Illini Try On Mocassins In Exhibition

Former Bruce Weber Purdue recruit Linc Darner brings his Florida Southern Mocassins to the Assembly Hall to play the Fighting Illini basketball team in an exhibition Sunday afternoon. Their unique style will be an intersting challenge for the young Illini squad.

Florida Southern is a well-respected Division II team. The Sporting News and Street & Smith's both rank them ninth in the nation, they are ranked 4th in the NABC Coaches Poll, and they are behind only Findlay, Ohio, in the Division II Bulletin.

Linc Darner is from the state of Indiana, so he has recruited heavily from that state. An arrangement with Bruce Weber and Purdue's Matt Painter has provided his team a nice weekend trip to the Midwest. His game with Illinois Sunday follows a Friday tilt at Purdue.

With one exception, the Mocassins are a small, quick three-point shooting team. Five of their returning players had three-point shooting percentages between .378 and .486 last season, so they will jack up a bunch of them. Weber has been challenging his players, especially his big men, to close out on the arc. That may be a key to the game.

Rob Eldrigde (6'-5", 210) averaged 14.8 points to lead the team last season, and he was second in assists with 115. Rion Rayfield (6'-1", 195) averaged 13.7 points, and Brandon Jenkins (6'-2", 185) averaged 11.5 while having the highest 3-point percentage. 6'-4" Braxton Williams, 6'-5" Zach Smith and 4'-4" Cameron Wooten all figure prominently as well. Smith was the team's rebound leader last season.

The one exception is Georgia transfer Rashaad Singleton. The 7'-0" Singleton may not run the floor like his mates, but he is known for having good timing on his shot-blocking. And he brings a physical presence down low. Having started a number of games at Georgia, he will give Mike Tisdale a good early test in the post.

Florida Southern must run and press to compensate for its lack of size. So Singleton may see his minutes limited if it becomes a full court game. Without him, the Mocassins will attack Illinois with their small lineup.

It will be interesting to see whether power forwards Mike Davis, Dominique Keller and/or Bill Cole and centers Tisdale and Rich Semrau can handle their defensive assignments. If they can, the Illini can dominate inside. If not, Illinois may need to go small with Calvin Brock at the four spot, negating their height advantage.

Defense was sporadic for the Illini in their intrasquad scrimmage last weekend, so it will be interesting to see how much improvement they've made in a week. Florida Southern is no pushover, so the Illini will need to play well to win.

Illini Inquirer Top Stories