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.