CHAMPAIGN -- The Illini are anxiously awaiting the return of sophomore sharpshooter Jalen Coleman-Lands, who they expect to have back in action for the regular season tip-off against Southeast Missouri State on Nov. 11 at the State Farm Center.
Coleman-Lands fractured a bone in his right hand on Sept. 7 during a skill workout, and he underwent surgery on Sept. 9 -- which included the insertion of a metal plate and six screws in his shooting hand.
That's the same shooting hand that flicked in 42.2 percent of his attempts from three last year. The one that broke Cory Bradford's freshman record for three-pointers in a season for the Illini, as Coleman-Lands nailed 87 treys.
On Oct. 7, Coleman-Lands had a follow-up appointment with the doctor and he was deemed "ahead of schedule", according to Illini head coach John Groce. Last week, Coleman-Lands was seen at practice with a wrap on his hand. He did some close-range form shooting, but he did not participate with the team.
Since then, he has slowly but surely worked his way closer to his return. Coleman-Lands has been active in conditioning and skill work, including "non-contact shooting workouts" -- a source told IlliniInquirer.com. Just no contact to this point.
Even when Coleman-Lands couldn't put his right hand on a basketball, he was working to improve other aspects of his game. Mind you that this is the same player who was working out at 6 a.m. on the day he signed his letter of intent to Illinois.
"Conditioning, agility, film," Coleman-Lands listed as areas of focus. "There are so many aspects of the game that I really took to my advantage."
He's also looking to use the 889 minutes he played as a freshman to his advantage coming back for his second go-around.
"Experience in general is going to benefit me. Playing in different games and being able to reflect and watch film," Coleman-Lands said. "I'm going to take that and build off of that."
Big things are expected from a player who returns as one of the top five three-point shooters by percentage throughout all the high-major conferences. Of course, the big question is: Will this injury hinder his sweet stroke?
Coleman-Lands doesn't believe so.
"As long as mentally I'm fine, I know what I'm capable of doing," he said. "I've gotten plenty of reps shooting the basketball, and once I get back into it, it won't be a problem."