What a loaded and deep sophomore class the Illini were to have this year! McDonald’s All-American Jereme Richmond, consensus top 90 recruit Crandall Head, 7-footer/future NBA big Meyers Leonard and overlooked Sterling, Illinois product Joseph Bertrand.
Well, look at where we are today: Richmond caused as many headaches and issues as possible before leaving school after one year; a season in which he was a pedestrian sixth man. Head left the program a couple weeks ago having accomplished absolutely nothing in college basketball. Leonard has been dominant at times, but too often disappears for halves of games.
Bertrand seems like the real solid soph now. Sure, his redshirt year put him into this 2014 class, he wasn’t part of the same recruiting group. However, he seems like the man in that Illini sophomore group right now.
Bertrand carried the Illini on his back in the 59-54 win over Nebraska, scoring 25 points (including the game winner) on 11-12 shooting. He entered that game shooting 72% from the field in the previous five contests, and he’s at 62% field goal for the year.
“They told me go in and rebound, it’s one thing we’re really working on,” Bertrand said.
“We’ve had some slow halves which really hurt us with the other team making runs and we’ve lost games cuz of that.”
The Illini got their signature win of the season Tuesday night, a 79-74 defeat of #5 Ohio State. It was the BP3 show, as Brandon Paul had 43 points, but Bertrand chipped in a 10 and 7, on 5-7 shooting. He’s big in big games, as he also went 9-9 from the floor with a then career high 19 versus a top ten Mizzou team.
Bertrand’s knee surgery in 2010 (reason for the redshirt) hasn’t hurt his tremendous vertical. The two time slam dunk champion in high school has serious ups, and his floater in the lane makes him a dangerous scorer who can slash to the hole.
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