Illinois Basketball’s Key: Improved Depth

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By Paul Schmidt

A very different Illini team is taking the court this season in the Assembly Hall in Champaign, and this fact gives the Illini options a-plenty.

Though defensively the team has seemed to take a step back, offensively they have as diverse and dynamic of an offense as the team has displayed in 20 years — Yes, since the Flyin’ Illini.

One of the more exciting aspects for the Illini is that the offense will push the limits this season, for certain.

“I want to run; that’s our strength, our athleticism,” Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said. “Last year, when I wouldn’t run, that’s all I heard was, ‘Why don’t you run??’ So now, we’re running.”Illinois

Weber was obviously not buckling to the pressure of the media, and was kidding in those post-game comments. It does illustrate the point that everyone knows that this team is deep and has a bunch of moving parts that can come in and out of the game.

Following the 78-64 win over Wofford, the toughest game they’ve had all year, Bruce was candid about the clash in styles between this year and last.

“Tonight we still had 78 points, and last year that would be like a season high, so we’ve obviously made some strides this year,” Weber said about the game.

He had some great things to say about his reserves after their 80-61 win over Northern Illinois.

“I thought Tyler Griffey and Richard Semrau both played well, Griffey really gave us some nice minutes,” Weber said.

“Dominique Keller gave us a nice spark, and Bill Cole, though he did not take a shot, played 14 very solid minutes, good defensively, did the little things and didn’t try to do too much defensively. We have a +/- chart (illustrates whether the team has a positive or negative scoring margin while you are on the court), and it’ll be interesting, because I believe while he was in there we had some pretty good runs.”

Indeed, the play of the reserves will be extremely important as the season progresses. Weber currently runs the rotation 10-deep, and as fatigue and/or injuries take hold during the season the bench players’ minutes will progress.

“That’s the best thing about our team,” Weber said. “We’ve got other people we can put in that can do some things and help us survive some runs when we get in trouble.”

“I honestly believe that we have 7 or 8 guys on this team that could start, and then a couple more that could play big minutes anywhere in the country,” Weber added. “At least I hope we do, because that’s my mindset. I know a lot of these guys would love to start. The key is that we need everyone to buy into their role.”

Demetri McCamey is one of those players that has had to adjust to a different role this season. Once thought to be the next great Illini scorer, McCamey has had to take a back seat in the scoring and become a more-true point guard, distributing the ball and getting everyone else involved.

This hasn’t bothered McCamey in the least and you get the impression that that unselfishness runs all the way down the roster.

“I think we’re gelling pretty fine. It’s like I said last week, you never know who is going to score, whether it’s me, Mike Davis, Brandon (Paul), D. J. (Richardson), Alex (Legion)…we’ve got a lot of guys that can score, so different nights, it’s different people,” McCamey said. “As long as we’re happy, and winning basketball games, we all don’t have to go out there and score.  Everyone will be gelling, and we’ll all be on one page.”

The biggest issue with the depth is inexperience. The Illini are, largely, a young team, and still learning how to run and gun the entire game, yet remain controlled with the basketball.

“It’d be nice if we could win all of our games by 40, but I don’t think that that’s going to happen,” Weber said. “We’re going to have game situations and runs by teams where you’re going to have to learn how to deal with it. You have to learn how to play when you have a lead, and how to run the clock.”

For Weber, however, it’s always about finding the style of basketball to fit the roster, and with the amount of webercontributors this team has, a faster pace is the way to go.

“I don’t mind pushing the basketball and outscoring people,” Weber said. “I always want to push the basketball. But I also want to win, so if we don’t have scorers, we have to play possession basketball. Then you’ve got to guard, you’ve got to play in the halfcourt. I think that’s the one thing that I learned from Coach Keady, working with him for all those years — You’ve got to be flexible. A good coach is flexible, and he changes with his talent.”

#20 Illini Fighting on in Las Vegas Invitational

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By Paul M. Banks

It’s Feast Week! When there’s non-stop college basketball, so many games start at bizarre times. And not just because games are going on in obscure parts of the world in far away time zones. In order to accommodate the television coverage, some games start at…like this one starts at 8:30 pm. #20 Illinois vs. the Wofford Terriers in the second round of the Las Vegas Invitational. Hence the late start time, so ESPNU could televise this game. weber

Wofford is no push over, they won at Georgia, and lost by one possession to Pittsburgh.

Of course, I’m not sure Pitt is that good, and Georgia might just get kicked out of the SEC they are so bad so…..

The Illini will also get a late tip off in the 3rd round taking on Utah at 9:30 PM Friday. In game 4 on Saturday, Illinois will meet either Bradley or Oklahoma St. Here’s hoping it’s OSU only because I’M A MAN!!! I’M 40!. Ok I’m 32, but you get the idea. BTW, Illinois beat Presbyterian 94-48 in the opening round of this game.

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Brando Paul comes in leading the Illini in scoring at 16.7 PPG, Mike Davis is second at 12 ppg, D.J. Richardson is 3rd at 11.3. So the Illini are getting a lot of scoring from their freshmen wings.  Tip off has begun. McCamey takes and misses the first shot.

Wofford comes out shooting 8-2, WU 17:30 left

DJ Richardson drains a 3, following a Mike Tisdale skyhook. 1st tv timeout ILL trail 10-9

Do they really need the screaming sound effect here? when they play the Indian war hymn. I get it it’s the “House of ‘Paign” in Champaign. but we don’t need the sadist sound effect.

Wofford is just owning the 3 pt line right now. They’re going to have to miss sometime. Weber is screaming at Demetri to move and at the whole team to “look inside”

BTW, McCamey just missed badly.

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Tell me again why this team is ranked #20? when they’re down 8 to a mid-major 12 min in?

In the words of Zhane, “hey mr. DJ, all night…on and on and on”….he hit a three to cut the deficit to 3, but then what would you expect? Terriers hit a 3 again. Somebody guard that Cameron Rundles guy, and Junior Salters…and someone stop leaving Noah Dahlman alone too.

I know that Billy Cole and Bubba Chisholm are in fact white. I can see that with my own eyes, but I still don’t believe them. With names like that, I still think they are lying to me about being white.

For you that are new to TSB, you stopped by on a very historical day!!! Earlier in the day we shattered the monthly page views record!!! with 6 days left in the month. And we just broke the daily page views record….right about..NOW! with 3 hours left in the day nonetheless. THANK YOU TSB READERS! And NFL Mock Draft, and Jimmy Clausen as well. Couldn’t have done it without you.

Hey Mr. DJ all nihiiiight.. on and on and on. Richardson hits a big 3 to put Illinois up for the first time in game 33-32 with a 1:54 left in half.

Maybe DJ will go to the NBA some day, maybe I’ll win a Webby someday? It’s the holiday season, and it’s feast week, so anything can happen, right?

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Yes, I think that is Mary Tyler Moore.

Demtri’s defense is actually better this year. no, really I mean it.  Still no excuse that they got out-rebounded so badly in the 1st half, from such a smaller team. NO EXCUSE Illini up 49-42 16:19 left in game. Lisa Salters is indeed tearing up Illinois.

49-47 Illinois, 15:50 left.

rebounding deficit is 29-15 now…ouch! neother team handling the ball very well. game tied at 50. 14 min left

THAT MOVE BY MCCAMEY, BEHIND THE BACK, REVERSE LAY-IN WAS SICK!!!

Wait., I’ll give it an even more favorable adjective; D WILLESQUE! 58-50 Illinois 10 min left

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DJ for 3 again. 70-57, 4:30 left Illini starting to pull away now. I don’t think they’ll win this game by 20, but they might finish winning by 15.

No matter what the box score ends up saying, Illini had a much harder fought victory than it seems. This team hung around a lot longer than anyone thought they would. And Illini are shooting 57%, if they had an off shooting night, this would have been trouble.

I’ll see you guys later after the presser. with quotes and final thoughts.

Illini Leading Scorer Demetri McCamey Exclusive

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By Paul M. Banks

When it comes to Illini junior point guard Demetri McCamey, perhaps his Coach Bruce Weber describes him best. “If you study him over the course of time, he has very good games and a tendency not to be real consistent, this goes back way to high school and AAU and that’s where he’s got to mature. He has the big one and then average, average. He needs to be more consistent if we’re going to be a very good team because he can do things that other people can’t do,” Weber said this season.

Last season McCamey was the Illini’s leading scorer and became the man the team went to when a last second game winning shot was needed. As evidenced by his buzzer beater at Northwestern, he started to become a clutch player. The third-team All-Big Ten selection led the Illini in scoring and was second on the team and fourth in the conference in assists, He also led the Big Ten in assists during conference play, and finished second to Kalin Lucas in the league in assist/turnover ratio.dwilliams_feature01

But his game still needs polish which I discussed with both him and Coach Weber extensively during the season. His shot selection is sometimes suspect: “When my little brother says it than I know everybody notices, my little brother told me I was settling for too many threes, so I got to get back to attacking the paint like I used to,” McCamey said.

His work ethic needs improvement and his defense can often be non-existent. However, he’s also the Illini player with the most athleticism and star potential. On a team that will be ranked in everyone’s top 25 next season, that’s quite a compliment. “He’s got to learn the game: how to use screens, how to play without the ball, and if he could do that he could be the guy. He passes well, shoots the three, he’s got a big body and can pull-up,” Weber said.

McCamey is often criticized, by Coach Weber and Big Ten announcers alike, for his work ethic, but Demetri says he’s dedicated to edifying and bettering himself…

“A student of the game, that’s the only way you’ll get better. It’s all about making the right decision and every possession is worth something. Coach McClain and I watch film, I like to come in and watch film. If I’m at home, my roommate Alex {Legion} and I- that’s all we do is watch college and NBA basketball.”

watch the video below to get to know him better. He mentions former Illini Deron Williams as his favorite player to look up to.


And for excelling in the role of true point guard/go-to guy-“It’s not just scoring for me, especially on the defensive end and becoming a leader, being more vocal- don’t yell at guys, pick your spots and be a true leader.” Demetri is often candid about how he has to improve his defense, but I asked him what else he needs to improve?

“Standing up a lot and watching instead of attacking, sometimes I rely on my teammates too much when I can just push the ball and make plays happen instead of just trying to wait for them to happen. It’s being aggressive all the time and take every play like it’s your last and make the right decision,” he responded.

Current Bull and NBA Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose is a friend of McCamey’s and someone that he’s talked about modeling his game on.

“He’s a wonderful player. I played against him all the way since 7th grade, he knows me, I know him and I know I’ll be in the same boat and playing with passion if I just listen to everybody, because they’re only trying to help…No matter how young you are, you can be a real good player. We used to be enemies on the court, now I’m a fan, maybe one day I’ll get to where he’s at.”

If Demetri matures into a consistent player, the Illini could make a deep tournament run in March and Derrick Rose could possibly see another Windy City friend in the NBA in 2011.

More Illini exclusives, click name for video interviews:

Mike Davis

Mike Tisdale

D.J. Richardson

Brandon Paul

Alex Legion and Dominique Keller

Video Illini F Mike Davis exclusive

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Interview by Paul M. Banks and Paul Schmidt, write-up by Banks

Illini Junior Mike Davis used his baseline jumper, mid-range game and rebounding abilities to have a breakthrough season last year. In this video interview below, he discusses the upcoming season, various aspects of his game and much more.

Here are some of Davis’ highlights from 08-09

-Second-team All-Big Ten selection by coaches, Third-team by media
-Big Ten All-Tournament Team
-Started all 34 games on the season, averaging 30.7 minutes
-Second on Illini in scoring, second in the Big Ten in rebounding with an average of 8.1
-Led conference with nine double-doubles, also led league with 11 double-digit rebounding performances
-Third in Big Ten in field goal shooting
-Scored career-high 28 in Big Ten/ACC Challenge
-Grabbed a career-high 16 boards vs. Purdue, most rebounds by a Big Ten player in conference play
-In off-season was selected to attend the 2009 USA?Basketball World University Games team trials, but withdrew due to broken left ankle.

More Illini exclusives, click name for video interviews:

Mike Tisdale

D.J. Richardson

Brandon Paul

Alex Legion and Dominique Keller

Video Exclusive Illini Mike Tisdale Interview

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Interview by Paul M. Banks and Paul Schmidt, write-up by PMB

When it comes to the NBA Draft, any 7 footer with average-or- better athleticism is a bonafide prospect. Illinois junior Center Mike Tisdale (7’1”, 235) is certainly on the radar screen of NBA GMs for 2011, if not 2010. An honorable mention All-Big Ten selection by coaches and media, he was one of the league’s most improved players, finishing fourth in the Big Ten in field goal shooting and second in the league in conference play FG percentage. He was the team leader in blocked shots, ranking fifth in the Big Ten.
He doesn’t do all his work inside either, as he possess very nice form on his jump shot.

In a sound trashing of the Michigan Wolverines last winter, Tisdale stepped out and knocked down a couple big treys, prompting opposing coach John Beilien to tell the media: “I didn’t know he could do that. I didn’t know he could Pittsnogle us.” Beilien was referring to the former West Virginia University icon he once coached Kevin Pittsnogle who (according to a New York Times feature last March) is now well over 300 pounds, out of basketball and lives in a double-wide.

Tisdale is also well known for the overly publicized 6,000 calorie a day diet that the program has put him on, in the hopes that he will gain some weight and become a bulkier post presence. When I look around in a room full of sports writers, I think they share his diet. If Tisdale gets big enough to bump and grind with the big boys, he’ll obtain the consistency that he lacks now. Becoming more sure of himself would help too. We discussed his confidence, whether he would just rather have a salad sometimes and much more in this video below

Last season Tisdale was the team’s leading scorer in 11 games, more than any of his teammates. Over one five-game stretch, he averaged 19.0 points while shooting 58.8 percent. As of today, it looks like he’ll be a mid 2nd round pick in 2011, because his career arc (at this early stage at least) is reminiscent of former Illini big man Robert Archibald. He was never an actual star, but was solid enough to be drafted 31st overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2002.

Video Illini G Brandon Paul Exclusive

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By Paul M. Banks

Illini freshman guard Brandon Paul is a consensus Top 50 recruit. His final year of prep ball he averaged 19.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.0 steals as a senior, leading Warren (Gurnee) to the IHSA sectional finals. The 2009 Illinois Mr. Basketball, the 10th Mr. Basketball to play for the Illini, and the first since 2002 recipient Dee Brown was a consensus first-team All-State pick as a senior by the Associated Press. Paul is also ranked No. 49 on the recruiting services consensus index, including No. 35 by Prep Stars and No. 42 by Rivals.com.

His TSB exclusive video interview is below

For Alex Legion and Dominique Keller click here
For D.J. Richardson click here

Video Exclusive Illini Freshman D.J. Richardson

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By Paul M. Banks

Meet Illini freshman guard D.J. Richardson, a very highly touted recruit. Watch the video below

To watch the exclusive videos of Dominique Keller and Alex Legion click here

Meet your Illini Dominique Keller, Alex Legion

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By Paul M. Banks and Paul Schmidt

Welcome to The Sports Bank.net YouTube Channel! We just launched what will now be our primary home for the first-class interviews we conduct with the biggest names in Midwestern sports. Please subscribe to TSB’s channel by clicking here. We launch our channel with the first of our series of exclusive interviews with some of the #23 ranked Illinois Fighting Illini’s best players.

Meet forward Dominique Keller here

And wing Alex Legion. He was a highly sought after recruit who left both Michigan and Kentucky to come to Champaign-Urbana. Here him discuss the difference between the Big Ten and the SEC.

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