The University of Illinois began classes this week, and my brother (sometimes known as the Rube) attended the annual Basketball Rebounders Dinner event, which meant he was able to view some pick-up games over on campus. The schedule has been released, and it’s never too early for hoops in Illinois. In what has become an annual report, we turn it over to the Rube…
So The Rube took in the Illini Rebounders season kick-off event which includes going to Ubben and watching the team scrimage for about 45 minutes or so and dinner/autographs/discussion with coaches and players. Below are some observations. Keep in mind the coaches weren’t running the scrimmage. There were no drills or anything just choosing up sides, going shirts and skins and playing games to 7, all baskets were worth 1 point (just like IMPE in the old days!) Keep in mind I’ve slept since I watched this and it was hard to tell on some of the games who won etc. As it seemed like they’d just stop playing sometimes.
Dmac is cut, didn’t look a bit thick, but well muscled. Tiz actually had the beginings of “love handles” and you can definitely see the weight-room work on Paul and Cole. Brandon’s arms are hugeish! Richmond looks like a freshman body wise other than all the tatoos, he had just received a “fresh” one on his stomach and wore some sort of saran wrap around his middle to keep it from getting scratched. Meyers is as big as advertised and looks like he could put on another 60 pounds without being a bit overweight, this kid may be even more of a physical beast if we can keep him here for 3-4 years. DJ looked about the same, a little thicker and needs a haircut! Griffey is probably the strongest on the team and looks like it too. Joe also looks like he’s added some weight. Crandall doesn’t look like a freshmen body wise, but does look a lot like Luther in the face! I think he’s probably 2-3 inches taller than Luther too. Mike Davis has some more meat on him, his arms are less string bean like now!
The first game:
Skins: Dmac, Tiz, Paul, Richmond, Cole
Shirts: DJ, Meyers, Griff, Bertrand, Crandal.
The team had just come out of the weight room and were actually about 15 minutes late getting started. That said it looked like Dmac and Tiz along with Richmond chose up the teams and were leading the scrimmage. The skins definatly had a ball handling advantage as Richmond was every bit as good as advertised, he and Paul actually played the PG position most of the time as DMac was happy to play wing and defer to these two who need the practice. Both Paul and Richmond looked comfortable handling the point, but in a pick up game who can really tell! The shirts were a bit less vocal, but also looked to be a bit more organized. Crandal ran the point most of the time and hit a couple threes, DJ also hit one from outside the arc and Griffey hit a nice 17 footer as well as one in traffic with contact. Meyers had a dunk underneath off of a rebound. The shirts won the game oddly enough. Crandal wasn’t a bit scared to shoot and looked to be moving very well. The skins had some fantastic passes from Richmond and DMac. Paul drove the lane a few times and Cole hit a 3. Tiz was, as usual automatic and hit a couple mid range jumpers. Dmac also drove mostly and hit a layup. Richmond had a basket as well off a pick and roll with Cole, faked Bertrand out of his shoes and hit a nice 15 footer.
Skins: DMac, Tiz, Richmond, Paul, Cole
Shits: DJ, Meyers, Davis, Walk-on, Bertrand.
Less organized more running in the second game. The walk-on got stuck trying to guard DMac, which was a little weird as DMac posted him up and hit a nice turnaround and drove a couple times for layups. Tiz got a great feed from Richmond and another from DMac that both ended in dunks. Richmond was also posting up on Bertrand and getting pushed around a bit by Joe, but held his own and got several offensive rebounds. Cole was solid and hustled more than anyone other than maybe the walk-on. Bill got some floor burns even though it was a pick up game. Meyers posted hard on Tiz a couple times but could move Tiz off the block and settled for a short range jump hook and another time took about a 15 foot jumper, he missed both. Mike Davis looked a bit uninterested had a few turnovers, played good Defense on Cole, but offensively didn’t do much. He did rebound well. Joe Bertrand did quite a bit of penetrating and hit a few pull up jumpers off the break and got to the rim a few times but was fouled. The guys gave Joe a hard time about calling fouls, it was pretty comical. DJ took a charge of DMac, oddly enough there was no argument as even Richmond (Dmac’s teammate) called it a charge. Skins won the game.
Rest of the Games and some match up odds and ends:
There were three more games I believe and Jamar Smith who was there shooting around stepped in and played some as well. I talked with him a bit and he’s still a great kid with a great smile and an even better jump shot. I’m still amazed when he shoots if it doesn’t go in!
Tiz and Meyers obviously were playing the post against each other in every game. Neither of them sat down the entire time. Mike is looking much stronger, now I realize he’s playing against a freshman etc., but keep in mind Meyers isn’t a typical Freshman big man when it comes to his strength, plus he loves contact! It was interesting to watch as Tiz was able to move Meyers off the block some, but on the other end Tiz would post up, not get the ball and then float out to about 15 feet and knock down jumper after jumper. He’s almost like Jamar in that if it doesn’t go in when Tiz shoots, I’m surprised! Meyers is still a kid, but as I said above could be very special before it’s all over. He seems very light-hearted and affable.
Richmond and Jamar or Bertand or DJ or Mike D. This was just as everyone thought Jereme played lots of positions and was guarded by just about everyone at one point in time or another. The best thing about it was he recognized who was guarding him and played to his own strength depending on who it was. When Jamar or DJ was on him, he posted up and played down low. He has incredible vision, especially for a 6’9″ freshman. He threw some passes to DMac and Tiz that were not something you’d expect to see consistently from a freshman. He ended the last game with an emphatic dunk off a secondary fast break. When Mike D. was guarding him, he took his game outside. He only hit one of about 4 three point attempts, but hit a few pull up jumpers and drove around the bigger guys. His matchup with Bertrand was very intriguing. Joe is quite a bit stronger, and probably quicker, Richmond became a playmaker at this point and also posted up and shot a few over the top of Bertrand which is quite a feet as Joe can flat out fly!
Crandall is an interesting case. Lots of folks have forgotten about him with all the hoopla surrounding the other two freshmen and the other guys coming back. He should push for minutes provided he stays healthy. He’s a phenomenal athlete. His shot is a bit odd-looking, but its effective. He doesn’t get as much lift off the ground shooting threes as he does on pull ups or drives to the basket. It’s not really a set shot, but it’s not a jump shot either. Like I said effective when he’s open, but kind of a slow release. He plays good defense for a freshman and is kind of a goof ball! He has fun, which is always nice to see.
DJ and Brandon and Joe all looked to have progressed in the weightroom although DJ isn’t as noticeable as Brandon or Joe. DJ was a leader on his team and looked to be more interested in distributing the ball etc. He did drive some and made a few outside shots. Brandon played the point most of the time, but he didn’t settle for 3’s like he did last year. He was driving to the basket and getting to the rim. He finished a bit better than he did last year which probably is due to his increased strength. Joe is an athletic freak. He drives well, but unlike Paul, has a tendency to stop short and pull up. He also is a bit off with his ball handling. That could have been due to the type of game it was in addition to a weight room session just before playing. He didn’t shy away from contact and had the task of guarding Richmond most of the time.
Cole and Griffey were interesting to watch as well. Griffey is by far the strongest guy on the team IMHO. He’s just not quite aggressive enough. He had a tendency to float a bit. Cole looks like he’s put on some strength and more than willing to scrap down low. The very few times he guarded Richmond it was very tough for Jereme to do much with Bill. Griffey has a very nice touch out to about 17 feet, but again I’d love to see him take his strength down low and do a bit more banging!
Mike Davis looked like he wasn’t all there some of the time. He did rebound well and played decent defense, but offensively he didn’t do much. Again, needs to be more aggressive IMHO.
DMac, like it or not will be the key to this team. According to Weber at the dinner afterwards, DMac should be a top 10 player in the country if he pushes himself every day. He appeared to be pushing himself most of the time at the scrimmage. There was one occasion he was slow getting back on defense (towards the end of the scrimmage), but so were two others and it was Richmond and Tiz back on D. Richmond funneled the ball underneath by moving his feet and Tiz blocked the shot, the other three still weren’t back on D and Richmond and Tiz both yelled at the others to get back, DMac was the first one back at that point, but he was slow getting there to begin with. DMac is very, very strong for a PG and he looks more relaxed. Again this was a pick up game and had nothing riding on it. That said, he did take some pride in winning the games he did and was a bit frustrated when his team didn’t win. It was more a competitive spirit kind of thing. He looks more athletic and was moving very well. Looked a bit quicker as well. As he goes this team will go as his ability to get the ball where it needs to go will be paramount to the team’s success. He has lots of people he can get it to who can put the ball in the whole, so keeping everyone motivated and happy will be his most difficult task after of course keeping himself motivated.