Weber Talks Lewis, Redshirting With Media

Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber held his weekly media teleconference ahead of this Sunday's second exhibition tilt with Lewis University. Weber discussed Lewis, Rich Semrau, Stan Simpson, playing with mental toughness and more. Highlights of his comments follow.

Q: What kind of challenge does Lewis University present?

Illinois coach Bruce Weber: "Lewis won 20 games last year. Scott (Trost) has done a nice job there. He was actually the coach at Illinois Wesleyan when they played here. They were one of the Division II powers when he had them. He was an assistant at Michigan at one time and we've known him for quite some time.

"They have two very good players. They gave Bradley a game the other day. It ended up 13, but at one point in the second half it was a 1 or 3 point game. (Brandon) Dagans is a senior guard who was picked preseason as one of 16 finalists for the National Player Of The Year Division II. He can get to the basket, he's got some quickness. He had great numbers against Bradley with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists.

"And then they have forward (Jason) Genova. He was 5 for 11 from three against Bradley. He had 20 points and 11 rebounds. He shoots a lot of threes for them. So they have some talent. Being an in-state team, this is their chance. Hopefully, our kids will come with the same level of intensity as we had at the start of the Florida Southern game."

Question: Demetri McCamey didn't play well against Florida Southern. How would you describe his progress?

Weber: "We were disappointed Demetri didn't play at a higher level. Some of that is mental preparation. We even talked before the game to respect the game, respect the opportunity, respect your opponent. We learned the hard way last year, it doesn't matter who you play.

"We talked about playing with leads, playing for yourself and not look at the score. You've got to push yourself to try to get better. It's a key to Demetri, but it's a key to our whole team.

"It's not about our opponents, it's about us making progress, everybody taking a step forward from Demetri on down. We've got to build until we're ready for the nonconference but also so we can progress and be competitive in the Big Ten and battling for an NCAA bid."

Q: Are there any surprises so far?

Weber: "I think Semrau would be the one. I think he's a totally forgotten guy. Fans want instant success. If you're not an All-American right away, they say, 'what's wrong with you.' And then his situation with the illnesses and the knee really set him back.

"But he's done well and continues to do well. It's gonna be one thing to play well in an exhibition, but then he has to do that against real teams, on the road, and then against top 20 teams. That's what we've got to watch and see, if he's gonna have some setbacks.

"We have several guys where confidence is a big factor. If we can keep him feeling good about himself, and he has some success, it's gonna be helpful. But I feel good about him. He's strong, he's running, he's listening, and I hope that continues."

Q: How many minutes do you plan for your players against Lewis?

Weber: "We won't have a script for minutes. Whoever is playing well will earn more minutes. They all need experience. They all need some confidence. We have so many guys that really haven't played that many minutes.

"Chester might be the only one you really limit (in the exhibition) to save him for the whole season. We hope he doesn't get an injury where he has to sit out practices or games."

Q: What are the chances Stan Simpson will redshirt?

Weber: "We have to sit down next Tuesday or Wednesday and see where we stand. He's shown some signs in the games so far. And even in practices, he probably is more talented than I thought. He picks up things better. He's just got to do it on a daily basis so we feel good about him both on the court and in the classroom.

"We'll have to evaluate it and talk to his mom several times, talk to Stan about it. If he's not gonna play a lot of minutes, there's no sense in letting him play. Think about the progress Semrau has made. Think about where Mike Tisdale or Bill Cole might be three years from now.

"Stan's a little stronger and more physically ready. It's just the urgency and intensity level to play at that I don't think he's hit right now. But if he picks it up every day in practice, maybe he can prove us wrong. It also depends on how our other post players are performing."

Q: You are preaching mental toughness alot in practice. Do you think that is a key for this team?

Weber: "I don't think there's any doubt. When we play hard and we're intense like we were in the first half, we'll be a very competitive team. If we play back on our heels, we're not old enough, experienced enough to do that. And that's gonna be the key.

"We have to be mentally and physically tough. That's how you win games, that's how you win games on the road. That's what we're trying to drill into them. Part of that is you develop a little confidence. And then as the season goes on, maybe you win a close game, maybe you win one you're not supposed to, maybe a road game. And that helps with mental toughness instead of doubting yourself. The mind can play a big role in how successful you are."

Weber confirmed that Tisdale hyperextended his knee in practice Wednesday. However, he felt better Thursday and participated in all practice work including a scrimmage.

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