. The returning players pushed the big group of newcomers.

It looks like both Marijke Van Dyke and Kylie Bruder were both participants when practices started this week. However, the one photo I saw of Bruder was from the waist up and she was setting in place. That could be accomplished in a knee brace, but if she was in fact out I don't know she'd even be on the court like that. 

In terms of the Class of 2019 class, the possibility one of them slides out to opposite is certainly there. Should they, though? Sure, only two middles can play, but having strong depth isn't a bad thing. Just look at Minnesota last year as an example. Lots of good middles.  Even then, it's not something that would be necessary until the 2021 season. Through 2020, the Illini will have plenty of options on the right side.

I believe Illinois still holds an open scholarship after Kaylin Korte transferred to Clemson. I'll find out for sure Sunday. I sort of imagine Chris Tamas will hold onto it for use for a transfer of their own after this season or if there's an open 2018 recruit out there that would fit. As it stands, the Illini are adding just Diana Brown (setter) and Taylor Kuper (a walk-on DS I would imagine) in the 2018 class.

Gregg G wrote on August 09, 2017 at 1:08 pm

With massive amount of offers going out to the class of 2018 (basketball) it is hard to keep track.  With three available scholarships I would assume they would try to get a PG, a wing and a big. Can you please provide a list of a few of the most probable to sign with the Illini for each position?

Scott Richey wrote on August 09, 2017 at 1:08 pm
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Gregg G,

I would say your assumptions about how Illinois will use its three scholarships in the 2018 class are spot on. They at least match up with what I'm thinking. Here's a few "probable" recruits at each spot that could end up with the Illini. And by "probable" I mean I might be wrong. It's happened a time or two before, so it's not out of the question.

Lead guard:  Eric Ayala, Ayo Dosunmu, Nate Hinton

-- Lots of eggs inthe Dosunmu basket. Ayala reportedly will have a top 9 out soon, but he's also discussed reclassifying to 2017. That would have to happen soon, and I'd say it wouldn't be at Illinois. But with Te'Jon Lucas, Mark Smith, Trent Frazier and Da'Monte Williams on the roster, there's some ball handler depth if the top option ultimatetly doesn't work out.

Wings: Ignas Brazdeikis, Tim Finke, Zion Griffin, Aaron Henry, Talen Horton-Tucker

-- Plenty of options here. Also plenty of recruiting competition.

Bigs: Colin Castleton, George Conditt, Tamell Pearson, Amadou Sow

-- I'd say Illinois could be in a pretty good spot with all four of these guys. 

Ed Dubin wrote on August 09, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Do you know the status of the Illinois football players in the NFL camps. Who is still in camp who has been let go.


Scott Richey wrote on August 09, 2017 at 1:08 pm
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The only player to be cut so far is Wes Lunt by the Minnesota Vikings. Here's who is still on rosters as of this afternoon ...

Houston Texans -- Jeff Allen, Justin Hardee, Whitney Mercilus, Gimel President

Green Bay Packers -- Geronimo Allison

Jacksonville Jaguars -- Arrelious Benn, Carroll Phillips, Dawuane Smoot

Los Angeles Chargers -- Jeff Cumberland, Corey Liuget

Indianapolis Colts -- Vontae Davis, Josh Ferguson

Cincinnati Bengals -- Clayton Fejedelem, Hardy Nickerson

New Orleans Saints -- Michael Hoomanawanui

New England Patriots -- Ted Karras

New York Giants -- Matt LaCosse

Detroit Lions -- Akeem Spence, Tavon Wilson

Tennessee Titans -- Justin Staples

Oakland Raiders -- Jihad Ward (on PUP list)

Minnesota Vikings -- Chunky Clements


Scott Richey wrote on August 09, 2017 at 1:08 pm
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That's it for today's chat. Thanks to everyone that submitted questions or followed along. The chat will be back next week -- same time, same place -- for all of your Illinois basketball, football, etc. questions. 

Until then, enjoy the week!