A look at the Illini backcourt

<p>Pre-season view on the Illinois backcourt. It is definitely one of the top 5 in the nation. I wouldn't trade these guys for any others, but the likes of North Carolina, Duke, Arizona, and Kentucky's are strong as well. Lets take a look at the Illini backcourt:

Dee Brown- Dee is the vocal leader of this team. The guys respect him and look to him for leadership and energy. He does not disappoint in that area. Last year I thought Dee tended to get a little hesitant when his shot wasn't falling. He needs to have total confidence in his shooting stroke. Dee turned heads this summer with his strong play for Team USA and his 47-point scoring record. Dee does so much more than score though. He is lightning quick getting out on the break and he sees the floor really well despite his height disadvantage. This is where Dee developed the nickname "the one man fast break". Once in traffic he needs to learn to make better decisions. I would love to see him develop a medium range game where he could drive and then shoot a pull up jumper. To this point it hasn't happened but I'm sure the coaching staff will work on that with him. Defensively he uses quick hands to create steals and once he gets the ball he's gone for his patented finger-roll lay-up. One reason his teammates love playing with him is due to his unselfishness. Dee will always try to hit the open man and get everyone involved. The only real question the Illini fans will have about Dee going into this year will be his hairstyle.

Deron Williams- Deron is Dee's sidekick in fighting crime (opponents). Deron is perhaps the best true point guard in the nation and look for him to play a huge role on this team. Deron is definitely a vocal leader as well. He is always talking on the floor and showing people where to go. So far in the scrimmages his shot has been falling and it looks smooth. Former coach Bill Self used to always say that all Deron needed was more confidence in his shot. The mechanics have always been there. Over the summer it looks as if Deron has found that. His passing is crisp and he sees the floor perfectly. Deron is unselfish almost to a fault. I look for Coach Weber to turn him loose this year and let him create more on offense. Deron's best offensive move is a hesitation/cross-over move that can break ankles. Frank Williams comes to mind as a guy who utilized this move very well. On defense is where Deron can be an animal. He is a lockdown defender with deceptive quickness and intelligence. He has an uncanny way of sniffing a play out before it happens. Along with his quickness he has great strength for a guard. They will not be able to take him down low and post him up. Look for Deron to possibly be the defensive player of the year in the Big 10. In my opinion Deron has the most NBA potential of any current Illini.

Luther Head- Luther has been a fan favorite the last few years due to his leaping ability. We all can picture him flying along the baseline for his patented alley-oop. Last year Luther greatly improved his shooting stroke to become a viable offensive weapon. Luther is a great fit for this team due to his athleticism as he runs the break well and Dee and Deron have learned when to feed him. His main offensive weakness is that he can be turnover prone. He does not look smooth handling the ball although I'm sure it's something he's worked on over the summer. Defensively Luther is an opponents nightmare. He is in your jock whether it is in a full court press or half court man-to-man defense. He has lightning quick hands and feet and really takes pride in stopping his man. I foresee Luther being the spark plug off the bench in games where the Illini come out sluggish.

Richard McBride - Richard has been known by many Illini fans for a long time. He has been a high school standout all 4 years and comes from a program that saw much success while he was there. Talent has never been the question with McBride. It has always been his effort. I look for Coach Weber to whip him in to shape once the season gets started. One of Richards greatest assets is his strength. There will not be a more solidly built freshman in the nation. When I saw Rich lately he appeared to be slimmed down weight wise but not muscle. He will need to get in better shape, as high school basketball does not prepare you for that in most cases. The buzz around McBride has always been his uncanny shooting range. It extends out to well beyond the 3-point line. I wouldn't call McBride a gunner though. He doesn't force things if it's not there. When he does shoot it young kids should take notice. If there was ever a shooting stroke to try and emulate it is Rich's. The ball comes out of his hands so softly and even when he misses the ball dances on the rim and thinks about dropping. Besides being our 3 point specialist Rich also likes to take his man to the lane and put up nice mid range floaters while using his strong body to gain space. Rich tends to get real streaky sometimes so if he's feeling it look for Dee and Deron to keep feeding him no matter where on the floor he is. He will be a nightmare to opponents if he's on from the outside. Defensively Rich has never really had to work at learning how to become a good defender. He isn't bad but with some proper coaching I think he could become a good if not great defender. Once again it comes down to his effort. Rich is the wildcard in this group. If he lives up to expectations this team can go from good to great really quick.


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