Heading into this season, the Illinois Fighting Illini had some questions to answer at “the one.” Two games in, they still do. Demetri McCamey, as inconsistent and polarizing as he was, provided minutes and some sense of stability.
The situation was helped this offseason when Bradley transfer Sam Maniscalco became eligible. He provides a steady veteran hand while PG of the future Tracy Abrams gets his feet wet. Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson can bring the ball up in times of need as well.
And looking ahead in recruiting, the Illini recently added Michael Orris.
After the season opening win over Loyola Bruce Weber talked about working Maniscalco in; as he’s been banged up this preseason.
“Our goal was for Sam 15-20 minutes, we got him 19. We got to get him his conditioning back, he takes care of it, gets us into things,” Weber said.
Mansicalco isn’t much of a scoring threat, but he can set the table, and he’s a great passer. He is quite undersized (being listed at 6-0 is a STRETCH) and he’s not very quick. But he’s tough and smart, and knows the game.
“He doesn’t look the part, I know he can’t dunk, but he just has that understanding of the game, angles, has that toughness, so I hope he gives us some stability, experience and maturity, and then that’s where he can kind of be the bridge in helping Tracy, helping Crandall, those are the two guys right now I feel can give us some major minutes,” Weber said at Illini media day.
Abrams had a decent opening game.
“Pretty solid numbers for your point guards but there’s a long way to go,” Weber said.
Indeed there was, as Abrams had an ugly 1-4 assist-turnover in the second game versus SIU-Edwardsville. Heading into the contest versus Lispcomb (I don’t what or who a Lipscomb is, but they are called the Bisons) tonight. Both guys are averaging exactly 6.5 ppg.
“Right now, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, those guys are two of the best point guards in the NBA, and work pretty hard, and copying their work ethic,” Abrams said when I asked him who he models his game after.
Paul leads the team in assists per game, while Richardson, the high scorer and hot shooter in the win over SIU-E leads the team in Ast:TO ratio.
“Me and Brandon, we might bring the ball down the court for a certain play show people we can run the point and that we have a versatile team,” Richardson told me at media day.
Abrams, a 6-1, 185 Chicago product from Mt. Carmel talked about the Illini tradition at the point guard position.
“Great tradition, Dee Brown, brings a lot of energy, kind of model myself behind him, a spark type guy. I’ve watched film on him and what he did, it’s all motivation, passion and the will to win,” Abrams said.
He has a long way to go before he’s a Cousy Award winner like Brown, or a star like Deron, Derek Harper, Frank Williams, Kiwane Garris or Bruce Douglas, but again he’s only just begun.
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