Illinois Basketball Coach Bruce Weber

<p>So much has been made of Illinois media day that I decided to get the old tape recorder out to see if my tape had the same quotes as everyone else. Weber gave the media good reason for fans to feel good about his first team at Illinois. Read here for Weber's take on this year's Illini.

For those that feel coach Weber doesn't have the charisma to charm the media like former coach Bill Self – you're wrong. We all can see right now with football coach Ron Turner that having the media on your side is very important at times. In front of a packed house, his first media day was a success.

Weber's first joke was regarding the size of media day. "We have more people here today during media day than we did at games when I was at Southern Illinois," said Weber jokingly.

Here's what coach Weber had to say during his press conference:

"One of the first things I'd like to talk about is energy. Athletic Director Ron Guenther asked me about having enough energy. I told him I think I will, but it's been a hectic situation because I've tried to get so much done. We're very excited the trip to Europe was a good thing for us. We had to tell our families that we were going to Stockholm for ten days to look at beautiful women (laughter). The big advantage of this trip was we got to know the players and they got to know us a little better.

"Change is difficult for anybody. These kids had a coach leave and they had a lot of success and they recruited these guys. They have good memories of Bill, and then you have trainer Rod Cardinal retire, so there's been a lot of changes. It's been difficult on our guys so we try to be patient. I think we hit a little bit of a wall during conditioning this year. We tried to do some new things that were a little tough on the guys. I got some calls while I was on the road from assistants and they were frustrated. I have been real proud the past couple weeks about it however.

"When you get close to practice time injuries disappear because they want to practice, but I think they grouped together and they got some guys' heads on straight. One of my big questions was the maturity of the team - on the court. Off the court on the trip they were great with the fans, they are great with the media, but on the court I'm not so sure. That will be one of my big question marks.

"We're going to be real good this year. We have good talent and good athletes; we have some good depth. I'm talking about being very good and competing for the Big Ten Championship, and making a good run in the NCAA Championship. That will come down to the leadership and the chemistry. The good news about all this is we have everybody back for two years, which is great. Two years from now you will have guys that have been through it, and the bad news is that this year we really don't have a true senior. Jerrance has done a good job of trying to plug that gap. He's a player-coach; I think he wants to get into coaching. He knows he's there to help push the guys in practice.

"A lot of time you can tell how good teams are by what's being said in the lockerooms or apartments. When times get tough is there somebody there to say, "Hey, coach is right. You have to listen to him." Hopefully we can get some other guys to buy into what we are doing. We think Jerrance is that guy.

"We had some guys tell us they could do certain things; we set some goals for them and they made them. It's just like a classroom exam. You take a test to see what you have learned. And that's what we try to do. I would say we're an A, but a B in fall conditioning. We were a C- or D at one time, so we've made some progress.

"Our coaching staff feels the first three weeks is so important to your team. What foundation you lay with them is crucial. We didn't work on any defense in the summer, and coaches were mad at me. I just said, "Hey, I want Dee and Deron to stay here. I don't want them to leave (laugh)". It's summer basketball. I promise you that defense will be a big part of what we do in the upcoming practices. I guess now we can open things up for questions." A: We were pretty easy going in the summer. Dee and Deron played 13 games with team USA. They had two weeks of training camp, so they were gone for a month. They came back, they had a week off and then they were with us for 10 days. I didn't want to over do it with those guys. Motion is tough to put in; it's a little different. I think the biggest difference between Bill and myself is more movement on offense, a little more motion pass and cut. Last year they depended on the high-low stuff and then getting into their two game. I have to be honest - I want to run, and that's what we did. I knew European basketball was a fast paced game with the 24-second shot clock. If you look at our stats we scored over 100 ppg. With our schedule how tough it is, we are going to have to be ready.

Q: Coach, what will your rotation be this year?

A: I look at the guy from Creighton. He will play 10/11. Guys they had great success. Other coaches couldn't figure out why he was playing them. Heck, I thought some of those guys were busters (laughter). They were happy and they competed. The Georgia game two years ago in the United Center, we wore them out. We talked about that in our huddle. Some of that is playing a lot of guys. To answer your question - we played nine the last three years. I think Dee and Deron will play most of the minutes.

Q: With Cook gone, how does this open the door for Dee?

A: I talked about chemistry and who was going to make the big basket. I asked the kids and it was Cook. Not only did Cook make big shots but he made big free throws. So I think Dee. He's the next guy in line. I do think you need more than one. With taking big shots there are some guys that want a part of it. Other guys will shoot it but don't think they can make it. Or other guys that want to shoot it and think they can make it. I want Dee and Deron to be "big play" guys, but we're going to need someone else to step up. Luther hit a game-winning basket over there. I told our guys if we're going to be really good this year we need a surprise player, a newcomer of the year type player. A Luther Head, Aaron Spears or Roger could be that guy.

Overall guys, I expect a great year. I know one thing for sure - they will play hard.

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