RECORDS & AWARDS
ILLINOIS BASKETBALL PREVIEW
October 15, 2012Richmond High School
2012 ILLINOIS BASKETBALL PREVIEW
Illinois has gone through coaching changes in both the football and basketball programs. The basketball program will bring in a coach who had great success at Ohio University. John Groce won 29 games last season for the Bobcats, won the MAC tournament title and made it to the Sweet 16. Groce now takes over an Illinois program that has needless to say, has struggled for several years. Illinois lost 12 of 14 down the stretch and again missed the post-season. So what can Groce do to turn a once proud program into a winner? First, get people to believe in the program again after five straight years of stagnation under Bruce Weber. Second, recruit in the Chicago area again. Illinois fans will have to be patient because this process won’t happen overnight.
Illinois loses Center Meyers Leonard. The post position will now be in the hands of Nnanna Egwu, who had a great off-season. The Nigerian born and Chicago high school product is being touted as a very solid big man by the Illini coaching staff. Tyler Griffey has the experience on the frontline with 24 starts in three seasons. Griffey can get open shots in this system. Fifth-year senior Sam McLaurin is a transfer from Coastal Carolina. The 6-8 forward will play multiple positions up front and can step outside and hit the mid-range jumper. Sophomores Mike Shaw and Ibby Djimde will battle for minutes.
Guard Brandon Paul is the man in Champaign. Paul averaged 14.7 ppg last season and is the centerpiece of this Illinois team. The 6-4 athletic guard will be counted on even more this season with so much inexperience. D.J. Richardson is a four year starter who will be the designated shooter. Richardson is the teams long range shooter. The coaching staff will rely heavily on Sophomore Tracy Abrams, the toughest player on the team. Joseph Bertrand is a streaky shooter who will get a chance to play significant minutes. Myke Henry and Devin Langford will look for minutes off the bench.
Coach Groce may be a great fit for this program because he patterned his program at Ohio after Ohio State. He wants freedom on offense and great effort on defense. It will take time for Groce to change this roster and find the best players for his system.