Rookie Stan Simpson Hopes To Impress Early

Illinois has preseason basketball exhibitions the next two Sundays. These games are opportunities for freshman Stan Simpson to prove he's ready to provide minutes for the Illini this year. The young center has skills; it's just a question of when they rise to the surface. A redshirt year remains an option.

The 6'-9", 220 pounder out of Chicago Simeon is at a major disadvantage as the team's lone freshman according to Coach Bruce Weber.

"In a way, I feel sorry for him. As the only freshman, he has no one to hang with. The other guys understand what it's about. They're so far ahead of him. It's probably made his transition a little tougher."

Simpson agrees it was tough at first, but he is starting to get the hang of things.

"In the beginning it was, but now I'm easing into it, going to school, having fun, getting used to everything."

Stan Simpson is also a relative newcomer to the game of basketball, so his fundamental skills need development. But he has excellent length and long arms, he can jump and run, and he has a soft touch around the basket. Weber elaborates.

"I think Stan is better than we thought. He's smarter than I thought, he's a better athlete. But the transition has been harder because he's young, he's a young big guy. He has maybe struggled in the weight room and running because he hasn't had to do it at this consistent basis.

"When we get into drills with post play, he has some nice natural instincts. He's a good shot blocker and rebounder. I think he could end up having some kind of post game inside.

"So I think it's still up in the air where he'll stand. He's in the mix with the big guys. Who's gonna grab it and go? If he's good enough to do it, that's better for us for our depth."

Stan is happy to be at Illinois and eager to play college basketball.

"I'm feeling good. I'm excited to play for the UI and be a part of this program."

He hasn't experienced the conditioning and practice intensity at the college level prior to this summer and fall, but he sees improvement in his body and game.

"I never did this stuff before. Conditioning has been tough, but I've been getting through it and working hard. I'm trying to get better as a player. Yeah, I've gotten better."

Even all the media attention can be unnerving at first, but Simpson realizes it it part of his college responsibility.

"This is a little intimidating, but I have to get used to it. I just take it all in as a new experience in the basketball world and have fun. I'm ready and excited to play in college.

He acknowledges that redshirting is a possibility, but he's not being forced into it and still has some time before a decision must be made.

"Coach hasn't really talked about it yet. We're just working hard. When the time comes, we'll make the right decision. Every basketball player wants to play, so yeah, I want to play."

Stan impressed the fans at the Orange & Blue scrimmage by collecting nine points and three rebounds in just 14 minutes of action. He has a good frame to add strength, and he needs to do that. And he needs to learn all the offensive and defensive variations and then relax and let the game come to him. A redshirt year might do wonders for him.

In the meantime, the games with Florida Southern Sunday and Lewis College the following weekend will help him and his coach decide the best course of action.

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