Team Previews: University of Illinois
Intro: The Fighting Illini bring back the majority of their key components from last season and after being snubbed by the NCAA selection committee they are back with more experience and a chip on their shoulder.
Returning: Demetri McCamey is a big time leader that made the transition from a youthful role player to a star and surefire NBA prospect. He averaged better than 15 points and 7 assists and came up big for Coach Weber when he was needed. He, along with Mike Tisdale, Mike Davis, and Bill Cole will be looked upon as senior leaders. Both Tisdale and Davis return with a lot of minutes logged in the frontcourt of their career. The tandom complement each other well. Tisdale is very skilled, can step out and knock down the three with consistency, and is good at changing shots defensively with his 7-foot-1-inch frame. Davis is an athletic forward that stays closer to the basket though he is a capable scorer from the midrange area. He too is a shot blocker and has shown the potential to take over games throughout his career. While Cole might not see a great deal of minutes his experience and leadership will be highly important in helping the new guys adjust to the rigors of Division-I basketball and speed up the process of picking up Coach Weber’s system. Sophomores D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul had very solid rookie seasons for the Illini. D.J. earned Big Ten freshman of the year honors while Paul was a part time starter that showed flashes of being an explosive scorer. Sophomore forward Tyler Griffey had a solid freshman year and, with a year of Big Ten experience and a nice run this summer playing overseas with a 20U USA team, improvement is expected so count on him to continue to contribute.
Newcomers: Freshman Jereme Richmond is expected to make a big impact in Champaign. At 6-foot-8-inches he is very versatile and has the ability to play an array of positions for Illinois. He handles it well, can score inside and out, and is a very underrated passer. He could potentially spare McCamey at the point for small stretches though he will play the majority of his time at the 3-spot. He could also play some power forward and cause mismatch problems for opposing 4-men if Weber decide to go with a more perimeter oriented lineup. Backing up Tisdale will be the athletic 7-footer Meyers Leonard. The Robinson, Illinois product is very mobile and brings the Illini staff a different look at the 5. Though he can consistently knock down shots extending out to about 18 feet, he’s best around the basket where he always looks to finish around the rim. He’s young and inexperienced but is aggressive and has as much potential as any post player in the Big Ten. Crandall Head, another freshman, brings athleticism and good talent to the backcourt. He’s long and can play both ends of the floor effectively. The Illini won’t lose much, if anything at all, with him providing reserve minutes at the guard slot. Joseph Bertrand is the team’s fourth freshman after redshirting due to injury this past year. He’s highly athletic and, though not considered more of a lead guard than a point by many, has great ball handling skills and is an unselfish talent. He’s got good size and will be a good backup option when McCamey needs rest.
Outlook: You can always count on Weber’s teams to play defensively. They’ve got a very talented roster and return great experience. It should be a very solid season for the Illini and the future is looking just as, if not more bright!
PG – McCamey*, Bertrand
SG – Richardson*, Head*
SF – Paul*, Richmond*, Cole
PF – Davis*, Griffey*
C – Tisdale*, Leonard*
Players marked with asterisks are expected to see the majority of the minutes played