Point Guard Michael Orris Makes It Official

After bringing in a huge class last year, the Fighting Illini basketball team had only one scholarship available for this signing period. They gave it to Crete-Monee point guard Michael Orris, who made it official today. Orris provides needed depth at his position and is excited for the opportunity.

Illinois signed Michael Orris to a scholarship today. The 6'-2", 180 pounder still has another year at Crete-Monee High School, but he would come to college now if he could.

"It feels great. A lot of people say it's a weight off your shoulders. I guess it is, but at the same time I'm excited. I've been down here a lot and got to see how they do things and be with the guys. I feel like I want to be here right now and not have a whole other year. I can't wait for time to come here."

Illini coach Bruce Weber is pleased with the addition. He had come to realize the need for more ball handlers and facilitators on the team, and Orris meets those criteria.

"We targeted what we felt was the best point guard in the state of Illinois, and that's Michael Orris from Crete-Monee High School. The thing that we really like about Michael, he is a point guard. He has a great feel of the game, he understands the game, he enjoys passing the ball as much as shooting the ball.

"His two best characteristics, one he's a winner. He led Crete-Monee to things the school had never done before, reaching the Elite 8 last year. And also he's a competitor; he loves to play, and when he plays he's got a little feistiness to him. That is always a positive thing.

"We're really pleased; we think it's a good fit. We think Michael can give us some stability next year. The family is originally from Pennsylvania and are huge Pittsburgh Steelers fans. I think that's fitting because Michael has that blue collar mentality when he plays."

Orris would like to pattern his game after Illini senior point guard Sam Maniscalco, especially his leadership ability.

"Absolutely. Especially with the other guys being under Sam's leadership here, along with Brandon (Paul) and D.J. (Richardson), I'd like to step in and be a leader too. That's what I naturally am."

Weber sees a number of similarities to Maniscalco.

"There's no doubt. He's got some strength, some toughness. He's not someone who's gonna come down and do the 360s or anything. He can dunk, but that's not his thing. It's the feel of the game, understanding angles, get it to people. And competing and winning."

Maniscalco has observed Orris in pickup games on his visits to campus. He also sees similarities.

"Yeah I do. He definitely has a knack for the game of basketball. He knows how to play. He knows how to get his teammates involved, knows how to win, plays the game the right way. He's fundamentally sound, he can pass, shoot and dribble. If you can do that at this level, you're in business.

"He's got a competitive edge to him, which I think will help these guys next year. I'm very happy for him, and I know everybody on the coaching staff is very excited to have him next year."

Orris is known as a pass-first point guard, but he has worked tirelessly in the gym to improve his shooting. Weber has noted the improvement.

"He didn't shoot the ball very much last year. His high school team had two players going to Division 1 schools on scholarship. So he just had to lead the team, start the offense, get it to people, which he did a great job of.

"He has really worked on his shooting. A couple times this summer, he had monster games where he had 7, 8, 9 threes and scored in the thirties. I think once maybe in the forties. But I don't think that's his thing, and he knows that."

Orris is confident his scoring ability will make him more difficult to defend.

"I was able to show in the summer I'm not just a passer. I proved to a lot of people I can score. So it was good. I know I can score.

"That was really my job up until last year. I had other talent around me, and I needed to cultivate that talent and get them the ball, get them in position to be successful and score. Where to get them the ball and when to get them the ball.

"At the next level, I'm gonna score when needed. But my scouting report is not gonna say they can lay off, he's not gonna score. I just need to get the best players the ball in the best position to be successful."

Orris committed originally to Creighton but later reopened his recruitment. Weber and his staff first saw him play last December and liked him from the start. They renewed the process after the decommitment, and the effort eventually paid off.

"We felt we needed someone who could give us that toughness, that competitive edge, that feel of the game. When the coaches first saw him, they said he was a perfect fit. It's somebody we really focused on.

"He'll take charges, he'll dive on the floor. He's not afraid to do all those other things. When I would go to practice, he was talking the whole time. Coaching, teaching, enthusiastic, led every drill. It's the kind of attitude you want in your program."

Orris will be needed to score for Crete-Monee this year.

"I'd much rather have a nice assist than to score. But scoring is fun too. I will definitely have to score this year. We'll be good; we're young. We started two sophomores last year, and they'll both be back."

He has some idea what he wants to study during college.

"Communications, maybe History. I might like to be a high school history teacher and coach. But lately I've been leaning towards maybe being a college coach. You don't need any particular degree for that."

Orris was not signed just to add depth. Weber feels he can have an impact next season.

"I don't think there's any doubt. I think he has that maturity, the spirit and toughness. He'll make a push right away. But until they get here, you never know."

Orris has no doubt whatsoever he can take on Maniscalco's role as a rookie.

"I'm gonna do what I need to do and what they want me to do. I'll step into that role, accept it and do it well."

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