Illini Basketball Media Day: 5 takeaways to Preview the Season

Illini Basketball Media Day: 5 takeaways to Preview the Season
and for my Illini people, senior night photo

Illini basketball Media Day was Wednesday which means it’s time to preview the season. The great thing about Media Days are the ability to bring up just about any topic and talk about anything. The bad side of Media Days are the press conferences are more cliche and predictable than at any point of the entire season.

Everyone is “just excited to get going” with a “great group of guys.” Everyone is undefeated on Media Day. That said Illini basketball tips-off with a scrimmage in six days, an exhibition in 13 days and the season opener versus Alabama State on Friday November 9th.

So here are five takeaways from Illini basketball media day, to help you preview the season. Aided by the help of two in-depth team season previews. My own and that of David Kmiecik, college basketball nerd and the man with the most accurate NBA Mock Draft on the planet. Enjoy:

1. Illini basketball coach John Groce unveiled the motivational slogan for this season.

Consider it the Illini basketball answer to/version of “Whatever Is Needed” or “W.I.N.” from Tim Beckman. Which was then quickly changed to W.I.N.T. Adding a “Today” at the end. It should be noted that Northwestern has been using the epigram “W.I.N. What’s Important Now” for many years as their inspirational catch-phrase.

The slogan unveiled at Illini basketball Media Day is not one I’ve heard used by Chris Collins or Bill Carmody up in Evanston, so that’s a good thing. Read the new slogan here

2. Navy Seal training

The team did some extensive Navy Seal training this offseason, and that’s where the slogan originated. Groce channeled his inner Dennis Rodman saying he wanted to “put them in situations where they’re comfortable being uncomfortable.” It’s reminiscent of Rodman’s famous quote “I’m not comfortable being comfortable.”

3. This Illini basketball team has 9 new players coming in and only four returnees.

The last time Illini basketball had 9 newcomers was the second season of Lon Kruger, the 1998-99 team (Sergio McClain, Cory Bradford, Cleotis Brown, Fess Hawkins, Damir Krupalijia, Lucas Johnson, Robert Archibald, Nate Mast. Frank Williams and Marcus Griffin transferred, but had to sit out one season) You remember how awful that team was.

Although they did lay the ground work for a very successful run of Illini basketball (Elite 8 in ’01 with the exact same nucleus) and couple of players from that era went on to play basketball professionally. So maybe the ’13-’14 team is really building something?

4. The four players returning for Illini basketball are:

Nnanna Egwu, Tracy Abrams, Sort of but not really Rayvonte Rice (who is now also being referred to as Ray Rice) Joe Bertrand and Michael LaTulip (who played very very sparingly last season.

Rice had to sit last year, but now the Champaign product will be able to produce in front of his hometown. He’s lost 30 pounds and supposedly worked as hard as anyone. Ray Rice has to be good in order for this Illini team to be good. Just like two years ago, the team that led to Bruce Weber being fired, Meyers Leonard had to be good in order for that Illini team to be good. Leonard was only slightly above mediocre, and hence the team was bad. Yet Leonard was drafted extremely high anyway, on account of his winning the genetic lottery.

5. Where do the newcomers (Austin Colbert, Maverick Morgan, Rice, Jaylon Tate, Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn, Ahmad Starks, Darius Paul, Jon Ekey, Aaron Cosby) all fit in?

My Illini basketball 2013-14 depth chart

G Abrams/Tate/LaTulip

W Hill/Nunn/Ekey

W Rice/Nunn

F Bertrand/Ekey/Colbert

C Egwu/Morgan/Colbert


Dave’s Illini basketball depth chart

F/C: Nnanna Egwu (Jr)/Maverick Morgan (Fr)
PF: Austin Colbert (Fr) or John Ekey (Sr)
G/F:Joseph Bertrand (Sr)/Malcolm Hill (Fr)
SG: Rayvonte Rice (Jr)/Kendrick Nunn (Fr)
PG: Tracy Abrams (Jr)/Jaylon Tate (Fr)

Quoting Dave:

Groce also added Seton Hall transfer Aaron Cosby, Oregon State transfer Ahmad Starks, and former Western Michigan forward Darius Paul during the summer. Cosby is a combo guard who can stroke it from deep while the 6-8 Paul was the MAC Freshman of the Year and baby brother of Brandon Paul. Starks was denied a waiver by the NCAA to play right away and will add even more experience to the backcourt.  All three guys must sit out this season but will join what should be a very talented roster once they become eligible.

Anytime you have as much turnover on a roster as Illinois, a grace period of sorts will be needed to figure things out. I wouldn’t rule out a trip to the NCAA Tournament but it seems unlikely. I will say this though; I’ve already got my eyes on the potential for Illini basketball in 2014-15.

Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An analyst for 95.7 The Fan and 1620 The Zone, he also writes for Chicago Now. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks), Facebook, and RSS

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