Illinois held a practice the day after Christmas, but several players struggled to return from home due to inclement weather. Flights were postponed and roads were icy or foggy. Such is life for a winter sports team.
Many are marveling at the improvement in shooting compared with the last couple years, but coach Weber is still looking for improvement. Open shots will be harder to come by in the Big 10, and Illinois isn't loaded with those who can create their own shots.
"We have to get open shots. At times, everybody can get open shots, which is a little different than it's been the last couple years. So within the offensive scheme, we've got to figure ways to get people open. Somebody has to sacrifice and screen, and somebody has to hit the open guy at the right time. They have been extremely unselfish and seem to want to pass the ball.
"A lot of people after the Missouri game said how solid Chester was after the game, and he had zero points. But he had 8 assists, he took care of the ball against the press, had steals and led the play hard (chart). So if they continue that attitude, that unselfishness, I think we'll be fine.
"Our biggest thing is screening and getting people open. The ironic thing is if you screen, you get open because usually if you've got a guy that's hot like Demetri, Alex, Meacham or somebody, if you screen for him, the guy defending you has to help on the cutter. If you pop or dive or whatever, you're gonna get open shots. It's a hard concept to learn because they all want to get open, but if they screen they'll probably get open easier."
The Illini can't rely on three point shooting all the time. They need to get everyone involved, and they need to create high percentage shots. Weber says there are several ways of getting these openings.
"I still want to get points in the paint. We were lucky enough against Missouri, we shot it well. When Mike (Davis) and Mike (Tisdale) both hit that short corner jumper, the 8-12 foot shot, they're pretty effective. So we're happy when we get that.
"But at the same time, we've got to get some layups and some points in the paint. Whether it's Mike Davis with a hook, Tisdale a hook, the other night Demetri cut to the basket for a layup, we got some tip dunks and layups. Dominique (Keller) got a tipin.
"We've got to have a mixture of baskets because when you go on the road in the Big 10 against good defensive teams, you're not gonna get quite the open shots. You will have to find ways of getting to the basket and getting to the free throw line."
Coach Weber says the advent of the three guard lineup has changed offensive basketball.
"I think it's the way of modern basketball. I think it was part of the midmajor uprising. We did it at SIU when we had no rangy 6'-6" guy. If he was 6'-6", he was gonna be our power forward.
"When we played 3 guard here, our biggest concern was who was gonna guard against bigger teams and who would rebound. Dee would get rebounds, he would track them down. Luther and Deron had pretty good size and athleticism for rebounding.
"That's my big question now, making sure our guys rebound. I've watched Villanova and some teams, they've gone to 3 and 4 guards and really spread people out and create a dilemma. Then you can really pressure on defense. That really forces you to dribble, pass and create."
Alex Legion will eventually help the Illini offense once he relaxes and becomes comfortable with playing major college ball. But he had few opportunities against Missouri.
"Against Missouri, I though all five of our starters were pretty good. And then Calvin (Brock) and Dominique were solid. No one was in foul trouble and we got the lead. I put Alex in the first half, and it was a tough game to get involved. Not only the intensity of the game but the way they play. He didn't seem like he was quite ready for that.
"It's good we've got another game on Sunday to get him some more minutes. Then we're going to Purdue, and they're gonna be defending us in an entirely different way (than Missouri). But they'll be playing hard and physical.
"I told him afterward he's got to be patient, and he's got to blend himself into the team. Right now, mentally he just wants to get out there and score a bunch of points. I want him to score, but he's got to work his way in there and have a feel for team basketball and also time and tempo. There's a time to put a quick shot up, and a time where have to work the ball and be more patient."