Nov. 22 Illinois basketball chat

Nov. 22 Illinois basketball chat

Wednesday, November 22, 2017 - 12:30pm

Illinois will be back in action at 6 p.m. Wednesday against Division III Augustana. It would be beyond a major upset for the Illini not to head into Thanksgiving still unbeaten. Of course, that's why you play the games. Illinois at least heads into Wednesday's game 4-0. What questions do you have about this year's Illini? Who might be the next recruiting targets on Illinois' board. Beat writer Scott Richey will answer all of those questions and more in his 12:30 p.m. chat before heading to State Farm Center for Illini vs. Vikings.

Scott Richey wrote on November 22, 2017 at 12:11 pm
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Instead of starting a few minutes late (as has been the case with the past few chats), let's get this going a few minutes early. There's already a good number of questions awaiting me, but I'll keep the chat open until at least 1:30 p.m. or I run out of questions — whichever comes first. 

Of course, this is just the teaser for more basketball coverage tonight, as we celebrate Thanksgiving Eve with an Illinois vs. Augustana basketball game. I'll be courtside at State Farm Center per usual.

Anyway, on to the chat ...

anonymous user wrote on November 22, 2017 at 12:11 pm

When will Kipper Nichols get his first start? 

Assuming the Illini keep winning, when do we get rated in the top 20? 


Scott Richey wrote on November 22, 2017 at 12:11 pm
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I think all you need to do is look at Illinois' rotation and how the minutes are distributed to realize starting isn't exactly a big deal. Brad Underwood wants to have a productive bench — guys that will come in and do more than just take up some minutes while the starters are getting a breather. So you may never see Kipper Nichols start a game this season. He's proved his value as a sixth man option in the early going this season.

But back to those minutes per game averages for the Illini. It really is kind of interesting ...

Michael Finke ... 26.0
Mark Smith ... 25.5
Leron Black ... 23.0
Mark Alstork ... 20.8
Trent Frazier ... 19.5
Da'Monte Williams ... 19.0
Te'Jon Lucas ... 19.0
Aaron Jordan ... 18.3
Kipper Nichols ... 17.8

So, as you can see, Nichols plays the fewest minutes per game of any Illini regular. He's also third on the team in scoring at 12.8 ppg, so he's clearly making the most of his time on the court.

Per your other question, for the Illini to jump into the rankings, they're going to have to beat teams a little bitter than the DePauls and UT Martins of the world. Unbeaten through the Maryland game on Dec. 3 at 9-0? Yeah, Illinois is probably considered as top 25 worthy.

Doug Freehauf wrote on November 22, 2017 at 12:11 pm

  Hey Scott,

It seems like beyond the winning this year, the Illini are having fun!!! Do you believe as I do , that this basketball team is coming together, and we don't have to here from their coach everyday, that this is a necessity? They are not playing scared! They are starting to believe in themselves!!! What a change!

Scott Richey wrote on November 22, 2017 at 12:11 pm
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Winning, of course, is fun. Scoring lots of points is also fun, and that's what the shift in styles has brought to Illinois. Players like to push the pace, run the floor and score. Brad Underwood has called it an attractive style of play that he can use as a recruiting tool. His offense creates scoring opportunities across the board, and the Illini are taking advantage.

Underwood wants his team to be aggressive at both ends of the court. He projects that himself on the sideline, and I think the Illini have appropriated that characteristic to a degree through four games. There's always room for more of it.

Anonymous User wrote on November 22, 2017 at 12:11 pm


Thanks for the chats, always informative and entertaining as well. Dark horse recruits in the picture as of now for ILLINI basketball team? Any recent Euro names come about? 

Thanks and keep up the chats. I...L...L



Scott Richey wrote on November 22, 2017 at 12:11 pm
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Thanks for the kind words. Glad you enjoy the chats and are also participating. They don't happen without all of you. I suppose I could just make up questions, but that's pretty disingenuous.

Because the Class of 2018 — i.e. high school seniors — is thin on elite level big men that could truly compete at the Division I level, I wouldn't be surprised if Illinois went the transfer route there. One possibility is former Dartmouth forward Evan Boudreaux. 

The Illinois native (he's from Lake Forest) announed his departure from the Big Green the day before the season started. He's going to sit out this seaon, graduate and then transfer and be eligible immediately with two seasons to play. He's basically the unicorn of grad transfers in that he's got that second season with his new team. 

Boudreaux, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward, was remarkably consistent in his two seasons at Dartmouth. He averaged 17.7 points and 9.4 rebounds as a freshman and 17.5 points and 9.5 rebounds last year as a sophomore. He's also a career 37.4 percent three-point shooter.

Will he end up at Illinois? I don't know. The true odds are probably actually agains it, but he's an interesting name to me. 

As far as new names on the European front, none have really come out of late. But if you don't mind social media speculation, Illinois assistant Orlando Antigua (the international recruiter of the bunch) recently followed Ramon Vila (a Spaniard who is transferring from Arizona State as a sophomore) and Valdir Manuel (an Angolan who's a three-star forward currently playing at The Patrick School in New Jersey).

Zekiah Swamp wrote on November 22, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Apparently one of the reasons Orlando Antiqua is on the staff is his international recruiting prowess.  Given that two scholarships for next year are open and the need for "bigs", my bet is that that the Illini sign at least one international "big" in the April signing period.  Your throughts?

Scott Richey wrote on November 22, 2017 at 12:11 pm
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If it's not an international big man to help round out the 2018 recruiting class, I think it will be a graduate transfer. Of course, when either of those might happen is pure speculation at this point. Considering Illinois landed both Greg Eboigbodin and Matic Vesel in June, there's plenty time to find someone — or someones — to join Ayo Dosunmu among the Illini newcomers next season.

Red Grange wrote on November 22, 2017 at 12:11 pm

The official Illinois men's basketball roster lists Clayton Jones as sitting out the season recovering from a torn ACL. When did this injury happen, and do you think he will attempt to petition the NCAA for an additional season of eligibility?

Scott Richey wrote on November 22, 2017 at 12:11 pm
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Red Grange,

Clayton Jones was injured in the offseason (end of spring/early summer overlap). Because he took what amounts to his redshirt season by spending two years at Lake Land following his true freshman season at South Plains College in Texas, Jones would have to get a medical hardship waiver to come back to the Illini next season. Could he? I think that's possible, although I don't know if there are any different stipulations for walk-ons. It's something I can find out. I just can't think of too many walk-ons (any, I suppose) going for that sixth year.

Khan El-Sanderz wrote on November 22, 2017 at 12:11 pm

When was the last time the team had a defender that was able to stop dribble penetration.  This team doesn't have the depth inside to manage legitimate fouls from bigs and then add on some help defense fouls because the guards can't keep folks out of the lane. 

Given more time, do you think the coaching staff can get some defense out of this squad?


Scott Richey wrote on November 22, 2017 at 1:11 pm
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Khan El-Sanderz,

I would say Illinois has already made some defensive improvements with the shift from the pack line to a defense predicated on ball pressure and denial. Has it been perfect? No, of course not. Does Brad Underwood still have more of his defense to install? Yes.

As far as individuals go, Mark Alstork has been better as a defender than even Underwood expected. I think Kipper Nichols and Aaron Jordan can be good defenders on the wing. And as far as just pure lockdown defenders go, Da'Monte Williams could be that guy for the Illini. His lengthy, lateral quickness and willingness to play defense have him headed in that direction already.

IlliniFansincetheSpoon wrote on November 22, 2017 at 1:11 pm

Hey Scott,

Good to see Illini shoot better outside, they could'nt throw it in the ocean the first few games.

Kendrick Nunn off to a good start at Oakland. Can you briefly update us on the transfers still in college?

Pet Peeve: Why do college BB coaches strut the sidelines in expensive suits? It's a ballgame!

Student/Athelete can't afford (or NCAA forbid) be given a tee shirt.

Go easy on the turkey.....

Scott Richey wrote on November 22, 2017 at 1:11 pm
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There are four former Illini still playing college basketball elsewhere. Both Jalen Coleman-Lands (DePaul) and D.J. Williams (George Washington) have to sit out this season. You mentioned Kendrick Nunn, who's averaging 24 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game for Oakland.

Finally playing is Austin Colbert. He transferred to Old Dominion after two seasons at Illinois (the last being 2014-15), but he never played for the Monarchs. He's currently averaging 3.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game for Hampton.

College coaches can wear whatever they like on the sideline. Most wear suits, of course, but not all. Just look at Bob Huggins, who goes for the comfort look with a West Virginia pullover and track pants or full tracksuit on occasion. To be honest, I don't care what coaches wear.

I can't promise to go easy on the turkey.

Illini Basketball Fan wrote on November 22, 2017 at 1:11 pm

Scott -

Has the basketball team met or exceeded your expectations to date? At what point down the road will you consider revising your predicted season record for the Illini? (ie, beat Wake Forest or/and Missouri time frame?)

Have a happy Thanksgiving and thanks you alll you've done for the News-Gazette and community. You are definitely one of the up and coming sports writing stars in this country.  Hope you do not get recruited out of this area for a bigger paper.

Thank you.



Scott Richey wrote on November 22, 2017 at 1:11 pm
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Illini Basketball Fan,

I'll put this out there. My only expectation for the Illinois basketball team — perhaps my only wish — was to be entertained for 2 hours on gameday. So far, so good. As far as wins and losses go, I expected Illinois to win its first four games (plus today and Friday). The Illini are 4-0 so well on their way in that regard. I mentioned it in another answer, but I think getting through next week (Wake Forest-Northwestern-Maryland) will be a good early season evaluation point.

Happy Thanksgiving to you as well. I appreciate your kind words. They give me something extra to be thankful for.

Scott Richey wrote on November 22, 2017 at 1:11 pm
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Looks like that's it for today's chat. A big thank you to everyone that submitted questions this week. Of course, the Illinois basketball content is just getting started today here at The LIVE! Report for tonight's game against Augustana will start at 5 p.m. with plenty more coming after the game.

The chat will be back next week, but probably on Thursday as I'll be making my way back from North Carolina at our usual chat time. Just keep your eyes peeled here and on my Twitter (@srrichey) for a firm time and date.

Until then, have a terrific Thanksgiving everyone and enjoy the week!