Larry Austin In No Hurry For College Decision

Fighting Illini fans flooded Parkland College Saturday to watch several top basketball players with Illini interest. Among them was sophomore Larry Austin, a combo guard from Springfield Lanphier. But while eyes were focused on Austin, his team was focused on beating a rival and last year's state champion.

Springfield Lanphier played Peoria Manual in last year's Shootout at the Hall and lost to the eventual state champions. While the games were at Parkland College this year, Lanphier got the rematch it wanted and emerged victorious.

Lanphier's sophomore guard Larry Austin, recruited by Illinois and a number of other top schools, says he and his teammates enjoyed beating Manual Saturday.

"We really wanted to play them again because we lost to them last year. We were up last year and lost to them. This year, we're more poised, and we're more comfortable where we're at. They're the #1 team in the state, and we really wanted to beat them."

The two teams could have a repeat at the state finals in March. Lanphier coach Chuck Shanklin looks forward to it.

"I'd like a rematch with Peoria Manual. Just like Bama and LSU. If that's the case, we'll certainly take it. There's still a second half of the season to go, and so many things can happen."

Austin shares his coach's confidence.

"I think we're real good, but we try not to settle for anything in practice. We work hard every day. I think that we can win state this year."

Austin started as a freshman, but his teammates didn't always involve him in their play. He is much more comfortable on the court this season.

"Yes sir. It's very important. We've got a lot of seniors that can play. We all play defense and get back, and the offense will come."

Shanklin's kids seem to have great court awareness, a major factor in their development.

"I don't think the kids get enough credit for their basketball IQ. My kids are pretty good at that. We recognize situations much better this year than we did last year."

Austin may have the highest IQ of them all, a fact Manual coach Derrick Booth shared in the post game press conference as well. A big part of the sophomore's development has been his involvement with USA basketball.

"At USA basketball, I learned to calm down and show what we've got on the offensive end. Take control of the game. They pushed me every day in practice. They're an elite group, and I like playing around them."

Austin's confidence on the court is obvious. So is his leadership despite his youth. Humble to a fault, Austin refuses to overemphasis the importance of his leadership.

"We all go hard in practice. I have their respect and they have my respect. They listen to me, and I listen to them."

Austin says he may wish to coach someday. If so, his coach-speak is already flowering, as evidenced by his response to how his game has improved.

"I just find my teammates and find open spots or create my own. Create for my team and help out on defense. I've got other guys around me, and I can score too. My teammates are looking for me, but I'm also looking for them. It goes both ways."

More to the point, Austin is able to set up his teammates with great passes for open shots. He handles the ball without turnovers and plays tough defense. It is hard to tell about his outside shot because he is so unselfish with the ball.

"I work on my dribbling drills and my basketball IQ. On the practice floor, I put on the goggles where you can't see down when you dribble. Shooting, I shoot when it's open."

His senior teammate Everett Clemons, the team's leading scorer thanks in part to Austin's crisp passes, says his younger teammate prepares him well for the games with his quality defense.

"He's a great defender. Every day in practice, I try to score on him. It translates to the games. Larry is the toughest defender we face. It gets real physical in practice. We sometimes have to change our jersey twice a week as it might be ripped or something."

Booth said Austin's intangibles are his best attribute. Thus, he is already drawing plenty of college attention. Of course, Austin was intentionally vague about his list of suitors.

"I think I'm at a good stage right now. My dad talked to a couple of coaches this weekend. I'm just trying to play my game, just stay focused and humble about it and keep it coming."

Being from central Illinois, Austin has grown up watching the Illini. However, he has two favorite teams, both of whom played in the finals of the 2005 NCAA Tournament.

"I did (like the Illini), and then I also grew up a fan of North Carolina. Ty Lawson and Sean May, I liked them."

Judging from his comments, he may be hoping for an offer from the Tar Heels. He says Illinois is in his top five, but his other favorites remain a secret.

"They're in the top five right now, but I'm still leaving my options open. I don't want to say (my top five)."

What is Austin looking for in a college?

"Where I can come in and start. Where they push the ball, where there are other guys around me I can play with, and where it can take me to the next level. Education also."

Does Illinois's style of play appeal to you?

"It could fit me. They do push the ball. They like to run, create open shots and guard."

Austin is willing to wait as long as it takes before committing to a school.

"I'm just gonna wait until the right opportunity."

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