Orange & Blue Scrimmage Highlights 1st Week

Bruce Weber will showcase his Fighting Illini basketball team Sunday at 4:00pm at the Assembly Hall. The team will be divided into two groups, and there will be plenty of changes as Weber studies the effectiveness of different groupings. This will be a good chance for Illini fans to check out the team ahead of two exhibition games right around the corner.

The following are Illinois coach Bruce Weber's thoughts about the Orange and Blue scrimmage.

"We scrimmaged last Friday, and that was kind of have fun, do what you want. We try to go every 4-5 days with some live action under game conditions. We went three quarters on Tuesday night. And now we'll try to go four 8-minute quarters. It gives everyone a chance to earn some minutes and play against some live action.

"For our youngsters, some of them played at the Assembly Hall in high school, but we need for them to get experience playing there.

"It's one thing to do practice and drills. It's another thing to go live 5 on 5. We hope to learn from that, and then we scrimmage again next mid week. Then we have exhibition games where we play against other people.

"We will rotate players. We do that every day in practice anyway. I think one of the things we have is some depth and versatility, so you have to rotate guys to see how different people perform. We've got to start figuring it out. I just told them it may take awhile before we find out what our rotations are gonna be, who's starting, who's coming in at what positions.

"One day Brandon Paul might be our best player. Demetri (McCamey) has stepped it up and been pretty consistent. D.J. (Richardson) shined, both in Illini Madness and in our scrimmage. We've got to keep tabulating. That rotation will take us a little bit. And then we've got to prove it in games.

"Ideally, I'd like to be like '04-'05, start the same guys, win 29 games in a row and don't have any snags. In this case, I think it's more like '03-'04. We're trying to figure it out, and it may take a little bit. We may have a player who deserves to start, but he's better coming off the bench. Then you've got to convince him of that. I think it will be something we've got to figure out slowly but surely."

Weber is excited how well his freshmen have taken to his coaching. After talking about the MATTO play-hard chart, D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul and Joseph Bertrand all dove after loose balls.

"One thing I think the freshmen have done is they have listened. They might not be tainted yet. They actually think the coach knows what he's talking about and trying to do that to gain minutes. That's a positive.

"I've got to get the juniors to do it, to be honest. The juniors and all the upperclassmen have to buy into the play-hard. It makes a difference, and defense makes a difference. Do you want to play 14 minutes or 22 minutes? How you guard and how you do on these little things make a difference."

The freshmen are the talk of the team.

"I think the freshmen have pushed and gone by a couple of them. Joseph (Bertrand) because of his injury (is behind), but if you had to know the coaches' top 7-8, three of the freshmen would be on there. They've played well, they're talented. Now, can they do it when the lights are on?"

Find out for yourselves Sunday afternoon.

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