Offseason Outlook: Tracy Abrams

He's the Illinois version of a line in the sand. Tracy Abrams is the most polarizing player in Orange and Blue.

He's the most polarizing player currently on the Illinois roster.

Yeah, I'm talking about Tracy Abrams, as if the first sentence needed clarification.

Before we go any further — yes, I like Tracy Abrams. I think he wants to win more than anything else, he plays hard, he holds himself to a ridiculous standard and he does everything asked of him.

That last part is what gets people going. Message board posts and Twitter Land flame Abrams. Shots he doesn't hit and plays he doesn't make get blown up and shouted about (tweets in all caps). But Abrams is doing what he's asked to do, and that doesn't always align with his strengths.

Let's get the stats jumble out of the way… As a sophomore Abrams scored 10.6 a game. That went to 10.7 as a junior. Sophomore Abrams pulled down 3.5 rebounds. Junior Abrams… 3.5. Sophomore Abrams shot 27.2 on treys. Junior Abrams… 27.0. Sophomore Abrams dished 3.4 assists. Junior Abrams… 3.2. Sophomore Abrams grabbed 1.4 steals, committed 2.3 fouls and shot 74.8 percent on free throws. Junior Abrams… 1.2, 2.2 and 77.2 percent. You get the point. The dude is the dude. Not much is changing.

The only thing that drastically changed was overall shooting percentage. Abrams hit 39.4 of his shots as a sophomore. That dipped to 33.3

33 percent is not good. Neither is 39.4. I'm not defending any of that, but Abrams took 12 more shots last season than he did the year prior. We're talking about 18 fewer made shots. That's essentially half-a-shot a game.

I don't mean to sound nonchalant about that. Half a shot might have made the difference against Clemson or Michigan… And those games helped send Abrams into polarizing territory. He missed potential game winners in both those games, two of the last three games of the season. This upset many on the aforementioned message boards and Twitter.

Why was Abrams the one shooting? Why didn't somebody else shoot? Any other question I can ask to make sure everybody knows I'm mad?!?!?!

Never mind that Abrams finished off Missouri at the free throw line. Forget that he set up Jon Ekey for the buzzer beater at Iowa.

To many, Abrams stunk and couldn't close.

While I admit the end of season was not a resume-builder for Tracy Abrams as a closer, I'll live with his misses all day. Who else was going to take those looks? Ray Rice was covered by two people and Kendrick Nunn wasn't quite ready for plays to be run for. Abrams was the guy and he embraced the opportunity. It just didn't go his way.

And that's the thing for me… You know what you're getting with Tracy, and what he provides is perfectly fine. The problem is, circumstances have dictated he do more and/or contribute in ways that don't necessarily make it easy for fans to be in his corner.

He's had to man the point during the John Groce Era and took on perhaps more of a scoring load last season due to the lack of other perimeter threats.

Nobody has had their flaws pointed out more than Abrams, who's strengths can't always be measured with stats and on-the-court metrics.

That's a shame. To me, everything to this point has been a testament to the type of player and person he is -- the kind you want in your program.


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