Western Illinois is lead by their new head coach, Derek Thomas. Thomas comes to Western Illinois after being an assistant coach to Charlie Spoonhour for two seasons at UNLV . He served as recruiting coordinator and big man coach as well as helping develop the offensive schemes that led the Mountain West Conference in scoring. Thomas was also an assistant to Spoonhour while at St.Louis from 1995-99 and helped in landing the schools first McDonald's All-American, Larry Hughes. Thomas was briefly at Illinois in the last days of the Lon Kruger era, and followed Kruger to Atlanta after he left Illinois. In another "it's a small world" coincidence, Thomas is assisted by former Illinois assistant, Jeff Guin. Thomas and Western are a good fit as he already has recruiting ties in the area from his days at St. Louis. That along with his infectious personality and NBA experience should help Letherneck basketball improve in the coming years.
Western's Probable Starters: Per Game Averages:
B. Carter Jr. G 6-3 185 9.0pts 2.0reb
D. Cole Jr. F 6-5 185 7.5pts 3.5reb 2.5ast
A. Lenoir Jr. F 6-6 225 7.0pts 2.5reb
T. Gray Fr. G 5-9 160 11.0pts 3.5reb 3.0ast 3.0stl
J. Summers Sr. G 6-3 200 13.5pts 5.0reb
Off the Bench:
B. Schmit Fr. G 6-0 170 4.0pts 2.5reb 5.5ast
W. Lewis Jr. F 6-6 215 9.5pts 3.0reb
K. Archie Jr. F 6-7 240 6.5pts 2.5reb 2.0ast
What to look for:
Western will be led by senior guard J.D. Summers from Quincy High School and true freshmen guard T.J. Gray from Chicago Julian High School. Summers led the Lethernecks in scoring last season with a 12.6pts/game average and is leading them again this season. He made 55 of 137 three point attempts last season and is Western's biggest threat from the outside, although, through 2 games this season Western has shot 50 three pointers so he won't be the only one putting them up. Gray is Thomas's first recruit and has played a large role for the team in the early going. Gray isn't shy from the outside as he has attempted 15 three pointers and made 5 in two games so far. Gray is diminutive to say the least, which really could describe the Lethernecks as a whole. They have been outrebounded badly in their first two contests, and knowing their penchant for putting up threes, to say the Lethernecks are a perimeter oriented team would be an understatement.
Western will try and use their quickness to apply pressure. With Head out, a lack of ball handlers could lead to some turnovers, which may be a problem early in the season anyways with Coach Weber putting in his new motion offense. Fifteen turnovers or less would be considered a solid start to the season, especially with Head out. Illinois should dominate on the glass as they will tower over Western and Western's quickness advantage really shouldn't be much if any as even Illinois' post players are quick and athletic with the exception of Nick Smith. Sidenote to Nick Smith: Will have to close out on the perimeter against these guys too…do your drills. The only way this is remotely close is if Illinois' perimeter defense is slow to close out and Western is able to knockdown some threes. Having said that, I will now say, it will not be close. Illinois wins 92-64.
Former Illini coaches to the current coach
The new Chief Bruce Weber