What We Learned: O&B Scrimmage

What we learned Thursday during Illinois' Orange and Blue Scrimmage.

CHAMPAIGN - It was an intrasquad scrimmage, so we're not going to go overboard just yet. Still, it was the boys in Orange and Blue competing, so there was plenty to learn Thursday night.

Ahmad Starks would have helped this team tremendously. Coach John Groce has said he isn't dwelling on Starks being denied of a hardship waiver by the NCAA. He can't because it would do no good, so this is last time I'll say it -- the 5-foot-9 transfer from Oregon State would be a perfect fit on this team. He's a great shooter, a playmaker off the dribble and his presence would free Tracy Abrams up to play the 2 more often. OK, there. We'll close the book on that thought, but it was nice to see him play. He had six points and two assists in the only chance fans and his family will get to see him on the court this season.

"It felt great. The fans came out in support," Starks said. "We have a great fan base, so I've seen and been told. A few of my family members came down. That's most important and it felt great."

Mike LaTulip has more to his offensive game. Known for his 3-point shooting, the walk-on point guard scored the first bucket of the scrimmage with a strong take down the lane, hitting a contested lay-up as he crashed to the floor. The sophomore had a few nice drives, finishing with 15 points and converting all 10 of his free throws.

"You know, it's usually not my game," LaTulip said. "People look at me as a shooter but I tried to show that when people give me a little space I can take it the basket."

Rayvonte Rice is a versatile weapon. Yeah, so we figured that going in. But it's worth noting since it was the first time we've seen the Drake transfer play since last season's O&B. Rice scored every way imaginable, finishing with 17 points.

"Ray has been doing a phenonimal job on both ends of the floor," Starks said. "Strong, aggressive, athletic, that's his game."

Malcolm Hill is playing the 4. With Rice and senior Joe Bertrand manning the 3 position, the freshman Hill has spent time at the 4 in a small-ball lineup.

"As a freshman we try to air on the side of teaching him one position, but there's no question here long term that he's going to know both those positions, both 3 and 4," Groce said.

Hill was a prolific scorer in high school. He's played well enough in the other areas of the game in practice thus far to warrant time on the floor in some capacity.

"One thing coach stressed to me is he told to play hard and aggressively rebound," Hill said. "I don't have to have the ball in my hands most of the time. I've learned this summer how to play without the ball, which has helped me get comfortable."

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