Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rumors surfacing on Lenzelle Smith, Jr.

Rumors are surfacing on the web that local sources at Zion-Benton think Lenzelle Smith, Jr. will announce his intentions very shortly, and they might involve the University of Illinois. Recall that Smith visited the Champaign Urbana campus recently and came away very impressed. Smith would make the Illini class of 2010 extremely strong, as he would be joining Crandall Head and Jereme Richmond, who could both find themselves in the McDonald's All American team. Lenzelle Smith, Jr. is a 6-3 wing player who is excellent on the court and academically, according to reports.

Brandon Paul Invited to NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp

Today it was announced by ChicagoHoops.com that Brandon Paul has been invited to the NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp. This camp is highly regarded, so it's appropriate that Paul is attending.

Look for Brandon Paul to be the big recruit for the Illini class of 2009, since his stock is rising quickly.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Profile on Jereme Richmond courtesy of Draft Express

For those of you following Jereme Richmond, the top-ranked player in Illinois who is headed to Illinois in the fall of 2010, you should read the profile in Draft Express. Jereme is playing for the Rising Stars Gold AAU team at the King James Classic, and this was the basis for the comments. The profile seems very balanced in evaluating this talented high school player, with the following highlights:

-Jereme was playing out of position at power forward, but still averged 12 points per game.
-Richards has strong lower body and can finish at the rim.
-Jereme has a silky shooting touch from outside the arc, and has a quick first step when driving.
-Weaknesses/areas to improve for Jereme are defensive intensity and ball handling skills.
-It was also pointed out that Jereme is transferring high schools once again, and needs to show he is coachable.

I have no doubt Jereme Richmond will be a quality player in college, and has made the right choice in Illinois.

Crandall Head and Jereme Richmond likely Top 10 Nationally

According to recruiting analyst Roy Schmidt, national recruiting analysts are finally noticing the ability of Crandall Head at the King James Classic this past weekend. The rest of us have been excited about Crandall Head for some time, being familiar with Luther Head and his Illinois-bound brother.

Schmidt feels that both Richmond and Head will likely be ranked in the top ten players for their class nationally. In other words, they are expected to be McDonald's All-Americans (aka burger boys). Two burger boys in one class equals a top notch recruiting class and an excellent chance to make another run in the NCAAs.

This kind of news is great for this Illini fan.

Sam Thompson of Whitney Young gets Illini Offer

Bruce Weber is continuing his work on the Class of 2011 kids, since his scholarships for the prior classes are almost gone. Sam Thompson just received this offer according to Chicago Hoops.com.

Thompson is a 6-6 wing player, with the ability to slash to the hoop or knock down long range shots. He is one of the top-ranked players in the State of Illinois for his class, and plays for the AAU team called Mac Irvin Fire.

According to Chicago Hoops, the top three players in the state for the class of 2011 are Mike Shaw, Wayne Blackshear and Sam Thompson.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

10,000 Visitors and Returning from Russia

Hello from Moscow, readers of my basketball blog! I have been out of town during the past week, and will return later today, probably jetlagged, from Moscow, Russia. I am happy to see that during my trip the 10,000th visitor has been to the blog to read about Fighting Illini basketball.

Since it is the off season, I doubt I have missed much, but I will get updated on the recruiting news and provide an update shortly.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Video of Tyler Griffey and Stan Simpson

I recently enjoyed watching some game video of Tyler Griffey and Stan Simpson online, courtesy of wazoosports.com. The videos are complete game videos from December 2007, with Tyler Griffey going up against Scotty Hopson, who is headed to Tennessee (warning, Bruce Pearl is shown in stands). The Simeon game features Stan Simpson (number 32) going up against Lexington Catholic. Griffey is a good fundamental player who really has some inside game, and can shoot it from the outside. Simpson is an inside player who can score inside and block shots. Excellent games to watch of some future Illini players.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

ESPN Announces the Big 10 ACC Challenge Games

The Big 10/ACC Challenge games have been announced by ESPN. This is the ESPN special that takes place over a few days, matching up two of the top conferences head to head. The only problem is, the ACC always wins. I predict the Big 10 will win this one of these years, but I doubt it happens this fall. Here's a list of the games:

Duke at Purdue
North Carolina at Michigan State
Wisconsin at Virginia Tech
Ohio State at Miami
Clemson at Illinois
Virginia at Minnesota
Iowa at Boston College
Penn State at Georgia Tech
Indiana at Wake Forest
Florida State at Northwestern
Michigan at Maryland

The Illini have a home game, but Clemson should be a challenging opponent.

Dominique Keller Signs a Letter of Intent

Dominique Keller signed his letter of intent today, and will join the Illini basketball team this fall. The Illini will need this talented junior college transfer to boost their front line. Story

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Steve Holdren calling it quits

Steve Holdren is also leaving the Illini basketball team. Apparently, Steve is stilll not recovering from past injuries, and has decided against trying to play basketball his senior year. Steve transferred to Illinois as a walk-on, so that he could finish college in Urbana-Champaign. Steve had been a scholarship basketball player for South Dakota State before transferring.

Best of luck in the rest of your college days, Steve. Hope you find a great job after graduation.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rodney Alexander will transfer

The Chicago Tribune reports today that Rodney Alexander will be transferring to another school.

Rodney was one of my personal favorites from last year's squad, and I could not figure out why a player with that much talent was sitting on the bench most of the year. Well, I guess Rodney couldn't figure that out either, so it's on to greener pastures for Rodney. Rodney also inspired by "Weber's Doghouse" feature, that might have to be continued into next season as well, with other players.

Good luck to Rodney in his next basketball program. I think he needs to go somewhere with a wide-open offensive philosophy, like Kansas, where his high-flying athletic moves are appreciated.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Weber's Recruits since being named Illini Coach

I found myself once again defending Rodney Alexander the past couple of days, who spent last season in Coach Weber's dog house. Alexander did not play well enough last season to be a consistent starter, and spent a considerable amount of time on the bench, watching a very poor shooting team on the court. Recently, it leaks out that Alexander might transfer, and many Illini fans have rushed to the defense of Coach Weber. After all, Rodney Alexander is at fault for not flourishing in Coach Weber's system, right? Well, upon further review, it's hard to many Weber recruits that have flourished in his system. Let's do a quick review of the commits since he was named coach on April 30, 2003:

Shaun Pruitt-went out with a thud
Calvin Brock-four star who has rarely started
Jamar Smith-DUI, tries to come back this year
Chester Frazier-often criticized defensive specialist
C.J. Jackson-transferred to football team
Richard Semrau-major life threatening injury, recovered to bench
Brian Carlwell-injured, recovered, to transfer this year
Bill Cole-injured, hopes to recover
Mike Tisdale-good prospect after freshman year
Demetri McCamey-excellent guard prospect
Quinton Watkins-did not qualify per NCAA
Rodney Alexander-benched, may transfer
Mike Davis-excellent prospect

Now, after reviewing Weber's recent recruits at Illinois, it's hard to say that Alexander has not lived up to expectations of Coach Weber. In fact, he outperformed most of Weber's recruits listed here, in my opinion.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Front Line for 2008 is Questionable

The Illini have a front line that is very questionable for next season. Let's look at the alternatives:

Mike Tisdale returns for his sophomore year, needed additional weight and muscle to be a factor rebounding next season. Tisdale is almost certain to start if he shows reasonable improvement from his freshman season.

Mike Davis returns for his sophomore year, and like the other Mike, needs to hit the weights in the off-season so he can be a factor on the boards. Davis has a nice offensive game, and could be a nice player next season.

Rodney Alexander is considering his options after not being utilized last season. This will be his senior year and final year of eligibility if he returns with the Illini.

Calvin Brock has graduated but has one more year of eligibility due to being redshirted his first year. He might return for grad school, or may move on.

Dominique Keller joins the Illini as a Junior College transfer, and should add size, rebounding and scoring to the team if he plays.

Bill Cole hopes to return from his injury, which was something like a stress fracture in his leg. Many Illini players have had issues similar this, presumably due to the team's practices being tough on the players.

Richard Semrau is expected to return to the Illini or transfer to another program, after sitting on the bench last season.

Stan Simpson joins the team as a freshman out of the Chicago Public League. Simpson has been considered a project, and is not likely to get playing time in his first year.

Brian Carlwell is looking to transfer to a new school, but nothing else has been announced yet.

So basically the guys that can be etched into the line-up right now for the front line are Tisdale and Davis, with Keller as a possibility coming off the bench. I think it is highly likely the Illini will play three guards next season.

Rodney Alexander considering options per News-Gazette's Klee

According to Paul Klee, Rodney Alexander is talking with coaches about next year, and is thinking about transferring to another program, but is still with the team. This is not surprising at all to me. Alexander showed lots of ability last year, but was in Weber's dog house much of the year, sitting on the bench. In a year with little to no offensive output, Alexander had to watch from the sidelines, despite having a superior offensive game. I personally think Alexander should transfer to salvage what little remains of his college eligibility, but I'm not sure what programs are looking for a player with only one year of basketball remaining.

Illini Class of 2009 Looking Top Notch

The new rankings for the class of 2009 are now released by scout.com, and are shown here. The Illini are looking fairly strong, with a year to go.

Joseph Bertrand is number 52 in the country.

Brandon Paul is number 67.

Tyler Griffey is number 81.

DJ Richardson is not listed, but has been rated highly by other experts.

Jamil Wilson, Class of 2009

Scout.com has added Illinois to the list of schools being considered by Jamil Wilson of Racine, Wisconsin. Jamil is 6-6, 200 pound forward who carries a five star rating by Scout.com. He has drawn interest from a long list of schools: Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Marquette, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, USC and Wisconsin. Insiders say that Wisconsin and Marquette have been in the lead, but after the coaching changes at Marquette, who knows?

Illini fans who follow the scholarship grid are confused about where the scholarship comes from for 2009. However, I think the coaches know someone will transfer this off-season to open another spot on the roster. And Jamil Wilson would make the Illini class of 2009 one of the top 5 classes on the country, in my opinion.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Congratulations to Kansas and Bill Self

Congratulations to Kansas on another National Championship and to Bill Self on his first National Championship. Bill Self was an outstanding head coach of the Illini who was instrumental in setting up the recruiting for their run at a National Championship in 2005. Self and his assistant Billy Gillespie have become two of the top head coaches in college basketball today.

I was also happy to see that my bracket winner (Kansas) prevailed as the Champ, since earlier round picks were not that impressive.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

MidStateHoops.com Presents Mike Shaw

According to some observers, the Illini should be recruiting Mike Shaw from the class of 2011.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Survey on Next Season, NCAA Bubble Team

The survey results are now final from my readers, which are some of the best Illini basketball fans in the country. I asked the question, will the Illini make the NCAA tourney next season (2008-2009)? There were 120 respondents to this poll. Results were as follows:

Bubble Team 42%
Yes, Definitely In 37%
NIT is the place 12%
No Postseason 7%

I think the results are a bit optimistic, but it's hard to tell at this point. We will have a younger line-up next season if we're good, and a veteran line-up if we struggle. Either way, chances are we are better than the past season, and at least have a chance to make postseason play. Bruce Weber wants to see guys work on improving themselves in the off-season, and this is going to be the key thing, particularly with Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis. The guards should be clearly better, with McCamey, Smith and Legion potential starters by the end of the season.

IU takes Tom Crean from Marquette

According to an article on ESPN, Tom Crean has a new deal as coach of Indiana University. Crean is an excellent selection by IU to replace interim coach Dan Dakich, who took over for Kelvin Sampson. Crean has an excellent record at Marquette, and previously coached for Tom Izzo of Michigan State. The Big 10 coaches keep getting stronger and stronger, which has to be good for the conference overall.