Veteran Jordan guides young, new Illini

Veteran Jordan guides young, new Illini

CHAMPAIGN — Eight hours per week is all that's allotted Illinois for official men's basketball workouts. Four hours on the court with the Illini coaches and four more with the strength and conditioning staff.

The former gets tricky in July. Recruiting evaluation periods send the coaching staff on the road Wednesday through Sunday. Using those four hours in the most effective way possible is the challenge.

But even in the offseason, Illinois basketball is not an eight-hours-a-week proposition.

"We do a lot of practice away from that knowing that the coaches go recruit, so they're not here," Illinois senior guard Aaron Jordan said. "It's up to us. Let's get in (Ubben Basketball Complex) and go watch some film with one of the managers. Let's go do some extra stuff in the weight room just to make our bodies feel better because we know what we do and how hard we go.

"It's been a lot of that from veteran leadership, getting guys together and playing open gym on our time. We're always busy no matter what. If somebody told us to sit down and do nothing, we couldn't."

Veteran leadership could be vital for Illinois in the 2018-19 season. There just isn't much of it. Jordan is one of two seniors on the roster — graduate transfer Adonis De La Rosa the other — and one of just four returning scholarship players. The number of newcomers is double that.

"Everything is new to them," Jordan said of the six freshmen and two transfers. "There's a lot of questions they're going to have. (I'll be) somebody to be there to answer them, show them the ins and outs of campus and just give them the best experience possible."

Those younger players have caught Jordan's eye during summer workouts and open gym sessions. Several of them will join the 6-foot-5 guard in giving Illinois more wing depth, and Jordan and freshman guard Alan Griffin are already engaging in some friendly three-point shooting competition.

"Fearless," Jordan said to describe the new freshmen. "That's one word, and I'm going to keep saying it for those guys. They've stepped up to the challenge, they listen and they try to get better every day. The older guys, when they challenge them, they don't back down."

Ayo Dosunmu and Tevian Jones — Illinois' top-rated recruits in the 2018 class — have made an impression on the only four-year Illini on the roster.

"(Dosunmu) talks out there as a point guard on the court," Jordan said. "He gets a lot of people involved and can get a basket for himself. I really like what I see there. I didn't know a lot about Tev. I think he has trampolines in his shoes, to be honest. His athleticism, I can't wait to see what he can do."