If there's one thing that's obvious about the Illinois basketball team, it's that they need someone else besides Deron Williams and Dee Brown to carry them. Sometimes it's Roger Powell, other times it's James Augustine or Nick Smith, one time it was even Rich McBride, but Saturday was Luther Head's day. So what changed during the past week of practice for Head? Is this something we can come to expect from the junior high flying guard?
"I felt real confident Saturday, I was more relaxed and I was just into it. When you've got guys like this (Williams & Brown) getting you the ball then it's pretty much easy to knock down the shots," said Head. I don't know if I'm ready to proclaim Head as the new third weapon just yet. He's shown me over the years that he's too inconsistent. One game he comes out and sets the world on fire. The next game he's turning the ball over and missing wide open shots. But one thing I do know, when Luther Head plays with confidence he's tough to stop.
Head used his newly regained confidence that he found on the offensive end and turned it up a notch on defense. He recorded four steals in the game and cause visible frustration to the Michigan guards with his in your jock style defense. He disrupted the passing lanes, he stripped guys heading to the hoop, and then he took off down the court and got some layups. Coach Weber was extremely impressed with Head's display on Saturday saying "not only did he knock down shots but he got to the hoop and he was the leader on the play hard chart. It's kinda ironic that it seems like the leading scorer every time is the leader in that chart."
Dee Brown also reiterated what Weber had said earlier in the year. "I think in the beginning of the year, in the practices, he's the best player in practice. He showed it tonight and he came out confident and played relaxed and he can really shoot the ball and make plays," said Brown. Dee was very excited to see Head and Williams lead the charge. It took some pressure off of Brown to not have to do most of the scoring. "I was just sitting back and playing my role, let the guys Deron and Luther make the shots, and then if I get open try and make a play," said Brown.
So will this newly found confidence in Head carry over through the week. The Illini face two important road games in Indiana and Minnesota. Splitting one out of the next two is a necessity. Winning both is attainable if they play like they did on Saturday.
Weber thinks that Head just might be the difference in getting this team turned around. "You get energized when you make buckets, he played with a lot of confidence so that was important. With him stepping up and then the defense in both halves that's the key," said Weber.
And this might just be the key to the rest of the season. Yes Illinois still needs an inside presence to be consistent. However, if Illinois is going to make a deep run this season, it will be their guards leading the way.