Bertrand not being rushed
CHAMPAIGN — Through two weeks of summer workouts, the 2013-14 Illinois basketball team has participated fully in individual and team workouts. Everyone but Joseph Bertrand.
The fifth-year senior continues to recover from surgery he had in early April to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
“Joe’s doing good. He’s a little bit ahead of schedule,” Illinois assistant coach Paris Parham said. “He’s able to shoot some short, stationary shots. He’s able to dribble with both hands, not anything extreme. He can do some stationary dribbling. He’s done a good job so far.”
The Illinois coaching staff does not want to rush Bertrand, who projects as a starter on the wing. As he progresses in his rehab, Bertrand will continue to work individual drills but isn’t expected to take part in contact practices or drills until the fall semester.
While he hasn’t been able to participate in the team practices this summer, the veteran has assumed an active role in helping nine newcomers get adjusted.
“One of the things that Joe has done in the practices we’ve had is directing the new guys and the freshmen on where they should be on the court. He’s been telling them what they should be looking for on the court,” Parham said. “That’s a little different for Joe because he was kind of quiet. He had been with guys who had been around before, and he’s had to step outside himself a little bit.”
The injury, which occurred prior to the Big Ten finale at Ohio State, has allowed Bertrand to become a more vocal leader, something that will be necessary with so many new faces in the program.
“It’s a lot easier sometimes to sit back and watch the things you’re going to be involved in. We haven’t put in anything new, but the best thing for him is he’s watching and he’s learning and picked up on everything he needs to know because he’s helping the new guys with it,” Parham said.
Two weeks into an eight-week practice schedule, reports from the Ubben Basketball Complex have been positive about summer workouts.
Players have gone through one 30-minute session of individual skill development with their respective position coaches and a 90-minute team workout each week in addition to another six hours of strength and conditioning.
“All the freshmen are working hard — the first two weeks have been a little difficult for them,” assistant coach Dustin Ford said. “There have been a lot of demands on their time, not only academically but athletically. They’ve adjusted well, and what I really like is they’ve continued to work hard and listened and tried to do what we’ve asked them to do.”
That four of the freshmen — Kendrick Nunn, Jaylon Tate, Malcolm Hill and Maverick Morgan — are less than a four-hour car ride from home has helped their transition, Ford said. The fifth freshman, Austin Colbert from New Jersey, spent a year at a boarding school, so he knew what to expect from college life.
“All that helps, but obviously your first time away as a freshman is difficult,” Ford said. “You’re working out and doing a lot of things, but for the first two weeks, they’ve gotten off to a good start.”
With so many fresh faces this summer at Ubben, it’s easy to forget about the returning players. But Bertrand, Tracy Abrams, Nnanna Egwu, Rayvonte Rice and Mike LaTulip have provided plenty of leadership.
“We owe a lot to those guys,” Ford said. “They’ve pulled these young guys and transfers in and helped them get adjusted, and that’s been a big help for us as a staff. Our older guys are all unselfish guys, and they’re about the program and they want to win. They’re trying to bring those guys along, and that helps. We’ve got a bunch of good guys back, guys who have been through it.”
The NCAA rule that allows coaches time to work with their athletes in the summer is in its second year and is especially beneficial for Illinois this year with so much turnover. It’s important to remember, too, that even the veterans are also in their second year with the current coaching staff and they’re still getting accustomed to their ways.
“Those guys know how we want to do things by now, but there are still things we want to ingrain in them of how we want to do things,” Ford said.