Bruce Weber on the Score

Bruce Weber made an appearance on the Rick Telander Show on the Score in Chicago on Friday afternoon after the Illinois Media Day festivities completed. Among the topics discussed were the probable Illinois lineup and the <b>Number One</b> ranking from <i>Sports Illustrated</i> bestowed upon his Fighting Illini.

I missed hitting the record button on Rick Telander's first question to Bruce Weber, so I do not know what exactly he said. The basic question was about how Illinois is coming into the season and will be playing with three juniors and four seniors at key positions. Here is Bruce Weber's response.

Bruce Weber: It's really rare in college basketball now. We actually have four seniors on our team. We have three juniors. So, seven of our thirteen guys are upperclassmen. That doesn't happen at the major level, the Top 20 level any more with guys leaving and going early. I think, especially for me having been with them for a year, drills, plays that we do, a style, what they expect; I think it makes it much more easier atleast to start practice.

Doug Buffone: You know the other thing Bruce; coming in this year is a little different than last year. You come in you had to teach the team, the new motion offense, the pressure defense. You know all the stuff that was going on down there, and I give you credit. With Bill Self, the funeral, and all those things that went on, but you got the guys through it. So this year, they know exactly what to expect and what they are supposed to do. But I know it's really important in the first three or four weeks. That's when you teach basketball, and set yourself for what you need to do in the season.

Weber: Well, old coaches that you hear at clinics, they will always say, what you emphasize early iwill be your strength at the end of the year. So these first three weeks, whether it be pro football and you are going to camp, whatever sport you are going into, what you get after, the fundamentals, your strength of your team that you emphasize is so important. And it's the fun part of coaching. These three, four weeks before games when you are just practicing, working on things, kind of bringing your team together. Figuring out strengths and weaknesses, that's the most enjoyable time of the year.

Jay Hood: Coach, you know I look at your starting five and I think it's as strong as ever. But I look at your bench strength, too. You've got some guys on your bench including Jack Ingram, and a number of other guys that can help you along if there is any foul trouble.

Weber: Yeah, I mean last year we started playing nine. We lost a little bit of confidence in the two freshmen. I think they lost confidence; the coaches lost a little confidence. Brian Randle and Rich McBride. If we can get those guys to step it up, and maybe one more guy, a Warren Carter, or one of the two new guys, Calvin Brock or Shaun Pruitt from Chicago, local kids. If we can get one of those guys to step up, I think it would give us much more depth. Then we don't have to play Dee thirty-eight, thirty-nine minutes. It would be nice to keep him a little more fresh so he's fresh at the end of the year, fresh at the end of games. Same with Deron. We had to play those guys at the end nearly the entire game. If we took them out it was because of foul trouble, and that was about it.

Rick Telander: We're speaking with Bruce Weber Head Coach at the University of Illinois. The number one ranked Illini according to Sports Illustrated. You know coach, it's great to hear you, your voice sounds almost reasonable. It hasn't turn into just marbles. Like you know you smoked about 50 packs of cigarettes today.

Weber: I don't smoke, never have. But, I do yell. I have two voices, loud and louder, so it has a tendency to take a toll on my voice. Probably if you call me Monday after three days of practice, it won't be very good. It's just something I have to deal with. The kids laugh at it, I enjoy it. Especially when the voice cracks when I am yelling at them. It kinds of breaks up my intensity of getting after them. When my voice cracks they all start laughing, and that doesn't tend to do much good.

Telander: Coach, let me just list these guys, and tell me if this would be your starting lineup. James Augustine, who's a junior 6-10. Dee Brown, of course the speedy point guard, he's a junior. Luther Head, senior at 6-3. I guess you kind of have a three guard deal going on. Roger Powell, who's a senior, a 6-6 forward. And Deron Williams 6-3 guard. Would that be kind of it, a junior guard?

Weber: Well that's what we ended up last year. Those were your five, and then we played Nick Smith, the 7-2 fifth year senior. He played quite a bit of minutes. Jack Ingram, one of you guys mentioned had a nice fit to the season. Big wide-bodied kid. He's also a fifth year senior guy. Then I had mentioned Rich McBride and Brian Randle who also got some minutes. I would say that's going to be it. Whether those guys start or not, I would say there's no doubt Dee's going to start, Deron's going to start, Luther probably, James. I would say Roger. It's going to be tough to break any of those guys out of the line up.

Buffone: You know coach; most of your guys are back. In fact your starters are back. One of the things that I was ready that was kind of interesting to me was the fact that you have a guy that handles your conditioning, Jimmy Price I believe. You've got a machine there called the Verti-max. It claims, or they claim from what I read that every player increased their vertical jump by three inches.

Weber: Yeah, over the summer he did a pretty extensive program with them. Some of it was the weight training, working on the squats and cleans. But he really emphasized that Verti-max. On an average as a team we went up three inches, so we made some big strides. Its not going to help us win a game, I'm pretty sure, but we're pretty good when we can jump up and hit those little bars on that pole.

Buffone: You'll look good anyways, you know?

Telander: Hey Bruce, did your vertical increase at all?

Weber: No. I keep getting fatter, so it gets less and less.

Hood: I just want to ask you coach about Nick Smith. You talked about him as bench strength was concerned. I thought his season was underwhelming. He could have been a much better ball player. Talk about how you see him for the 2004-2005 season. Is he going to be more of an impact player?

Weber: Well, he had some impact games. He had some very good games. It seems he's a kid that doesn't have a lot of confidence. If he makes a couple of shots early, he seems to have a good game and get going. Then, the next game if he turns it over, or gets beat, or has a couple of fouls, he hangs his head and just doesn't fight through that. He's a fifth year senior, this is it. We've had a lot of talks about how you can't; you just have to go after it. You can't hang your head; you just have to have confidence. You've been through it; you've put on a lot of weight. He's up to nearly 260 since I've been here; we've put nearly 30 pounds on him. Jimmy Price our weight coach deserves a lot of credit for that.

So, we're hoping. He's got the hands. He can shoot the ball from the three, too much. He can do a lot of things. It would be nice to have him. It would really add to our team if he could become a factor on a daily basis.

Telander: Bruce Weber, the head coach of Illinois. You know Bruce, you look great in that orange jacket that comes with the school.

Weber: Yeah, I do.

Telander: Orange is just your color. Have a great season, and have fun tonight at midnight.

Weber: Actually, we're going tomorrow, Mid-Day Madness. It is the 100 Year Anniversary of Illini Basketball, and we're going to announce our All-Century team tomorrow a half hour after the football game. It's good I don't have to stay up tonight. Have practice in the morning, and then come back and have some fun in the afternoon.

Telander: Alright Bruce, thanks again for coming on with us.

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