Illini Senior Guards Providing Leadership

The Illinois basketball team was flying high when they faced Michigan in Ann Arbor. After giving up a lead and coming home with a loss, the Illini now have to regroup to get back on the winning track. Leadership is essential, especially after a loss, and senior guards Trent Meacham and Chester Frazier are doing their best to provide it.

Illinois senior guards Chester Frazier and Trent Meacham have improved greatly this year. Their growth has been a big factor in the Illini's success so far. Both took the loss to Michigan hard.

"Any loss hurts, especially for me. It's hard to lose a game anytime. We're all competitive and not used to losing, so losing our second game of the season hurts. Hopefully, the guys will come in and be hungry and be ready to play against Indiana."

Meacham echoes those sentiments and regrets having a bye week right after the Michigan game.

"It's been tough. Especially after a loss, we want to play the next day. But I think it's been good for us. We got some tough practices in, and we're ready to play now."

Frazier finds it especially hard to accept a loss after mediocre play.

"We kind of laid down against Michigan. We got down two points, and I guess guys thought we were down 20. So we kind of forced some things. We're still a young team, and it's something to learn from. We're still getting acclimated to Big 10 basketball."

Meacham didn't enjoy watching game tape but realizes it gave coach Bruce Weber a chance to teach important lessons.

"It personally was really embarrassing watching the film. Defensively, we were bad. And they're tough offensively. They give you different looks than other teams will. We just didn't play as hard as we can. We didn't play nearly as well as we could.

"We see things we've done wrong after a loss, and Coach Weber isn't gonna let any of those things slide. He's been really tough on us. We know that's coming. Even after wins it's coming. Coach is always gonna see things we need to work on no matter if we win or lose."

Meacham and Frazier knew the bye week would be filled with hard practices, and they prepared their teammates for that eventuality.

"We worked long and hard," Trent said. "It was almost back to preseason. You really don't want to go through those again, but it was good for us. He tries to run us a little more so we keep our conditioning and don't lose anything in the time off between games. Hopefully, we won't have too many more of those before the season ends."

Chester has been nursing a mild groin pull, but he's nearly back to full speed. He participated in all the drills.

"I'm about 99.9% right now. It hasn't been a week off. There's been some rough practices and workouts. But it's good to have our minds set right to get ready for Saturday."

Meacham, Frazier and fellow senior Calvin Brock know they must set a good example and be leaders for the younger players. Getting ready to play every game is an important part of that process.

"We're trying to," Meacham explains. "Coach has been big on it recently. I'm trying to be a leader and trying to get everybody ready to go every game because we can't take anybody lightly. Coming after a loss, we're ready to play."

Coach Weber has noticed his Illini playing at a higher level of intensity on the road than at home. He wants his players to focus more at home. Meacham understands.

"I think the road games you have to come with a little extra motivation because you know everybody's gonna be against you. You're definitely ready to go on the road. At home, you can expect to feed off the crowd a little bit, but you've got to come with the same attitude, the same intensity whether you play on the road or at home."

It is easier being a leader when you are having success on the court. Both Trent and Chester have enjoyed their best seasons so far. Having more shooters on the court helps Meacham get open shots, and having the longer three point line has helped Frazier accumulate assists from his point guard spot.

"Yeah, that definitely helps me," Chester admits. "Guys can't pack it in the paint, especially against guys like Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis. So with me getting to the rack much more and guys facing up, I'm allowed to either get an easy layup or dish off for an assist. It's a lot of fun. I'm loving it."

Meacham echoes coach Weber's mantra on seeking peak performances every time out.

"Every game's gonna be big. Every game is gonna be tough, at home or on the road. Any game can be a dogfight. We've got to be ready."

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