Bruce Weber Speaks With Media

With Illinois' first exhibition basketball game upcoming, Coach Bruce Weber held his media first teleconference Friday. He discussed the Florida Southern team, his starting lineup and rotation, Calvin Brock, Stan Simpson, Bill Cole and other topics highlighed in this report.

Coach Bruce Weber began his teleconference with the following statement regarding his Illinois team and the season's first exhibition tilt:

"The players always look forward to playing somebody different. The grind of the early practices kind of takes a toll on them. This will be good for the guys. We'll have something on tape to watch to see if we can make some improvement.

"We're playing a quality opponent in Florida Southern. They were an NCAA team last year, ranked as high as #2 in the country in one of the polls. They have four starters back, and then they added a 7'-0 center from Georgia named Singleton who actually started at Georgia more than a few games.

"They're a team that pushes the ball, shoots a lot of threes. Their coach is Linc Darner who I recruited at Purdue. He did a great job at St. Joe's Rensselaer and actually won there when very few people had success there and then took a step up in the coaching world. It should be a fun, exciting game for our guys, and a chance to see where we're at at this point against live competition."

Q: Who's starting?

Weber: "I'll be honest, I haven't really thought about it. Probably over the next couple days we'll try to figure it out and put it together. We're gonna play 8-9 guys quite a bit. I'll make sure everyone gets minutes, but we have so many young guys, and we have to see how they react in different situations.

"Demetri (McCamey), Trent (Meacham), Chester (Frazier), Mike Tisdale are gonna play, the one question will be the four man. You then have Mike Davis, Dominique Keller, Bill Cole, and we still have Calvin Brock who we can use at the four if needed. We could end up playing four guards and Tisdale. The starting lineup isn't as important as getting a lot of guys minutes."

Q: How has Calvin Brock played?

Weber: "I think he's been solid for us, and that's what we're asking. One thing that kind of plagues him is turnovers, just trying to do too much. We've told him, 'You're a good player, you have some nice gifts, you're good at certain things, just do those things.' That's gonna be helpful for us, and that's gonna make us confident with him, help us win, and make him feel successful.

"He's kind of an old school three man or swing man. He can run the court, he's great around the lane, short corners, pulling into the lane. He has some athleticism, he gets to the hoop, gets highlight dunks, tip dunks and those type of things. He's not the greatest ball handler or passer. If he stays within himself, then he limits some of those unnecessary turnovers.

"If he gets his feet set, I think he's a solid shooter. Then, he needs to give us some energy on the defensive end. You hope he can get some steals, block a shot, take a charge. If he can do those things, he can be valuable for us. It would be nice to have a defensive stopper.

"He's had a good fall. All the feedback from the academics, the people around him, it's been pretty good. Now, can he maintain it and be consistent. That's the word for Calvin and the whole team."

Q: Can you go with a four guard lineup?

Weber: "Some of these early games, not just the exhibition games but some of the early nonconference games, we might play teams with 6'-5" and four guards. Now, can we guard them? If we (bigs) can't, we're gonna have to find somebody to guard them. At different times we can go with a small lineup, and then sometimes we can go a little bigger. I hope Mike Davis and Dominique can get to the point where they can feel comfortable guarding a 6'-5" player."

Q: We shot well in the Orange & Blue Scrimmage. Was it good shooting or poor defense?

Weber: "Defensively, you're not where you want to be. Part of that comes from conditioning as some guys had to play the entire time. But we did run some good offense. We are starting to recognize how to get people open, where to get people open, how to get them the ball. And then we shoot better. We have a better shooting team, and I think the kids have made more of a commitment to shooting better. I hope it pays dividends."

Q: Will you play freshman Stan Simpson, a possible redshirt?

Weber: "I think so. I don't know how many minutes. Everyone can play in exhibitions without affecting redshirting status. They've got to earn minutes, and you have to work hard to earn those minutes.

"He did better in the Orange & Blue game than he does maybe in practice. He has some natural ability and instincts. He picks up things pretty well. But he's been overwhelmed. School's been overwhelming for him. The hard practices, the conditioning.

"You hit a point after a couple weeks of practice where you have a lot of exams and papers, it kind of takes a toll. He's had to miss a couple practices so he could keep up with his school work. These are the dog days of the first semester, and when you throw basketball in the mix it's not easy."

Q: Is Bill Cole's sprained ankle healthy enough to play on it?

Weber: "He is making progress and has practiced. We may play him for short bursts. We want to get the ankle healthy."

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