During the last Illinois Fighting Illini season, they were too many college basketball games in which Bruce Weber could have described Demetri McCamey by a familiar rock anthem. The Cars': “you’re all I’ve got tonight. I need you. Tonight!”
If there’s one thing I do know, it’s that Big Ten and NCAA expectations at Illinois will only materialize if that song becomes played out and obsolete; metaphorically speaking.
If there’s a second thing I know, it’s don’t live with a woman whose behavior draws Tara Reid comparisons, and worse yet takes those comparisons as profound compliments. Because either situation (over-reliance on one player or dating a Tara Reid wannabe) will inevitably end badly.
Illini Head Coach Bruce Weber has said “we’ll be as good as our seniors,” and that means McCamey, but it also means Center Mike Tisdale and Power Forward Mike Davis.
By Paul M. Banks
Lots of people describe the ’09-’10 Illini as having played “European Style basketball.” It refers to a team where all the bigs get outside and shoot on the perimeter much more often than they bang down low. Tisdale has a nice jump shot, and he can even shoot the three on occasion (Michigan coach John Beilein even said after his Wolverines lost to the Illini: “I didn’t know he could Pittsnogle us, I didn’t know he could do that”). In that game Tis helped vanquish the Wolverines with his jump-shot in a Kevin Pittsnogle like fashion.
However, that can only go so far. It’s time for Tisdale to act like the seven-footer he is and hold his ground in the paint. Following Illinois’ season opening 79-65 win over UC-Irvine, Weber discussed what Tis needs to do in specific detail.
“He’s got the ball, just shoot a hook, they’re smaller than him. He’s got to turn and pivot a couple times, that’s where he’s got to be strong. Whether it’s a small guy or a big guy, keep the ball up high, chin it and shoot your hook. He’s good at it,” Weber said.
But it’s likely the other end of the floor that will be critical for both Tisdale and Illinois overall.
“All year it’s going to be defense, stopping people. We have firepower it’s just a matter of stopping people,” Tisdale said at Media Day. Tisdale had 12 points, 8 rebounds, 4 turnovers and 3 blocks in the opener.
The other half of the Mike & Mike show, Davis, is a four who lives by his killer 15 foot baseline jumper. He’s also one of the best, if not the best rebounder in the Big Ten. After a breakout sophomore campaign, he regressed last year, especially in mid-season when he got benched and it affected his mental approach to the game.
“I was settling too much for jump shots, and I wasn’t rebounding either, it let my offense dictate my defense and the rest of my game, and I can’t do that. I can affect the game besides offense, I can go block shots, get rebounds, run the floor…everybody goes through a slump, I just hope I don’t go through it again this season. I Got out of it, started playing really well towards the end of the season, but that slump kind of hurt the team,” Davis said in the preseason.
The NBA Draft, and the exploration process that accompanies it may have served as a distraction. But Davis said the scouts recommended he become a defensive stopper in order to boost his draft stock. Weber said Davis had as good a half of defense as he’s seen from him in the win Monday night.
“He is capable, he’s got length. I thought last year in the Wisconsin game against Leuer. Jon kicked his butt here, he went to the Big Ten Tournament and did a great job, and that’s why we won the game. But he’s got to take take pride in that because it would definitely help us to have a good defender at the forward position,” Weber said.
Yes, there is a talented freshman class in Assembly Hall, but the main help for Demetri needs to come from his fellow seniors- the two Mikes. With no tournament wins since 2006 (something the Orange Crush is certainly not accustomed to) and a preseason national ranking of #13, patience in Champaign is running shorter than 4’8″ reality star Snooki kneeling down.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank