Saturday, December 16, 2006

Shootout a plus for Weber, Illini

Point #1 .... The Champaign News-Gazette Shootout at Assembly Hall today (Saturday, Dec. 16) was a real plus for coach Bruce Weber and the Fighting Illini basketball program. Well, maybe not so much this year, but if it can continue with even better players and higher profile programs in the future, this shootout concept could help significantly in recruiting.

This is a great way to get prospects on campus, to play in Assembly Hall and, more than likely, in front of Illinois basketball fans. If I'm Weber, I am doing all I can behind the scenes to encourage the organizers of the event to keep this running in Champaign.

Point #2 .... What a game local boy Verdell Jones, Jr. had in front of Weber and Illini fans. Jones, who has added a little strength and is now a legit 6-3, has really been impressive of late. The junior guard from Champaign Central is pretty gifted with the ball in his hands, possesses great court vision and has really added to his offensive game. It will be interesting to see how the Jones recruiting fares, especially as the Illini await Decatur Eisenhower guard Lewis Jackson's decision. Although he has plenty of work to do, including finding a way to get stronger and bigger, I now have Jones as the No. 6 rated junior in the state.

Point #3 .... Illinois recruits Mike Tisdale of Riverton and Bill Cole of Peoria Richwoods were both in action in the shootout in Champaign. I am still a little puzzled why Illinois decided to bring both in next year, although each has a vast amount of potential with their length, height and skill level, especially for being big men. Trying to decide which one you like better depends on the day you see them. They are pretty similar, both in the way they play, their size and weight and where they are in terms of their development. With that being said, it's going to be quite some time before either one of these players make a significant impact at the next level.

If Illinois' team returns as expected next year, with Shaun Pruitt, Brian Carlwell, C.J. Jackson and Rich Semrau on the inside at the four and five spots, Tisdale and Cole could both redshirt. I think the two will be factors down the road, but we may be talking three or four years down the road. And in the state the program is in right now, with no true stars on the current roster (Jamar Smith, maybe?) or coming in, that's not what the Illini faithful want to hear.

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