Weber Discusses Rebounding and Personnel

The Fighting Illini basketball team made tremendous improvement this past year, but more is needed to progress deep into the NCAA Tournament. Gaining physical strength and improving rebounding is a big factor. Coach Bruce Weber discussed this topic plus his thoughts on Mike Davis, Demetri McCamey, Bill Cole and Jeff Jordan in a recent press conference.

Illinois coach Bruce Weber wants his slender players to gain weight and strength and his heavier players to lose some weight and improve their fitness. And then he wants them to become more physically aggressive during games.

"Some of it is getting stronger with weights. I think we've got to create drills where they've got to use that physicality and drive them. But they've got to drive themselves.

"It's one thing for us to do it. They've got to realize it. I hope they did, now do something about it. Do it by your work habits, your off-the-court habits. It's eating habits both ways. Not eating enough and eating too much.

"Then, if they do that and make a commitment, we have to put drills in that will make it more physical. Rebounding was a downfall for us throughout the year, especially at the end."

The Illini's best rebounder was Mike Davis, and he led the Big 10 in rebounding average over the entire season. But the slender power forward had only rare offensive rebounds. Weber explained the discrepancy.

"Some of it is physicality, the strength factor. On defense, he's already inside. On offense, you've got to work your way in there and usually take a hit to get around somebody.

"He made such huge strides, from three points a game and two rebounds to 11 and 8. And then he led the league in rebounding and double-doubles. So that's another step he can take.

"The last game of the year, he had nine defensive rebounds and no offensive rebounds. We get three or four offensive rebounds, and it's gonna add to his point total, and he'll almost be a lock to be the leading rebounder.

"For me, he's got to think not only about the league but being one of the leading rebounders in the country. I talked to him during the season about Blake Griffin. To me, it's a great role model to use, and hopefully he'll use it."

Eventually, Weber may need to solve his rebounding problem by recruiting a power rebounder. But right now, all inside players on the team must step up their games.

"If we had a wish list down the road, it would be a physical guy who would rebound. Tyler Griffey is strong, but I think his game is more face up. He shot unbelieveably from three, I think 46%. But if he wants to grab minutes, he's got to be physical and rebound.

"I told Dominique (Keller) that last year, and the same thing will be relayed to him, Stan (Simpson), Richard Semrau, whomever. I hope Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis do it too."

Demetri McCamey is opposite Davis in body type. He needs to reduce body fat and increase his muscle tone and conditioning so he can play full-go for 40 minutes every game.

"I haven't spoken to him recently. It's something we've talked about all along. He realizes it. I don't have to do it. You guys (media) through your questioning, the fans and all that stuff (do it). I think he realizes what he needs to do. Now, it's taking that next step.

"During the stretch run of the season, he was conscious of it. He sat in my office and talked about things. But he wasn't ready to do them, and do it in the game. Now, he's got to prepare himself in the off season to be able to do that in a game. Not only for 1 or 2 games but for 30 games."

Another problem Weber would like to see improved is three point shooting. One reserve began to show some talent along those lines late in the season.

"Billy (Cole) really started to play well late January in practice. He started to make shots and feel more confident. That's why we stuck him in the game. As a staff, we had talked about getting him in earlier. But it seemed like every game was so crunch time. If you didn't get him in the first half, it's tough to put him in the second half. But he kept a great attitude, and he continued to make strides in practice.

"We didn't shoot well from three. If you look at our stats, it was pretty glaring. That's one thing he can do is get us baskets."

Maybe the biggest problem of all is finding an adequate replacement for departed senior leader Chester Frazier. Upcoming junior Jeffrey Jordan will have a chance to earn some or all of Frazier's minutes.

"I don't think there's any doubt. Jeff showed some nice signs. Like Bill Cole, Jeffrey Jordan definitely showed improvement in practice. He started to show it a little bit in games, but it takes awhile to be a little more comfortable. I thought the Michigan game in the Big 10 Tournament was one of his shining moments.

"He pushes the ball, he can be a pest on defense. He can get to the basket, but he's got to finish. He has great jumping ability once he gets in there, but he has to get the ball in the hoop. I think also on ball screens and pullup jumpers he can get up on his jumpshot.

"He's made a lot of strides. I think he has an opportunity. And then with his leadership and intelligence, that's another thing we really need. I hope that's where he can find a niche for us. We'll see how much progress he makes in this off season.

"At the beginning, I thought like a lot of freshmen, you have to make improvement. I always think it's good to redshirt kids somewhere along the line if they're not truly ready. In a way, he was kind of like a freshman this year minute-wise.

"He got to play a little bit for us last year, so I think he's got a nice future with us. That's kind of what we looked at from the beginning. He's a quality kid, he's intelligent, he has some athleticism. He had to improve his ball handling, go from like a wing to becoming a point guard. That's not an easy thing to do. He's started to make that transition."

Illinois has three new guards coming in this fall, and there are two more wing players committed for 2010 and a point guard for 2011. While finding a quality big is always important, Weber isn't too concerned about having too many guards, especially after watching Villanova in the NCAA Tournament.

"I think Villanova is a great example. Take your best players, guard the heck out of people, run and play if that's what you have. So I'm not too worried about it."

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