Sept. 13 Illinois basketball, football & volleyball chat

Sept. 13 Illinois basketball, football & volleyball chat

Wednesday, September 13, 2017 - 3:00pm

Scott Richey is bound for Tampa later this week ahead of Friday night's Illinois football game at South Florida. Before he departs, though, he'll answer questions on a variety of Illinois topics. Like, can Lovie Smith's program improve to 3-0 before Big Ten play starts on Sept. 29? When will Brad Underwood land his first Class of 2018 commit? How much work needs to still be done on the recruiting trail before the 2017-18 season tips off in less than two months? Anything is fair game as Richey chats at 3 p.m. on Wednesday. As always, feel free to submit questions ahead of time.

Scott Richey wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm
Profile Picture

Good afternoon everybody. Thanks for your patience with today's chat moved back a couple hours. I was on the job at our usual start time, conducting some interviews for a story coming Sunday (at least that's the plan) about newest Illinois men's basketball player Mark Alstork.

Lots of questions awaiting me, though, so let's get right to it.

Anonymous User wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Any updates on the women's basketball team?  I'm surprised Coach Fahey hasn't landed any new recruits - any updates on the recruiting scene?  Thanks.

Scott Richey wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm
Profile Picture

Anonymous,

I'm not quite as tuned into women's basketball recruiting these days being a year removed from covering the team plus the change in the Illinois coaching staff. Nancy Fahey has, however, landed what I believe is her first 2018 recruit.

Mackenzie Blazek, a 6-foot-2 forward out of Whiteland Community HS in Franklin, Ind., committed over the summer apparently, but was just on camps this past weekend for a visit. She's ranked a four-star recruit and No. 90 in the 2018 class by ESPN.

Hick wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm

It is an exciting time to be an Illini Volleyball fan!

Who would you conisder to be early season surprises and who has the highest upside of potential contributors?

Coming off a strong performance on the outside, Beth Prince seems to have established herself as a potential staple there. With Conney on the right side and Hranicka in the middle, does this look to be the lineup we can expect for a while?

Ideally, each of the five positions takes equal amount of swings, can we expect Cooney to get more looks? Hranicka was getting consistent swings early but we seemed to go away from that this past weekend...can you attribute that to anything specific--or was it just matchup?

 

Scott Richey wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm
Profile Picture

Hick,

A couple "surprises" for me so far this season for the Illini are freshmen Morgan O'Brien and Megan Cooney. Both had great high school careers, but you just never know what they'll be until they get on campus. O'Brien has been a consistent passer, and I've been most impressed by Cooney's blocking ability on the right side.

I would put Tyanna Omazic down as the player with the highest upside that isn't in the rotation (at least full time) yet. She could be another good scoring middle for the Illini.

As far as the rotation goes, I think what you see now is what you'll see consistently for a while. Beth Prince, who I've been high on all along, has really become a scoring option on the outside on both in-system and out-of-system balls. Jacqueline Quade, too.

I think Cooney will probably get some more swings, but as long as the passing is on point, I don't see why Illinois wouldn't continue to feed Ali Bastianelli in the middle. Prince and Quade will get their swings regardless. Blayke Hranicka was dealing with an injury from the second weekend of the season, so maybe that played a part in her slightly diminished role. Also, at 6-foot, she was at a disadvantage — particularly against Stanford who had Kathryn Plummer and Audriana Fitzmorris (6-6) and Merete Lutz (6-8) in the front row.

 

Hick wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Is it fair to assume Hollowell is a good candidate to redshirt? Is there anyone else on the roster that might benefit from that option? (I believe Omazic, and Van Dyke have already appeared in matches thus eliminating that as an option, right?)

I assume Bruder will be given another year if she wants it...do you have any update on her?

It seems like our lineup, top to bottom, sports more size than ever before with 5 girls listed at 6'3" or taller and four others listed at 6'2". When Nerbaska won it all, everyone front row player that took swings for them was listed at 6'3"--our second middle is a bit undersized (comparably) but this has got to be exciting for coach as we move forward. With everyone back next year on the front lines, the battles in practice have to be intense...is anyone on the cusp of earning more chances? 

Scott Richey wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm
Profile Picture

Hick,

You never know about redshirts (covering Lovie Smith's football team makes me hesitant to say any freshmen will redshirt), but Emily Hollowell is as good a candidate of any on the volleyball team to redshirt. The players she's competing for playing time with haven't shown a reason they shouldn't be on the court. And you are correct, Tyanna Omazic and Marijke Van Dyke have burned their redshirt by playing this season.

Kylie Bruder should get a fifth year if she wants it. Her knee injury will keep her out the entire season.

Like in my last answer, I'd say Omazic might be the next young player to get playing time. She put up big numbers before getting to Illinois and has the attack/block combo you want in a middle. Adding some strength will help her. 

Blakester wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Scotty! I wanna find out the targets for the 2018 women's hoop team as well as for 2019 and 2020. I know they got one from Indiana and who else Fahey and company chasing after in 2018? Peace!

Scott Richey wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm
Profile Picture

Blakester!

Don't have much to tell you on the women's basketball recruiting front. For one, there's not much out there in terms of coverage in general. For another, like in my previous answer in today's chat, I'm a little more removed from it now than I was in the past.

One name to keep an eye on, though, in the 2018 class is a local recruit. Urbana guard Arieal Scott — the No. 100 player in the class per ESPN — decommitted from Duke during the summer, and she's been working out with some current Illini players. Not saying she'll stay home, but you never know.

Anonymous Jim wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Are 3 QB's in the same class a good idea?  Is everything good with Coran Taylor from the Illini's perspective?

Safe travels!!

Scott Richey wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm
Profile Picture

Anonymous Jim,

The Illinois coaching staff seems to think it is. That's the opinion that matters, although having three quarterbacks in the same class seems like it sets itself up for somebody to transfer down the line. If all three 2018 quarterbacks ultimately wind up at Illinois, that means five scholarship quarterbacks will be sitting behind Chayce Crouch next season if nobody beats him out. 

Last season showed what can happen when a team doesn't have enough quarterback depth (Cam Miller and Trenard Davis being converted), but I thought two quarterbacks in the 2018 class and then another in 2019 and so on would have addressed that.

I've seen the swirling rumors about Coran Taylor. I don't have any rock solid information that would put his coming to Illinois in question, but you can't stop the Twitter speculation from happening.

MikeM wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Hey, Scott, two questions. First, the dumb one: who in the UI athletic department, or Memorial Stadium gameday operations or whatever else, is the huge WWE fan? Because by my count we got the theme songs of AJ Styles, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura and Asuka all played during the game on Saturday. It's nothing new (I specifically remember Kurt Angle's theme being used for the Illini athlete of the week spots years ago), but I heartily approve regardless. 

Also, do you have any read on Landers Nolley's recruitment? I'd love to say I think Illinois is in a good place, but for a top 60 player who had a really good summer, there just isn't a whole lot out there. Still no crystal ball predictions for Nolley. 

Scott Richey wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm
Profile Picture

MikeM,

I don't know who the WWE fan is, but I'm all for using entrance music on gameday — especially if they incorporated some from the late '90s. 

As far as Landers Nolley's recruitment goes, I think the thing that stands out the most to me is the fact he has reportedly changed up his official visit schedule. Illinois, of course, got the first one, and Virginia Tech is also after him hard. The other three visits though — Georgia, Georgia Tech and Georgia State — keep him home. Makes me wonder how strong that pull is. The fact Illinois did an in-home visit right after Nolley came to C-U shows the push Brad Underwood and Co. are making, though.

Nolley tweeted his commitment will come on Halloween. Everyone will find out for sure then. Unless he decides before that. Recruiting can be ... a bit unpredictable.

larry harnly wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm

did the illini try to recruit cartier gordon, who is from the st. louis area?   how good is he?   he has committed to saint louis u.

Scott Richey wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm
Profile Picture

Larry,

Illinois, under John Groce, did recruit Carte'Are Gordon and offered the big man from St. Louis. He committed to SLU long before Brad Underwood got to Champaign and seems to have reaffirmed that decision in the past week.

At one point, Gordon was considered a top 10 player in the 2018 class (at least in ESPN's rankings), and he helped Team USA win gold two summers ago in the FIBA U17 World Championships. He dealt with an injury during his junior season, which also kept him off the floor this past spring during AAU season. His stock fell simply because he wasn't playing, but he's a legit big man.

Anonymous User wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm

It appears that Diana Brown, a 2018 volleyball recruit, has been ranked #45 in her class.  I'm a bit surprised that she is ranked this low - I believe she is one of the top 4-5 setters in this class.  Do you have any information about the class and any idea why she was ranked this low?

Scott Richey wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm
Profile Picture

Anonymous,

I think John Tawa at PrepVolleyball.com does a good job, providing content like his Top 100 Senior Aces for what's a fairly niche readership. That said, he's pretty much the only game in town when it comes to rankings, and rankings in general aren't always reflective of what will be once those players get to the college level. That applies to every sport.

Yes, Jordyn Poulter ranking No. 3 in the 2015 class and Ali Bastianelli joining her in the top 10 at No. 10 was on the money. They're both elite talents. But even looking at the 2016 rankings, Jacqueline Quade was ranked in the 80s while Kaylin Korte was ranked higher. Quade ended up the All-Big Ten Freshman selection last fall, and Korte transferred in the offseason to Clemson.

When it comes to Diana Brown, I thought she'd end up ranked higher, but regardless of her ranking Illinois is getting another good setter and she'll have a season to learn behind Poulter before she takes the job in 2019. 

Bill-e-bob wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Hi Scott,

Statistically Illinois VB played both of its Pac-12 opponents even last weekend.  Yet we lost.  What will it take to rise up and actually win these high level matches this season?  This is perhaps the biggest area in which this team has to improve this year.  Thanks for your ideas on this.

Scott Richey wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm
Profile Picture

Bill-e-bob,

I can speak more to the Stanford loss since I was at that match. If Illinois hadn't committed eight service errors, maybe that match ends differently. It's a slippery slope sometimes. The Illini needed to serve aggressively to keep the Cardinal out of system as much as possible, but that aggressive tact led to more balls out.

I couldn't attend the Colorado match because of Illinois football, but I'm told the passing was not great. That's something Illinois has done well all season (and did the night before against Stanford). The Illini were also a little more high error across the board (attack, service, serve-receive). It happens.

Illinois is still a team working in several freshmen and still a team getting more comfortable and familiar with a new system each day. An 8-0 start would have been a major surprise. As well as the Illini have played in general this season, the fact there's room to improve — areas to play cleaner — is a good thing.

Honeywood wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Scott,

 

I really appreciate you taking the time out to do these chats every week. You're doing an awesome job covering the Illini. 

 

We've been hearing about the hoops class of 2018 since Coach Groce was in charge. The names I'd been hearing were Tim Finke and Ayo Dosunmu. I haven't heard much about Finke's recruitment as of late, so where do things stand with him? Is the recruitment of Landers Nolley a sign of Finke's pursuit?

 

As far as football, I am more excited than ever about the future of the football program. But I am nervous about the quarterback situation. Is Cam Thomas being redshirted, and if so is there a chance the staff burns his redshirt during conference play?

 

Thanks again.

Scott Richey wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm
Profile Picture

Honeywood,

Thanks for the kind words and glad you enjoy the chats.

It seems like Tim Finke's recruitment in general — not just by Illinois — has slowed. He dropped entirely out of the most recent Rivals150 to go with drops in the other recruiting rankings. The fact Illinois paired an immediate in-home visit with Landers Nolley after his official visit to C-U and will hit Talen Horton-Tucker for an in-home visit tomorrow sort of show the Illini's recruiting priorities have shifted on the wing. Finke is still an option, of course. He's just not the only one.

As of now, Cam Thomas hasn't been among the nearly 20 true freshmen to play for Illinois so his redshirt season is still intact. I don't envision it being burned like the way Tim Beckman needlessly did with Aaron Bailey, but you never know for sure. I was impressed by Thomas more in training camp than I thought I'd be — bigger arm than I thought to go with his athleticism — but accuracy and decision making were works in progress. I'd say he should redshirt. 

Big Dave wrote on September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Coach Groce did a nice job with recruiting but seemed to struggle with player development. Coach Underwood is known for player development but the jury is still out if he can recruit. Assuming he can be successful on both fronts, how long do you think it takes for the Illini to be a top four team in the Big Ten? And, do you know what the salaries are for the assistant coaches? Can they receive bonuses? 

Scott Richey wrote on September 13, 2017 at 4:09 pm
Profile Picture

Big Dave,

Following along with your assumption Brad Underwood can be successful both in recruiting and player development, Illinois could challenge for the top of the Big Ten in, say, three seasons. I think that's a reasonable timeline. Basketball can shift much quicker in that regard than football. Will it be that soon? Possibly. Could it be sooner? Maybe. Might it take longer? Sure, nothing's set in stone. This coming season, though, will at least set the tone for that. Underwood will get a chance to add talent with his first full recruiting class and show what his program might be like on the court at the same time.

I'm not sure the exact details of the assistants' contracts — maybe they have bonuses for things like NCAA tournament appearances — but their salaries are as follows:

Orlando Antigua ... $350,000

Chin Coleman ... $225,000

Jamall Walker ... $275,000

In case you're interested, every DIA salary from staff to coaches to administrators can be found online in the Gray Book.

Lifetime Illini wrote on September 13, 2017 at 4:09 pm

Scott,

Which of the next three games does the football team have the best chance of winning and what is the likelihood of that happening?  Which is the toughest of the three games?

 

Thanks

Scott Richey wrote on September 13, 2017 at 4:09 pm
Profile Picture

Lifetime Illini,

I'd say Illinois has perhaps its best chance at a win Sept. 29 at home against Nebraska. The Cornhuskers haven't necessarily played great football. They struggled to beat Arkansas State in Lincoln and then gave up 42 first-half points to Oregon in Eugene. I don't think I'd call the Illini favorites, but it could happen.

Toughest is probably a toss-up between Friday at South Florida and Oct. 7 at Iowa. I'm leaning a bit toward the Hawkeyes as being tougher since it's on the road and Illinois hasn't fared that well at Kinnick Stadium of late in addition to USF being in a weird spot having less preparation for Friday's game because of the hurricane.

Scott Richey wrote on September 13, 2017 at 4:09 pm
Profile Picture

Looks like that's it for questions for this week's chat. A good one per usual with lots of questions and topics. Thanks to everyone that submitted a question or simply followed along. Both are appreciated.

Be on the lookout for plenty of Illini coverage in The News-Gazette the next few days, including my upcoming trip to Tampa to see Illinois face South Florida. The chat will be back next week — same time, same place.

Until then, enjoy the week!

Hick wrote on September 13, 2017 at 4:09 pm

Make a prediction...

Do the illini get revenge over last season's loss to Missouri State this weekend?

Do they win the tournament, who is your MVP and who is all-tournament team?

Scott Richey wrote on September 13, 2017 at 4:09 pm
Profile Picture

Hick,

Quickly since I did manage to see this before I closed the chat  to questions ...

Yes, but only if they shut down Lynsey Wright (an Edwardsville grad like N-G sports editor Matt Daniels and Illinois Mr. Basketball Mark Smith)

Yes, but only if they do beat Missouri State. It won't be easy. The Bears beat Ohio State already this season.

Jordyn Poulter as MVP joined by Ali Bastianelli and Brandi Donnelly on the all-tournament team. I didn't go out on much of a limb there.