Shootout At The Hall

Sometimes it's difficult to get so many great athletes on campus at once, but this weekend Bruce Weber and staff pulled it off. Read here for a special to InsideIllini.com basketball view on the shootout.

I saw all the main Illini targets play at least one game each today, and the following is my impressions of those players. It was an extremely hot and humid day, so the players were sometimes tired and needing to pace themselves. And I must advise readers that one or two viewings are not enough to form complete and accurate impressions.

Joseph Bertrand had the best individual game I saw today, and he did it against Brandon Paul. He hit 4 threes, and three of them were with Paul in his face. Paul even fouled him once, and it still went in. Joseph was more assertive and confident in his play than in the past, driving to the hoop with authority, pulling up for floaters in the lane, and setting up teammates with unselfish ballhandling and crisp passing. He has an extremely diverse repertoire of shots and movements. I know he has been streaky in the past, but if he can play like that every day, he will be outstanding.

Paul is a mercurial, electric athlete. He works on defense and is an explosive penetrator and leaper on offense. He was not really on in the game I saw, losing the ball on some of his drives and missing all but one of his outside shots. His three point shot is suspect because he doesn't set his feet and go up balanced. He will need to work in that. But he is an exciting player who will be a fan favorite. He stole the ball in the last couple seconds to secure Warren's one point victory over Sterling.

Jereme Richmond shows flashes of greatness, but like others have described previously, he sometimes seemed lethargic or disinterested. His team doesn't work to set him up, so sometimes he is uninvolved in the offense. When he plays out front, you can see his ball handling and passing wizardry. When he plays underneath, you can sometimes see his leaping ability and long arms. But he needs to be a point forward where he can operate from the wings to drive to open spots for jumpers or set up teammates. Perhaps when he is in the right position within a motion offense, he will begin to show his exciting game more consistently.

Zion-Benton lost two heartbreaking one-point losses, first to DeLaSalle and then to Whitney Young in a game some believe might be a prelude to the state championship. Lenzelle Smith showed why he is highly recruited. He runs the floor and sets up teammates with good passes. He is a good leaper and likes to penetrate and dunk the ball. Against Whitney Young, with the inside clogged, he made several clutch three-pointers to keep the game close. My only concern about him is that he is around 6'-3" and has a lot of weight in his hips and thighs. He may eventually have weight problems, which would hinder his mobility. He definitely needs to play on the wing.

DeLaSalle's Mike Shaw looks wonderful in his uniform for being only an upcoming sophomore. Nearly 6'-8" and well built, he has long arms, big hands, good leaping ability, excellent ball handling skills, and good court awareness. He was the one who hit the last second shot to beat Z-B. He caught a floor-length pass at the free throw line and went up for a jumper that banked in, all within 1.2 seconds. He needs some technique work on his outside jumper, but I believe that will come. He wants to take his man off the dribble on the outside, but he is not quite ready to get away with that yet. But someday, it wouldn't surprise me if he is capable of playing some 3.

I would love to see Anthony Johnson in an Illini uniform, but I doubt he wants to join a deep Illini backcourt. He is smart and athletic, and his shot is picture perfect. My only concern about him is his slender frame. Point guard Chris Colvin didn't do much against Waukegan, but he took over against Z-B. He reminded me of former Illini Larry Smith. It was his penetration basket in the last second that defeated Z-B. And he hit some good 3 pointers. Marcus Jordan didn't do much when I was watching.

Donovine Stewart is an excellent young point guard. He does indeed remind of Kiwane Garris the way he handles the ball and penetrates and either finishes or makes good passes. He also hit some threes, although I would imagine he is only an average outside shooter at this time.

6'-4" Andrew Jordan was playing for Limestone despite arriving with Woodruff. He is a fulid athlete with agility and good court sense. He is slender, but he took a charge. He is a quick jumper and has good inside moves.

I was told Chasson Randle looked great in an Ubben pickup game with Illini players a while back, but he had an off day when I watched him against Decatur Eisenhower. He seems to have some athleticism and ability, but he was dominated by Jarrod Oldham. Oldham will make someone an excellent point guard. He is 6'-3" and has extremely long arms. He sees the floor well and sets up his teammates. I didn't see much of his outside shot.

Tyler Griffey and Crandall Head were both watching the games.


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