Illini Give Early Glimpse In Scrimmage

The Fighting Illini basketball team took to the Assembly Hall court for the first time Saturday afternoon before a sparce crowd for their annual Orange and Blue intrasquad scrimmage. The Illini showed improved chemistry and shooting. While much learning remains, there were some positive signs.

Overall, head coach Bruce Weber felt the scrimmage had value.

"We have a lot of guys who haven't played a lot of minutes, so this is a valuable thing for them. We haven't played on this court since practice started, so it was good for that reason. It was also good for conditioning, running up and down the court for long periods of time. The guards didn't have any subs, so it was tough on them but good for them."

Center Mike Tisdale showed no aftereffects of his recent leg surgery by scoring 26 points and pulling down 7 rebounds while playing all but three minutes. He hit a variety of shots and showed excellent touch.

"Bright spots included Tisdale stepping up," Weber stated. "Not only did he hit the little jumpers from the corner and free throw line, but I also thought he posted up well a couple times, and he shot his lefty hook which we've been begging him to do. If you watched him in high school, Mike Tisdale always shot that lefty hook. Now, it's like he wants to fade away or shy out to the 3 point line. He's not a big postup guy, but he's gotta get us some points around the basket."

Calvin Brock also asserted himself from the wing throughout, making his first five shots before missing on a foul that wasn't called. He showed more maturity and confidence, giving hope he can finish his career on a positive note. Overall, Calvin scored 22 points, grabbed six rebounds and added two assists.

Power forward Mike Davis demonstrated a nice touch on corner jumpers, looking more fluid as he gains maturity and confidence in his game. He ended with 18 points and six rebounds, although Weber thought he tended to vanish late.

"The first couple quarters, Mike Davis was really playing well. Then all of a sudden, where's the last two quarters? I said after the game, 'Mike, you started out great, but where did you end up? He's gotta do it consistently. Last year, he had tip dunks, runouts, all these things, and all of a sudden it went away. He's showed some good signs."

Point guard Demetri McCamey scored only 14 points, but he played his usual good floor game by adding 11 assists and five rebounds. He came within one point of being the only player to play on the winning side all four quarters. Coach Weber was not surprised.

"Demetri usually wins in practice. We've talked to him about being like Deron (Williams). Deron didn't always get the most points, but he dominated the game by winning the game. That's a good thing that he won three out of four."

Junior college transfer Dominique Keller struggled at times, but Weber knows his game will grow as he settles down. He was credited with seven points, nine rebounds and three assists.

"Dominique's still thinking too much, he's not reacting. He did it at the football scrimmage. He was running, getting tip dunks. I think he was a little off."

This was Alex Legion's first and only opportunity to show his wares to the home crowd until late December. The Kentucky transfer will not be eligible until second semester. He was cold early and ended making only 5 of 16 shots. But once the nerves calmed, he began to flash his shooting form.

"He was highly touted, and I'm sure there are some high expectations. People know he can score. I think today, we said we will play him all the minutes because he can't play for 8 weeks. He got a little bit of the jitters out. I was glad he finally hit a couple threes down the stretch.

"He's not an easy situation, whether we're playing good or playing bad. He's either gonna have the pressure of fitting in if we're playing good or the pressure of trying to save us if we're playing bad. He's just gotta keep getting better. He's better on defense, and he'll be a good player. How good and how fast, we'll just have to see."

Chester Frazier was the team's best defender again, and he added 11 assists to go with 9 points. Rich Semrau had a few good moments in the post, playing better than in practice by scoring 14 points. However, he had only three rebounds and couldn't stop Tisdale. Weber twice was heard to yell, "Rebound Rich Semrau."

And freshman Stan Simpson demonstrated his soft touch with 8 points and three rebounds in limited minutes. It is unknown whether Simpson will be redshirted this year. He has long-term potential with his soft touch, good leaping ability and long arms. But he has much to learn, according to Weber.

"Stan is more talented than I ever thought, and he's smarter than I ever thought. He just has to get a sense of urgency. Coach McClain brought up that he needed PHD: passion, hunger and desire. He needs a fire lit under him to get going.

"Maybe the crowd did it, but are you gonna play just when the crowd's here? We need him to play well every day in practice so we can get some confidence in him. Undoubtedly, he played better in the game than he did in practice. Some guys are like that. But he has to catch up on some things."

Coach Weber knows his players have potential to be good but need to improve some things, and they need to experience success to believe in themselves.

"We'll watch film from it. The defense isn't very good. The shooting's good, but maybe it's because the defense is bad. I don't have some shot to give them confidence. They've got to do it on the court in front of people. When that happens, that little step of adrenalin and confidence can help all these guys.

Illini Inquirer Top Stories