IlliniBoard Summer Series: Issue 9: Brian Randle

In the tenth issue of the <i> Summer Series</i> that will look at each returning Illinois player and how Illinois stacks up in the national race, looks at Illinois' Sophomore Forward Brian Randle. <br><br> Read more in this issue of the <b> Summer Series</b>.

The tenth edition of the Summer Series takes a look at Illinois sophomore forward Brain Randle.

Of the three freshmen on last year's team, Brian Randle was provided the most opportunities to prove himself on the court early in the season. In fact because of Luther Head's suspension heading into the season, Brian started Illinois' first two games at small forward. Brian starting at the small forward position was a little shocking, not because Brian did not have the ability, but because it was just two months earlier that Bruce Weber asked Brian to take a red shirt season. Randle decided not to red shirt because he believed he was ready to contribute to the team right from the start. In the pre-season it was looking like Brian would be a key member of the Illini's rotation, but that would change once the entire roster was in place.

With his combination of height and athleticism, Bruce Weber could use Brian at two different positions in his rotation, and that is what he did. While Brian is more suited to playing the wing forward, he was also tried at power forward at times during last season. It was nearly impossible for Brian to break into the Illini's perimeter rotation because Dee, Deron, and Luther were rotation staples and Rich McBride played for the brief periods of time when one of the three starters was not on the court. The interior was a different animal, but by the end of the season Brian was not even seeing time on the interior.

During and even after last season many people wondered why Brian Randle had fallen out of the Illini's regular rotation and been replaced by Jack Ingram. The reason was simple, outside of his superior athleticism and quickness for his position, Brian was not ready to be a fulltime contributor to the Illini on either the perimeter or on the inside.

When Brian Randle was being recruited, he was touted, and rightfully so, as the player that could potentially be the first true Illinois wing forward since Jerry Hester. Brian came to Illinois with all the athletic characteristics you need to be a dominant wing forward, but all of those characteristics are still locked up in the dreaded "p-word", no not that one, get your head out of the gutter, potential.

On the wing, Brian right now is not a triple threat, but he is a very good slasher. He uses his quickness and dribbling ability to get to the basket against what is often times bigger and slower defenders. When he is looking to score instead of thinking about what to do on the court, Brian brings an element to the Illinois offense that is key, slashing. Unfortunately, he has not done this too much.

When casual Illinois fans think of Brian Randle, they probably think of one thing: This guy can dunk, and he is exciting. Brian wowed Illinois fans and Sports Center viewers alike, especially with his dunk over three people when Illinois blew out Penn State in Champaign. Brian has probably taken over the crown from Luther Head as Illinois' best and most exciting dunker.

Offensively there is one thing holding Brian back, a jump shot. Brian has to get the ball to the basket, or he will not be scoring. His jump shot from the outside is horrendous, and that is putting it as nicely as I can. While he has the ability to get into the lane, he does not have the ability to finish in the mid-range right now. In high school Brian could rely on being the quickest, biggest, and best player on the court at almost all times, now he cannot use all these assets to get to the basket and score. He has yet to adjust his offense to the college game. After completely recovering from his injuries this summer, Brian should spend the whole summer working to improve one thing, his shot.

Brian is a good defender, but he has one major problem, he uses his hands way too much. He normally has solid defensive positioning, but instead of keeping his hands parallel with his body and stretched to the sides, he uses his hands to swipe at the ball and place on the offensive player's back. This style of defense does two things: frustrates the coaches and gets Brian into foul trouble. Brian needs to learn to play defense without his hands, because when he does that he will be a very effective defender on three different positions on the court, the shooting guard, wing forward, and power forward.

Next season should be a big season for Brian. There are positions in the Illini rotation at the wing forward and power forward ready to be taken. After Luther Head, Illinois really does not have any one on the wing, and the interior positions are all up for battle. If Bruce Weber decides to go small and athletic, Brian can easily slot into the power forward position, and if Weber wants to go big Brian can easily slot right into the small forward position. The versatility Brian allows Weber to have with rotations should make him a valuable part of the Illini rotation as maybe the seventh or eighth man.

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