Head Coach Bruce Weber is already thinking of next year and what his team desperately needs to keep the Illini in the mix with the other top programs. Let me go on record and say: let's not question the staff's ability to recruit. Right now I don't think I want to see another story or have to do another interview regarding that question. On paper, which doesn't mean a thing at this point, Weber may have the best recruit in Illini history in junior guard Eric Gordon. Most people still want to talk about the Sherron Collins and Jon Scheyers of the world – they're not coming. But let me tell you right now I've seen all three of the young men play in person and if I were an NBA scout and I saw the three of them play and I had one lottery pick, you can bet I'm taking Gordon. Along with Gordon comes a 6-11 giant Brian Carlwell from Proviso East, IL. that currently ranks as the 33rd best prospect in the ‘06 class. So we're not going to address the "inability" to recruit.
Dee Brown and Kenny Battle are probably two of the most popular players ever to play basketball for Illinois. Recently Brown has taken a few hits about his play this season and I think maybe that's unfair. The truth is Brown is not the creator like former Illini stars Luther Head and Deron Williams. But how many games did you see this year when the shot clock was at 4 or 5 and no one would shoot the ball but Dee. Naturally his FG pct. went down. According to Weber, Dee may have been at a disadvantage. "He got hurt last year and it took him awhile to get back in the swing of things. Dee planned to work on his game but with the injury it may have set him back a bit," said Weber. Sure it was missing this year; it would have been nice to have Brown get to the lane and finish more, but that wasn't Dee's game last year and it wasn't his game this year.
Starting next year this group has to find someone who can create or get a shot off while attacking the rim, not just shooting a 25-foot jump-shot because the clock is winding down. "I thought the thing that hurt us, and it was obvious down the stretch, was just having someone create. It didn't matter if they created for themselves or others, we were just missing that," Weber stated.
Let's face it - all the players can work on that part of their game but for some it just may not be what they do best. Case in point: Rich McBride made tremendous strides this season, not only with his shooting but putting the ball on the floor with a couple dribbles for that pull up jump-shot. However that's not the same and getting to the rim and finishing in traffic. That doesn't appear to be his game. Sophomore wing forward Brian Randle from Peoria, Illinois (who may be the best athlete in the conference next to MSU's Shannon Brown) would be the ideal guy to be that player. The glaring difference between those two is their jump shot. The next candidate that I feel could get to the rim and attack is true freshman Jamar Smith. His game and his ball handling seemed to get a lot better as the season went on. I will go on record and say there isn't a kid in the Illinois program that will out-work Smith if he sees a flaw in his game.
Gordon is an ‘07 recruit and many feel, because of the NBA rule that's been put in place, the kid could go to the league and do just fine. Gordon is a three-headed monster in one. He's the Head, Williams and Brown, quite frankly because he can shoot, he's fast, handles the ball and can get a shot off whenever he feels like it. You want to know what's scary about Gordon. He is only a junior in high school.