Abrams Expected to Start

Tracy Abrams (back spasms) is expected to start and play against Iowa on Saturday.

CHAMPAIGN – Tracy Abrams walked on to the State Farm Center court before practice on Thursday and immediately heaved a half-court shot.

The long ball missed the target, but the attempt was a good sign after back spasms limited him to only two points in 13 minutes against Indiana on Sunday.

"Tracy's a tough kid," Illinois Coach John Groce said. "We've been fortunate enough that none of the frequency of the back spasms had really come to light until a game night until Sunday. But he's had them. He fights thought it."

The Chicago native is averaging over 12 points and nearly four assists and four rebounds a game. But it's his vocal leadership and physical toughness that Groce commonly cites when referencing Abrams.

Abrams is commonly called the toughest Illini, playing through the back spasms and stepping forward as the vocal leader of the team just two examples. That hasn't always been the case, though.

"Maybe now. I don't think he was a year ago," Groce said. "I don't. I'm really proud of the development that he's made from a leadership prospective, from being more vocal, the way he interacts with his teammates, the way he talks to those guys in practice, the fact that he's more of an everyday guy more than he was a year ago. I think he understands the value of that. I think he appreciates that more, embraces that more. In a lot of areas, whether it's academics, whether it's personal choices, whether it's how he practices, he exemplifies a lot of what we want to be about culturally."

Abrams is slated as a starter for Saturday's contest with No. 12 Iowa. He practiced all week and has received treatment for the spasms, which could return at any time. The hope is that they don't plague him on another game day.

"We'll cross our fingers," Groce said.

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