Illinois Football Daily Bullets

Illinois Basketball Daily Bullets

Friday, October 20, 2006

A fan's perspective on Bruce Weber as recruiter

It's that time of year again, Illini fans. Yes, the college basketball season is right around the corner. Yesssssss! Outstanding. I'm really looking forward to this season, which will be the fourth of Bruce Weber's tenure. So far, he has done a better coaching job with each successive season. He's really settling in as a Big Ten head coach. His motion offense, combined with an extended man to man defense that makes the other team fight for every shot, is a true basketball "system". There are those that criticize Weber for his well-documented recruiting misses (Wright, Scheyer, Collins, Rose, Gordon). These high profile "misses" blot out the players that do end up coming to Illinois, however. Of course Weber tries to recruit the 5-star guys, but he also searches out the high school ranks to find players that will fit into the basketball "system" that is fast becoming a model for others to emulate.

Weber looks for certain things in his recruits. Big Men: He wants tall, long, athletic forwards, who can run the court and have the potential to play both a post up game, and a game facing the basket. What he really wants are guys that can hit the mid range jumper. Semrau is the prototype of this kind of player. Carlwell, Jackson, and Pruitt all possess some of these elements. All of them are athletic and can run the floor. Guards: Weber strives to recruit a stable of guards that are big, physical, and can handle the ball. The ideal guard will be able to shoot the lights out from three point land, and also drive to the hoop and pull up to consistenty hit the mid-range jumper. In a sense, he looks for combo guards. Yeah, he's always looking for a good point guard, but even the point guard needs to be able to shoot and play physical defense. Jamar Smith fits the bill for the prototype here-- especially if his defense and ball-handling come up a notch. The other guards (Brock, Meacham, Frazier) have many of the right qualities, too, and fit into his system parameters.

So all the naysayers out there, don't fret-- Weber knows what he's doing, and he's putting the pieces of the puzzle together in a very methodical way. The incoming recruiting class (Tisdale, Cole, McCamey) is not 5-star, but they will all be four year players. Don't forget, Deron Williams wasn't even a top 50 recruit coming out of The Colony, TX. Look at him now. So just remember Illini Fans-- Weber is a system and fundamentals guy. He's quietly getting players that fit into his system quite nicely.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Indiana's very own "Entourage" and what it means to college basketball

Well, it's been a few days now, and that has given me time to think about what basketball fans (especially Illini fans) shall forever refer to as "The Eric Gordon Mess." I'm not upset about him going to Indiana. Nope. That's his right as a free American, and I'm happy he's able to go where he wishes. The process that led him to change his decision is the topic of discussion here. I don't know much about Indiana's coach, Kelvin Sampson. But you have to ask yourself: what kind of person would smash apart the integrity of a legendary basketball program, in his maniacal pursuit of a single player? Yes, Sampson has shattered the integrity of the Indiana basketball program. Hold on a second! I'm not saying this because of the reason you might think. This might surprise you, but I actually think Sampson had every right to recruit the kid-- the situation at Indiana had changed, after all (with Mike Davis' departure). So Sampson was justified in trying to lure Gordon to Indiana. It's how he did it that is disturbing. No less than two-- that's right, TWO!!! -- individuals were hired on to the staff of the Indiana basketball program by Sampson this summer that had direct links to Eric Gordon. Sampson hired an assistant coach who played college ball with Gordon's dad. Okay, by itself, maybe just a coincidence. But then, Sampson hired Gordon's AAU coach to be his video coordinator! Now, there's absolutely nothing illegal about doing either of these hires. But to me, it's a move that plainly lacks integrity. It's telling a high school kid this: "Come to Indiana, and I'll let you bring your entourage with you, oh great one." Shouldn't he be saying this: "Come to Indiana, because we have a great program, a great system, great fans, and you'll get a world class education to boot." But that's not what Sampson did. Instead, he sold out the program's integrity, and bowed and scraped and hired until the kid relented and came to Indiana. It's sad, really. I always admired the Indiana program for standing out from the crowd, staying above the sleazy side of recruiting. Now, though he did nothing illegal, Sampson has chopped the legs of integrity out from under a legendary program. Sad, so sad. Well, this is the last I'll speak of this episode, thankfully. Let's move to the on-court struggles!