Illinois Summer Basketball School: Senior Small Forward Bill Cole, Part I

In this edition of the Illinois Basketball Summer School series, Writing Illini examines the summer of senior Bill Cole and revisits his junior season, including a comparison of his statistics with his first two years and a game-by-game breakdown of his 36 appearances, 22 of which he started.

What’s Been Going on with Cole This Summer

While his fellow seniors have been getting plenty of attention with Demetri McCamey and Mike Davis declaring but withdrawing from the NBA Draft and Mike Tisdale playing against Team USA, Cole has been a bit of a forgotten man after establishing himself as a starter during his junior season.

And with all-world recruit Jereme Richmond coming to Illinois, everyone is expecting Cole to lose his starting spot.

While this will likely happen, Cole is not going down with fight, according to this article and even Richmond, who acknowledged that Cole had been guarding and shooting the ball well during summer scrimmages as a result of religiously working on his defense and 3-point shot.

Considering that Illinois head coach Bruce Weber always finds minutes for scrappy players, Cole will still get some valuable time as a senior, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he gets inserted into the starting lineup at some point in 2010-2011 as a wake-up call to his teammates.

Assistant coach Wayne McClain noted earlier this summer that Cole does a lot of little things that don’t show up in the box score but lend themselves to playing time.

Cole knows this and has made it a point to shore up this game’s hustle areas that helped transform him from a seldom-used reserve during his first 2 seasons to a stabilizer as a junior.

Cole’s Junior Statistics (Compared with His First Two Seasons)

Here are some notables on Cole’s junior season, which saw him more than quadruple his minutes, register a career-high 4.4 points per game and finish second in 3-point shooting during Big Ten play with a 44.2 percent clip.

36 games played (↑ from 17 as a sophomore and 12 as a freshman)

22 starts as a junior (↑ from 0 combined in his first two seasons)

766 minutes played (↑ from 76 as a sophomore and 81 as a freshman played)

21.3 minutes per game (↑ from 4.5 as a sophomore and 6.8 as a freshman)

● 4.4 points per game (↑ from 1.6 as a sophomore and 2.3 as a freshman)

● 124 field goal attempts (↑ from 25 as a sophomore and 21 as a freshman)

● 46% from the field (↑ from 36% as a sophomore but ↓ from 52.4% as a freshman)

● 77 three-point attempts (↑ from 16 as a sophomore and 10 as a freshman)

● 29 3-point makes (↑ from 9 as a sophomore and 7 as a freshman)

● 37.7% from three (↑ from 37.5% as a sophomore and 30% as a freshman)

● 1.27 points per shot (↑ from 1.08 as a sophomore but ↓ from 1.33 as a freshman)

● 23 free throw attempts (↑ from 9 as a sophomore and 7 as a freshman)

● 60.9% free throw percentage (↑ from 33% as a sophomore and 42.9% as a frosh)

● 3.2 boards per game (↑ from 0.8 as a sophomore and 1.4 as a freshman)

● 1.0 assists per game (↑ from 0.2 as a sophomore and 0.2 as a freshman)

● 0.7 steals per game (↑ from 0.1 as a sophomore and 0.3 as a freshman)

● 2 fouls per game (↑ from 1.25 as a sophomore and 0.66 as a freshman)

● 0.7 turnovers per game (↑ from 0.1 as a sophomore and 0.6 as a frosh)

● 1.50 assist-to-turnover ratio (↓ from 2.0 as a sophomore; ↑ from 0.29 as a frosh).

Recapping Cole’s Junior Season

After struggling to find time on the court during his first two seasons at Illinois (prompting speculation about a possible transfer), forward Bill Cole carved out his own role as a scrapper during his junior year, parlaying his hustle and extra effort into a starting position for most of the Big Ten season.

Cole’s metamorphosis from a player who rarely saw the light of day to a starter actually began late in the 2008-2009 season. With Chester Frazier out with a hand injury, Cole provided the Illini with some nice energy and three-point scoring punch off the bench during respective blowout losses to Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament Semifinals and Western Kentucky in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

One of the few positives in those hideous games, Cole planted the seeds that he could have a bigger impact as a junior. However, Cole would have to earn his minutes early on during his third year with the Illini, battling the more-heralded Alex Legion for a backup role at the small forward.

At the start of conference play, Cole was typically the 4th or 5th guy off the bench for the Illini. However, that would start to change as Cole began impressing Illinois head coach Bruce Weber with his hustle and ability to do a lot of little things, even if the final box score did not always indicate his impact.

Cole’s willingness to compete and get on the floor for loose balls was especially apparent during the second half of a difficult Illinois win over Wofford, a team that would advance to the NCAA Tournament, and further helped cement his position with the coaching staff as a “hustle guy,” a role that senior Dominique Keller was expected to but didn’t fill.

By the 9th game of the season (an Illinois victory against #24 Vanderbilt), a trend was emerging as Weber began to use Cole early off the bench for an infusion of energy.

Cole would be the first or second Illini off the bench (often after the under-16 timeout) for much of the rest of non-conference play, including a loss at Georgia where he was Illinois’ next best player on the court in the second half after Demetri McCamey.

By the Missouri game, it was clear that Cole had surpassed Legion, who would transfer to Florida International following this loss to the Tigers. Soon enough, Weber would start preferring Cole’s stabilizing influence over that of the erratic play of extremely talented but still raw freshman Brandon Paul.

With Illinois a disappointing 9-5 following a loss to Gonzaga at the end of non-conference play, Weber would insert Cole in the starting lineup during a home game against Iowa. While Cole would take D.J. Richardson’s place for this game (which would mark his first career start), he would remain a starter for the remainder of the year, relegating Paul to the bench.

With Cole in the starting lineup, Illinois would start off 4-0 in the Big Ten, though the team would win the Iowa game in a rather sloppy fashion and have to come back late at Indiana and against Penn State. Illinois would then drop its next three games in the conference.

Still, through Illinois’ first 7 Big Ten games, Cole provided nice energy, more stability and some key hustle plays along the way, even if his end-of-the-game stats weren’t the gaudiest when considering his increased playing time.

Prior to a road game at Penn State, Cole and McCamey were voted co-captains by their teammates, a move that inspired both players. Cole would have his best statistical game at that point of the season, scoring 12 points on 4 threes, grabbing 7 rebounds, adding 3 assists, blocking 2 shots and having no turnovers in 27 productive minutes, and Illinois would get back on the winning side of the ledger.

Illinois would win 4 straight games after the Penn State victory, with Cole having a crucial energy game, including a season-high 8 rebounds, during a shocking upset at the Kohl Center.

However, the Illini would drop 5 of its last 6 games, with Cole always playing hard but having a varying impact while logging heavy minutes as Weber tightened his rotation.

Cole would do his best to keep Illinois alive in home losses to Minnesota (a season-high 15 points on 5 second-half threes) and Wisconsin (14 points) but struggle matchup-wise in two losses to Ohio State, foul out at Purdue, and fail to scratch on 5 shots at Michigan.

With Illinois squarely on the Tournament Bubble entering the Big Ten Tournament, Cole would log a season-high 34 minutes in a first-round victory against Wisconsin and then give the Illini 33 minutes during a 50-minute classic loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Semifinals.

In 20 Big Ten contests, Cole averaged 26.1 minutes, which is quite amazing when considering that he averaged 14.6 minutes during the non-conference season.

In three games during the NIT, Cole’s minutes actually dropped to 18 per game, as Paul began to get more time with much more consistent and steady play.

While Cole’s final stat line for his junior season was hardly overwhelming (as seen in his above junior statistics), he ultimately established himself as a rotation player and did bring some good energy and focus to a team that badly fluctuated in these areas.

For an Illinois team that was as inconsistent as any other team in the country, such intangible contributions from Cole should not be diminished, even with Illinois much deeper and more talented heading into 2010-2011.

Game-by-Game Breakdown of Cole’s Junior Season

SIU Edwardsville vs. Illinois (11/13/2009)

Contributes 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block and 1 assist (versus 1 turnover) in 20 minutes off the bench during Illinois’ easy home opening win.

Northern Illinois vs. Illinois (11/17/2009)

Has 2 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal and 1 assist (vs. 1 turnover) but does not shoot or score in 14 minutes, which are 2 more than Legion (3 points, 1 assist) played in this 19-point win.

Presbyterian vs. Illinois (11/21/ 2009)

Does not play much in the first half, but comes up with some hustle plays and stuffs his stat sheet as the Illini cruise in the second half, scoring 5 points, grabbing 6 rebounds and adding 1 block in 16 minutes.

Wofford vs. Illinois (11/24/2009)

Is a key energizer in the second half as Illinois starts to pull away from the pesky Terriers, getting an and-1 on the break, tipping in a miss, playing active in the passing lane and diving on the floor en route to 4 points (2-for-2 shooting) and 1 rebound in 12 minutes.

Utah vs. Illinois (11/27/2009)

Gets just 10 minutes off the bench as the Illini fall for the first time on a buzzer-beating Utah layup, and finishes with 0 points (0-for-2 shooting) and 3 rebounds.

Bradley vs. Illinois (11/28/2009)

With Legion actually starting but playing just 8 minutes and not scoring, gets 15 minutes, scores 3 points (on 1-for-3 shooting), grabs 6 rebounds and adds 1 steal during another disappointing Illinois loss.

Illinois vs. Clemson (12/2/2009)

Struggled a bit with Clemson’s speedy game and looked a bit tight at times in 12 competitive but not always effective minutes (compared to just 2 for Legion), finishing with 2 points (1-for-5 shooting), 5 rebounds and 1 assist during an amazing Illini comeback win.

Boise State vs. Illinois (12/5/2009)

Is the first Illini off the bench in the first and second halves, but his hustle game does not translate in 19 minutes (vs. 3 for Legion) during which he goes scoreless, grabs 3 rebounds and adds 3 assists before fouling out late.

Vanderbilt vs. Illinois (12/8/2009)

Is the second Illini off the bench and finishes with 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, and a couple of floor burns in 14 minutes (versus Legion getting a DNP).

Western Michigan vs. Illinois (12/13/2009)

Clearly starting to establish his role as the team’s hustle guy, scores 7 points (all in the first half, on 3-for-3 shooting), adds 2 rebounds and 2 assists, and provides good energy in his 20 minutes as Illinois blows out the Broncos.

Illinois vs. Georgia (12/19/2009)

Is first Illini off the bench during a quiet first half, but has a tremendous effort in the second half (9 points and 5 rebounds in 17 total minutes), doing a lot of little things and providing energy to a listless Illinois team that would lose late.

Illinois vs. Missouri (12/23/2009)

Is once again the first Illini off the bench and brings some decent energy in the first half before having a quiet second half and ultimately finishing with 0 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 assists in 15 minutes.

Northwestern vs. Illinois (12/30/2009)

Yet again the first Illini off the bench, logs heavy minutes (27), struggles guarding NU’s Princeton offense at times, and has a big turnover late in the overtime, but does hit a big three late in the second half and finishes with 9 points and 2 rebounds.

Gonzaga vs. Illinois (January 2, 2010)

With Richardson struggling and Illinois in a huge hole, does not take advantage of the opportunity, looking nervous to shoot and playing only 8 minutes where he had 1 rebound and 2 assists on a day that Dominique Keller and Jeff Jordan would shine off the bench.

Iowa vs. Illinois (January 5, 2010)

Inserted into the starting lineup for Richardson (thus marking his first start of his career), has a block on the first defensive possession of the game and finishes with 4 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocked shots, 2 steals and 0 turnovers in 24 energetic minutes.

Illinois vs. Indiana (January 9, 2010)

Had some hustle plays here and there but also struggled containing Indiana’s Verdell Jones III and Devan Dumes while finishing with 1 point, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals and 1 turnover in 23 minutes.

Penn State vs. Illinois (January 12, 2010)

Makes up for 21 “blah” minutes with a great 5 minutes to end the game, including a huge three and a hustle play that kept the ball with the Illini, and finishes with 3 points, 2 assists and 1 rebound as Illinois ekes out a 1-point win.

Illinois vs. Michigan State (January 16, 2010)

Struggled at times guarding Michigan State’s more athletic wings but played really hard during Illinois’ first conference loss, finishing with 5 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assists and 2 steals in 21 minutes.

Purdue vs. Illinois (January 19, 2010)

Played with great energy before fouling out in 25 minutes during which his 4 turnovers somewhat diminished his 5 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks and 1 steal.

Illinois vs. Northwestern (January 23, 2010)

Of Illinois’ 4 junior starters, played with the most consistent energy in this game, even though his 2 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block in 22 minutes weren’t productive enough during this disheartening loss.

Illinois vs. Penn State (January 27, 2010)

Named a co-captain along with McCamey before this game, responds with his best performance up to that point of the season, draining 4 threes for 12 points, grabbing 7 rebounds, blocking 2 shots, and dishing out 3 assists (compared to 0 turnovers) in 27 highly productive minutes during an encouraging Illinois victory.

Indiana vs. Illinois (January 30, 2010)

Wasn’t as effective as in the Penn State game, but hits a big three late en route to becoming more of an offensive threat and finishing with 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in 29 minutes of an Illinois victory capped off by a McCamey buzzer beater.

Illinois vs. Iowa (February 3, 2010)

Has a very quiet night (3 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist and 1 steal in 26 minutes) but Illinois survives with an ugly victory.

Michigan State vs. Illinois (February 6, 2010)

Takes a back seat to the active Brandon Paul in the second half and ends up with 2 points, 1 assist, 1 block, 1 steal and 2 turnovers in 19 minutes that were surprisingly without 1 rebound for the 6-9 forward.

Illinois vs. Wisconsin (February 9, 2010)

Final numbers (4 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 turnover) don’t clearly portray his impact in 30 minutes of a shocking Illinois road victory during which he hit an incredible reverse layup to put the Illini out in front in the second half, extended several possessions with his work on the glass, and played tough defense against Wisconsin’s Jason Bohannon, who was unconscious in stretches.

Ohio State vs. Illinois (February 14, 2010)

Despite his difficulties shooting the ball and guarding Ohio State’s perimeter players, played hard as usual, finishing with 8 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 turnover in 24 minutes of a blowout loss to the superior Buckeyes.

Illinois vs. Purdue (February 20, 2010)

Hit his only 2 shots (2 threes) and finished with 6 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist in 22 minutes during which he couldn’t catch a break defensively and fouled out for the second time against Purdue.

Michigan vs. Illinois (February 23, 2010)

Couldn’t buy a bucket in this ugly victory (0 points on 0-for-5 shooting) but made some toughness plays, as evidenced by his 6 rebounds, 3 assists (versus 1 turnover) and 1 block in 28 minutes.

Minnesota vs. Illinois (February 27, 2010)

After a scoreless first half in which the entire Illini team is lethargic, responds big time in the second half, notching 15 points on 5 threes, becoming a go-to-guy in stretches, and inspiring a furious comeback that would fall short before fouling out in 22 minutes during which he added 3 rebounds and 1 assist.

Illinois vs. Ohio State (March 2, 2010)

Has a very quiet performance considering his 27 minutes of action, finishing with 3 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist (versus 2 turnovers), 1 block and 1 steal, and struggling to guard Ohio State’s perimeter players that were quite frankly a bad matchup for him.

Wisconsin vs. Illinois (March 7, 2010)

Wouldn’t let the Illini die late, hitting several threes to finish with 14 points (on 4-for-6 from three), 4 rebounds and 1 block in 30 minutes of a rough loss to the end the Big Ten regular season.

Illinois vs. Wisconsin, Big Ten Tournament (March 12, 2010)

With the exception of a few hustle plays, played a tight 34 minutes, getting off just 1 shot and missing, grabbing 3 rebounds, stealing 2 balls, and turning over the ball twice but nearly a third time late in the game due to a case of fumble-itis.

Illinois vs. Ohio State, Big Ten Tournament (March 13, 2010)

Passed up a couple of open shots late in this game, but played hard and did a lot of little things, serving as a defensive nuisance and catalyst in the first 4 minutes of the second half and finishing with 2 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and 3 steals in 33 minutes of this 50-minute classic.

Illinois vs. Stony Brook, NIT (March 17, 2010)

Struggled at times guarding Stony Brook player of the year Mohammed El-Amin but did a respectable defensive job along with Paul, while adding 3 points, 1 rebound and 1 block but having 2 turnovers in 23 minutes.

Kent State vs. Illinois, NIT (March 22, 2010)

Had a couple of impact plays but only logged 16 minutes, finishing with 2 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 turnover, and watching Paul get more of his minutes.

Dayton vs. Illinois, NIT (March 24, 2010)

Had some energy plays en route to 7 points (3-for-5 shooting), 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 turnover in just 15 minutes, with Paul grabbing more time and serving as a better matchup against the athletic Flyers, which ran the Illini out of the gym to end a disappointing season.

Cole’s Top 5 Games as a Junior

1. Illinois vs. Penn State (January 27, 2010)

After getting elected a co-captain by his teammates, Cole finishes with a solid 12 points (4-for-5 from three) along with 7 rebounds as Illinois gets the must-win at Penn State.

2. Illinois vs. Wisconsin (February 9, 2010)

Career-high 8 rebounds and an incredible reverse layup in 30 minutes help Illini pull out stunner at Kohl Center.

3. Minnesota vs. Illinois (February 27, 2010)

Finished with career-high 15 points on 5 second half threes, but Illinois drops critical home game.

4. Wisconsin vs. Illinois (March 7, 2010)

Hit some threes late to keep Illinois in the game, but his 14 points would not be enough during his disappointing loss to end Big Ten play.

5. Illinois vs. Georgia (12/19/2009)

Really productive (9 points and 5 rebounds) in 17 minutes, most of which came in the second half, and nearly helped the Illini avoid the upset to the Bulldogs.

Bottom 5 Games

1. Illinois vs. Northwestern (January 23, 2010)

None of Illinois’ four juniors really did anything special and failed to show much leadership during this terrible loss in Evanston, with Cole registering 2 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block in 22 minutes.

2. Illinois vs. Missouri (12/23/2009)

The Illini could have used a shot in the arm off the bench on this night, but Cole couldn’t provide it, failing to score and finishing with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 turnover in 15 minutes.

3. Gonzaga vs. Illinois (January 2, 2010)

Went scoreless in just 8 minutes off the bench during a game which Keller and Jordan had impacts in reserve roles but Cole didn’t exude much confidence when in the game early.

4. Illinois vs. Iowa (February 3, 2010)

Very modest production (3 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist and 1 steal) for 26 minutes of game action against Iowa, even though Illinois won.

5. Illinois vs. Wisconsin, Big Ten Tournament (March 12, 2010)

Did play a career-high 34 minutes, but took just 1 shot, didn’t score and almost cost the Illini with a sloppy turnover and careless pass late in the game during a crazy Wisconsin comeback. All in all, Cole looked a bit tight offensively in this game, though he played decent defense and Illinois won.

Honorable Mention: Cole didn’t score during a road win at Michigan, but did have 6 rebounds. He also was scoreless during a loss to Utah, but played only 10 minutes. He was quiet at Ohio State, but the Buckeyes were not a good matchup for the Illini as a team all year long. I ultimately chose the Gonzaga game because the opportunity could have been there for him to have an impact, and included the Big Ten Tournament game against Wisconsin because he looked frazzled late. With that said, it’s much harder to pick bad games for Cole because he’s not expected to score much on this team to begin with.


In part II of the Illinois Basketball Summer School series on Bill Cole, Writing Illini will provide a scouting report of his game, detail some areas of improvement, and make some projections for his senior season.

Until then.

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Tags: Assembly Hall Bill Cole Brandon Paul Bruce Weber Chester Frazier Demetri McCamey Dominique Keller Illini Basketball Illinois Basketball Jeff Jordan Jeffrey Jordan Jereme Richmond Mike Davis Mike Tisdale U-of-I Basketball University Of Illinois Wayne McClain

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