Those wanting to see new Illinois commitment Tracy Abrams strut his stuff in a 10:30am game on the opening day of the Pekin Holiday Basketball Tournament were likely disappointed. The entire Chicago Mt. Carmel team looked to be walking through cement, and Abrams explained the probable reason.
"Yes, we came right in from the bus ride and played the game. We got up at 5:00 this morning. I'm all right. We've just got to play through it. We were kind of sluggish."
Mt. Carmel won the game, defeating Normal West 48-40. Unfortunately for the Caravan, they then lost to Washington 66-61 and Lake Zurich 42-38 before rebounding to defeat Arlington Heights Hersey 47-38 to take 7th place.
In those games, Tracy scored 21, 21, 11 and 10 points. He is a scoring point guard who can also set up his teammates. He has outstanding ball handling skills, quick hands, and excellent court awareness.
He showed exceptional quickness and athleticism at times. He seems to have an extra gear that explodes when there's an opening. But his game is controlled and not rushed.
Abrams doesn't have the supporting cast he enjoyed as a freshman. Veteran coach Mike Flaherty realizes he is placing a great deal of responsibility on Abrams' shoulders.
"I would think he would say he didn't play anywhere near as good as he's capable. He didn't play well, and he's kind of a barometer for our team. If he struggles, we struggle."
The Normal West game pitted two zone defenses, and the pace of the game was much slower than Abrams prefers.
"I like to push it and make things happen, get the teammates involved."
His overall game is sound, but as a young sophomore he knows he still needs to make improvements.
"I'm working on my shooting and ball handling and getting my teammates involved more."
Abrams made an early college decision to attend Illinois, and it is a relief for him.
"The pressure is off. Now, I can just worry about my game. Just work harder and play basketball.
"I was never really under pressure, but it is a relief. I don't want to worry about anything but getting better as a player and a person."
Tracy is mature beyond his years both mentally and physically. He is intelligent and a good leader. Other players look up to him, so there is speculation his commitment will help Illinois attract other stars. In particular, media asked him about fellow sophomores Mike Shaw, Sam Thompson and Wayne Blackshear.
"They're all my friends. Yeah, I try to get them to come to Illinois."
But will they follow his lead?
"It's possible. I wouldn't say yes, but it's possible."
As has been true of Illinois' other recent signees and commitments, Tracy Abrams is looking forward to his life as an Illini. He remembers the Deron Williams/Dee Brown/Luther Head team that played in the National Championship game, and he believes history can repeat itself.
"Yeah, I felt like it was a potential National Championship team, get back to the Illinois team in 2004."