Wednesday, October 26, 2005


2006 Illini Have Questions.....Here Are My Answers

My how times change. Going into the 2005 season, there were very few questions about the Illini. Starting lineup was set....and, for the most part, so was the rotation. Randle breaking his hand was the only issue. This year, there are more questions than answers. Dee and Augie are the only certainties....after that, alot of unproven players. Who plays? Who sits? Who redshirts? Only Weber knows for sure, but here are my guesses:

Let's start with the obvious.....Dee, I hope you are healthy and in shape because you aren't going to leave the floor very often. Not only will Brown be the Illini's leader and PG, he will also be there best scorer. Depending on how everyone performs, Dee will have to spend time at both the PG position as well as SG. When he is out, I see the offense sputtering as Weber will be forced to play so many unproven players. As a result, I expect to see Dee on the floor 35+ mpg.

Augie is clearly our best all-around big man....the question is if he has improved his offense around the basket. My guess is that he will be better.....but still not a dominating, consistent scorer. But, he will play hard, defend and rebound regularly. Hopefully, he can find 12-14 PPG by running the floor, getting some putbacks and hitting the occasional jumper. James....I've seen you can do it....stop thinking and shoot the damn ball. I'm guessing 30 MPG for James if he can stay away from the dumb fouls.

Rich McBride may be the key to how well this season goes for Illinois. They need another scorer desperately.....Rich has the skills to be this guy. He has gotten into shape....and the minutes will be there for him this year. When he plays with confidence (see Memphis freshman year), Rich can shoot it with anyone. Unfortunately for Rich, with 3 future NBA players at the guard position, his minutes have been limited up until this point.....and that definitely affected his confidence. No excuses this shape, available minutes, and the team looking for some points from anywhere. My advice for Rich.....I know you can shoot....but you need to attack the basket the mid-range game that you showed in high school. If you do that, there will be that many more opportunities to shoot the 3.

Brian Randle can do alot of things.....right now, shooting the ball isn't one of them...and that's OK. Randle can guard almost every position on the court. He can fill the lane as well as anyone in the country on the fast break. He can attack the basket and rebound in the half court. And, occasionally, he may knock down a 15 ft. jump shot. His defense will be his biggest I expect Weber to have him guard the other team's best offensive player on most nights. Being the athlete that he is, with the way he runs the court and can hit the glass, he can get 10 PPG just by hustling.

Who fills out the starting five? Tough call.....but I am going to go with Shawn Pruitt. He's far from a finished product, but he has alot of upside....and reports have him working very hard on his game. Why do I start him? Because I think, given the minutes, Shawn can be a consistent scorer down low. He has some good post moves....has a nice little jumper....and he is BIG. I would love to see him apply himself more on the defensive end....and I would like to see better rebounding....but I think alot of that will come with more minutes.

That's my starting five. My biggest concern defensively is Pruitt...he is raw. Offensively, with Randle at SF, we only have 2 perimeter shooters on the court. But, you have to have Randle's all-around game on the court at the start. Where do we go from there??

Marcus Arnold will see plenty of minutes because he has a big body and can score down low. Not particularly quick....and not as tall as will be interesting to see him defend in the Big 10. If Pruitt doesn't perform, Arnold could be a starter.

Chester Frazier....boy has he been hyped by the Champaign media. If he is 1/2 as good as they seem to think he is, he will get plenty of minutes. The one thing that I like......he seems to know how/and be willing to play defense. Right off the bat, I'm sure weber loves that about him. Can he shoot when it counts? That will be a question....but he is the only PG on the roster other than he will get some minutes. If he plays well, then Weber has options...sliding Dee to the SG slot for minutes....or going with more 3 guard offense with Dee and Rich.

Warren Carter.....instant offense. Warren is important because he is the only big man that can consistently hit the open shot. For that reason alone, he will play. If he has improved his defense, he may play alot. If his defense is still lacking, he will play in spurts when they need points.

Calvin Brock is a phenomenal athlete. Right now, his basketball skills are behind his athleticism. Needs to improve his shot and his ballhandling. Similar to Randle...not as big...not as good on the defensive end as Brian right now. Calvin will see the court....just not sure how much at this point.

Jamar personal favorite. Why? I like guys that can shoot the ball as well as create their own shot...Jamar can do that. Might be the best offensive player on the team....and that includes Dee. Needs to get stronger and learn to play alot of freshmen. Initially, didn't think he would play. However, because Illinois is lacking in shooters/scorers, I think that Jamar will play more than I initially thought. There will be games that Jamar plays significant minutes....there will be others that he doesn't play at all. By his junior year, watch out. Jamar can be a big scorer at the college level.

Charles redshirt candidate. No knock on harles at all. Right now, we have big guys in front of him...and Charles needs to get his body in basketball opposed to football. On of those guys that could be a great rebounder down the road.

I think you will see less of a defined rotation this year. Certain guys will play in certain situations. Frazier/Smith could platoon depending on the need...offense or defense.

If you pinned me down right now, these 8 will see the most minutes this year:


I see 22+ wins, top3 in the conference, and a Sweet 16 showing in the tourny. Good luck players and coaches.


Butts -

I agree on most but think Randle gets more minutes than McBride.

Rich really, really needs to do something offensively besides spot up to take 3 ptrs.

I hope his getting in better shape will be accompanied by a more agressive attitude towards taking the ball to the hoop
As usual, excellent post butts. I have little to quibble with, although I think that, from what I've seen and heard, McBride may not end up as effective as we're hoping. I think Pruitt has a great chance to be that #3 scorer if he gets starter minutes. McBride will get his chance to step up early in the year, but he really needs to show a diversity to his game that he's yet to display in his 2+ years now at Illinois. I have always thought McBride had a ton of potential, now is the time to see it on the court.

I also agree with the 8 guys you see playing the most, though I'd add Jamar Smith as a 9th player in the rotation. Weber will need shooters on the floor this season and I believe Smith is the 2nd best long-range shooter on the team this year. Randle's presence on the floor will be great defensively, but he's a nightmare in the half-court offense and I guarantee Illinois sees a lot of zone, especially in the pre-conference season. Smith will get minutes when Weber cannot afford to have Randle on the floor offensively and needs baskets against a zone.

I think 22 wins is light for this team, primarily because the pre-conference schedule is so weak. When you factor in the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA play, this team should have 26-28 wins. I agree with top 3 in conference and Sweet Sixteen appearance. Anything less than a Sweet Sixteen with this team will be a disappointment, assuming everybody's healthy.

Dee Brown will need to carry this team on his back. It reminds me of when Brian Cook was a senior, although Augustine's a better veteran wing man than anybody Cook had. Dee will need to score 18+ points per game and average 5-7 assists for this team to reach its potential. Oh, and I agree he'll play 35+ minutes per game. If Dee succumbs to any sort of injury (and he's had a couple bad injuries during offseasons in his 3+ years at Illinois), this team will struggle.
Don't think Dee scores 18, probably 16 and 6. He won't average 35 minutes, but he'll play 35 minutes in a lot of games. McBride showed me a lot in the scrimmage last week. He put it on the floor and created a few times. Actually drove baseline and scored on a reverse layup. The goals for this team should be sweet sixteen, but if they make the second round they will probably be a 4 or 5 seed, IMO. Then you never know

It will be fun to watch.
I think this just shows how very little you can take away from unstructured summer pickup games. In the freewheeling games where fouls are rarely called and the offense is 'showtime' some players will stick out more.
Why didn't you stop me when I told you I was picking Cookie and the Illini to win it all in my bracket a couple years ago? Why didn't you tell me Cookie was soft (as evidenced by the fact that he's just a 3-point shooter in the NBA now)?
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