So, after viewing the Orange and Blue Scrimmage again, I decided to look at each individual player’s performance to divine what we might expect from them this year.
The scrimmage as a whole: It was great to see an entirely new team inhabiting Assembly Hall on Sunday. Sure, we have plenty of returnees, but the roles for those returning will be greatly expanded for the most part. The Illini were getting up and down the court and scoring heavily in the first part of the scrimmage. Part of that was due to weaker defense than we will likely see during the season, and some of that was due to hot shooting by the Illini. After the first half (and congratulations are due to the
geezers assistant coaches for winning the three point contest), the defense got more intense and legs got tired. Scoring fell off dramatically. Each player got some run, though, so we have some observations to work off of as we attempt to imagine this team against real competition.
First, the returnees:
#3 Brandon Paul Brandon looked to distribute more than in the past. He can definitely still hit the 3, but his free throw shooting seemed a little shaky. Played more passively than I expected, but had some real gems in the game, especially the nice shot fake/dropdown pass to Leonard for the dunk. Key stat: 7(!) assists, 5(!) turnovers.
#1 DJ RichardsonDJ is much more aggresive attempting to get to the basket. Seems more comfortable handling the ball. His shot looks great. May have spent time in the weight room, because he is playing stronger than last year. Key stat:Took half his shots from inside the three point line, compared to last year’s 42% rate.
#44 Tyler Griffey Good looking shot early especially from 3. When he shoots a lot, he doesn’t show too much on the rebounding side, which is a little concerning. Has a really strong connection with Leonard. His passing looks more fluid and his vision seems to have improved since last year. Could move more vigorously/crisply in the offense. He had a nice split of a double team, though that could be ascribed to lackadaisical defense. Towards the end of the game, Tyler became more evident on the glass, as he shot less. With his increased late-game emphasis on rebounding Griffey showed some facility in the interior. He managed to convert a couple of tough inside chances. Good free throw shooter. Key stat:14 points, just 4 rebounds.
#12 Meyers LeonardStill Meyers, but a better version; better passer, can occasionally show some offensive prowess. Prefers to dunk everything he can. Moves well, as always, managing to get under quickly on runouts and jump shots by other players. He seems to have worked on a spin-into-baseline jumper move, which worked occasionally. Key stat:9-10 from the field with 7 rebounds.
#4 Crandall Head Head plays wild, much like his brother early in his career. He gets caught in traps in the half court, and seems to lack confidence. He ran the point some…didn’t perform too poorly but his handles seemed weaker than I had hoped. Crandall must be in contention for serious minutes, because he seemed to try to do a lot. Seemed to have a point guard’s perspective which was on display when he concocted a nice find for DJ. The scoresheet lists him with only three turnovers, but it seemed like he had more. Head is a real cross-court passing aficionado (sometimes to the Illini’s detriment) and had a tremendous steal of a fast-break pass. Key stat:3 assists, 3 turnovers.
#2 Joe Bertrand Bertrand was very active in the scrimmage. If there was a “star” it was either him or Sam. Joe seems to have to load up on his jumper a bit, which slows his release. He’s great leaper and should be a real asset as a rebounding wing, provided Weber can find the time for him. A slasher-we’ll see how that translates to real games. Just a heck of an athlete. Tate: “Bertrand is making a bid here, folks” Key stat: 9 (that’s right) rebounds.
And now, the newcomers:
#0 Sam ManiscalcoFortunately, Maniscalco is really strong with the ball. Good handles, uses bursts of speed selectively. He has a surprisingly quick release on his jumper, which was most evident when he hit a really nice jumper off a curl. Seems a lot older and more mature than the rest of the team. His maturity will help a lot. Sam shows no fear of taking the last shot as was evidenced in the first and second quarters when he stuck a couple of late threes after bringing the ball up the court. Key stat: 5-9 from 3; two quarter-winning shots.
#13 Tracy AbramsTracy seems comfortable in the lead guard spot. He had some nice feeds, especially into the interior. Abrams has a little flash to his game (no-look to Griffey, anyone?). Physically larger than I remember him from high school; not a lot of height but very solidly built. Is a pest in a good way on defense. Key stat:3 assists, no turnovers.
#20 Myke Henry Myke is a capital S scorer. Henry knows how to create opportunities for himself offensively. He’s very fluid on offense and not obviously deficient defensively. Tate loves him. He’ll score points in bulk, perhaps sooner than later. Key stat: 13 points.
#32 Nnanna Egwu Nnanna’s pretty smooth offensively, has good presence in the offensive post, though needs to develop his actual moves in that position. Passes well out of post. He can shoot a little from outside. It looks like fouls will be a problem defensively, but hustles back out of double teams well. Seems like he needs a little time to get up to the speed of the college game. Right now, he’s clearly the backup center, probably the least challenged spot on the team. Key stat:3 offensive rebounds, 3 defensive rebounds.
#15 Mike ShawShaw misses box outs sometimes though he does hustle well. Trying to find his place, I think, as is evidenced by the fact that he attempted any 3s at all. Mike’s going to do a lot of little things well by the end of his career. He finds the ball pretty well. Key stat:0-2 from three point range.
#21 Devin Langford Langford displays good handles and is deceptively quick for his size. He also showed flashes of being a great passer as reported by Weber. Devin could be very interesting in occasional spot duty at the 4, particularly against smaller, pressing teams (Mizzou?). Key stat:2-3 from the field in 16 minutes.
#23 Ibby Djimde Ibby was probably the least evident of the scholarship players at the scrimmage. Nothing but goose eggs across the scoresheet. He played 16 minutes, but I frankly can’t remember him even touching the ball. Djimde could be the leading redshirt candidate depending on how much Shaw can give the Illini. Key stat:16 minutes played.
One of the most confounding things about this scrimmage was the constant team-switching. The Illini coaches shortened the last quarter to 6 minutes, presumably due to fatigue. I expect that no player will average more than 30 minutes this year. This would be a good thing, given how the past few Illini teams seemed to wear down in conference play.
We’ll have this same extensive coverage for every game this year, continuing with the live blog against Wayne State on Monday. No BTDN subscription? Live it vicariously through the live blog! Don’t forget, you can follow us on Facebook at the Writing Illini page or on Twitter at WritingIllini.
Topics: Basketball, Brandon Paul, Crandall Head, D.J. Richardson, Demetri McCamey, Devin Langford, Game Review, Ibby Djimde, Illini Basketball, Illinois Basketball, Joe Bertrand, Meyers Leonard, Mike Shaw, Myke Henry, Sam Maniscalco, Tracy Abrams, Tyler Griffey