Visions Of Illini Future On Fire Team?

With the recent commitment of Tracy Abrams to the Fighting Illini basketball program, talk of another run to a National Championship has bubbled forth. Besides the top players already signed or committed, a great group of high school sophomores may want to join them. Many of those players already play together for the Mac Irvin Fire.

Nick Irvin is a coach for the Mac Irvin Fire AAU team. He and his staff have assembled a dynamic group of outstanding basketball players to compete for them in the spring and summer. While many college coaches would love to have the Fire players attend their schools as a group, Irvin is already living that dream.

"Yeah, we're pretty good. We've got to build on it and just keep playing together. If we play together, I don't see anybody beating us. Tracy Abrams, Jereme Richmond and Crandall Head play with us. And now they are going to be playing in college together.

"We've also got Reggie Smith, Mike Shaw, Wayne Blackshear, Phillip Jackson, J. R. Reynolds, Sam Thompson, and Andre Henley. I mean, we're loaded."

One wonders how any coach can keep all that talent happy while sharing time and attention on the court. But Irvin says that is not a problem with this group.

"That's going to be the easy part. They all like to play together. It's time we represent the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago and go out and beat everybody. We want to put all the egos aside and just go out and play together and have fun."

It truly seems to be an exceptional group of young men.

"They're very humble kids who care more about their team than themselves. They don't get caught up in all the hype. They just want to play and have fun with each other. They all like each other. That's the easy part."

Irvin sings the praises of Abrams. As a former point guard, Nick knows what it takes to be outstanding, and Abrams fits the bill.

"He's a very good kid. A tough kid. He's got a killer mentality. He plays hard on both ends of the floor. He's a vocal leader.

"At the end of the day, I think he can play on the big stage. He can change from one end to the other real quick. If you need a bucket, he can get it for you. If you need a stop, he can get it for you. He's just an all-around good kid."

Tracy played with the 16-Under group most of the summer, but the Fire brought him up the the 17-Under team for the big tournaments.

"He played both 16 and 17 for us last year. He played up and did very well. We actually won the championship in Phoenix with him playing up. Having Wayne Blackshear, Mike Shaw, they won the championship and he starred a few games. He did good."

Irwin had some success of his own during his playing days, so he knows talent when he sees it.

"I went to Fresno State. I played for Jerry Tarkanian. I loved playing for Tark. I learned a lot of things. He turned me into a man. He showed me the game, he showed me the ins and outs of everything. It was a good experience for me. Plus, he's a great coach. He needs to be in the Hall of Fame. I take a lot from him. It was a fun experience."

He will be having more fun with his Fire team this next year. And as for Abrams, he believes he made a good decision in selecting Illinois.

"I think it's a good decision on his part, staying in the state and playing with a good coach like Coach Weber. And they've got Coach Howard down there and Coach McClain. They're pretty good friends of mine also."

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