Legion Breaks Out In Orange & Blue Game

The Fighting Illini basketball team played its annual Orange & Blue scrimmage at the Assembly Hall Sunday afternoon. Junior shooting guard Alex Legion broke out of a prolonged slump, putting a smile on his face and everyone else who watched. The upperclassmen asserted themselves while the freshmen showed glimpses of their ability.

After the game, Illinois coach Bruce Weber acknowledged the advantage demonstrated by the upperclassmen.

"I think the older guys shined a little more because they've been through this environment. The other night, the freshmen probably had the upper hand. We were playing in Ubben with a handful of people. So it's all part of the learning process."

It has taken Alex Legion more than a year to get into a rhythm and show fans his potential as a scorer. But he scored 28 points playing for both sides. He was 11-15 overall, with 6 of 8 from the three point line. He also grabbed 6 rebounds, dished out two assists and had two steals on the day.

No one had a bigger smile on his face afterward than Legion.

"It felt good to come out here and do a good job in front of our crowd. I'm excited about it. Now we have to do it when it counts.

"My confidence is up, and I kind of know when to take the shots. I don't feel like I'm overshooting, so that's better. I was told to get my shots in the corner off transition, and that's what I tried to do."

Weber understated the importance of Legion's breakout game.

"Yeah, that was huge. At Illini Madness, us coaches were just rolling our eyes. He missed a layup, had an airball shot. He hasn't really shot consistently, but today he got hot. I told the coaches to get him out at the end so he made his last shot and could feel good about things."

Legion had a ready explanation for his tightness in Illini Madness.

"I had a two hour practice before that. I had a headache at Illini Madness. I'm not trying to make excuses. But I was fresh today. We just had a shoot-around, and I got some food in my system today."

The obvious leader on the floor was Demetri McCamey. He handed out 11 assists, the same as Jeff Jordan, but he also scored 16 points on 6-9 shooting, added two rebounds and three steals. Weber is optimistic about his progress.

"He pushes the ball, his quickness is better. He's an older guy. He knows what's going on and is playing a little more confident. He was 3-1 and should have been 4-0 (in four 8-minute games).

"He had the lead and got a little bit tired and lost. He shot some bailout threes. I told him not to shoot threes after that. You know, make the other plays. But he's playing like you hope he could.

"Now, he's got to learn how to play without the ball because sometimes you can't score with the ball. We've got to figure out ways to get him involved when he doesn't have the ball."

Like a good quarterback in football, McCamey is seeing the floor better and learning how to set up his teammates for open shots. He has the advantage of experience.

"Now I'm just playing calm and relaxed and letting things happen instead of trying to force things. Just getting older and maturing, you learn new things every day. It's working so far."

McCamey says the freshmen are pushing everyone on the team to improve.

"When we've got guys coming in like Brandon (Paul), D.J. (Richardson), Joseph (Bertrand), and Tyler (Griffey), who are pretty athletic and coachable at the same time, it's gonna be hard for anybody in the program. Everybody is wanting to get minutes, and it's a tribute to this basketball team."

Depth is imperative if a team wants to be good. The Illini have a number of options according to Weber.

"One thing we have is a lot of depth. Alex shined today, the other day D.J. shined. It's gonna be a lot of different people. We've got to have the older guys be consistent and do this every day.

"Mike Davis at first didn't get real involved. But then he got a couple putbacks, then he got a steal. He and (Mike) Tisdale have to steal baskets. The more consistent the older guys are, the easier they make it for the younger guys."

Tisdale scored 20 points on 9-12 shooting, and he added 6 rebounds. While there are several candidates to back up Tisdale at the post, Weber is uncertain who will get the most minutes there.

"Richard Semrau's grandmother died, and he went home for a couple days for the funeral. He hadn't been playing well; he didn't practice Friday or Saturday. Stan (Simpson) shows you some glimmers. Tyler, I'm not sure he's a center, but in this day and age how many centers do you really have?

"That's something we're gonna have to keep working on. Dominique (Keller) was pretty active today and did some nice things. I think it'll continually change. It might take awhile. It might take until Christmas to figure it all out."

Davis made 8 of 16 shots and scored 17 points despite missing four of five free throws. He was the leading rebounder with 10 carooms, four off the offensive glass. Keller added 21 points on 8-14 shooting and five free throws. He had five rebounds.

"Simpson scored 8 points and added 2 boards and one steal. Semrau also scored 8 points to go with 5 rebounds. And Bill Cole grabbed 6 boards while scoring 4 points.

Richardson and Paul each scored 18 points to lead the freshmen. Richardson added five assists, four rebounds and one steal while guarding McCamey most of the time. Griffey added 8 points, five rebounds and three assists. And Bertrand handed out three assists and had one steal to go with four points.

The Illini play Missouri Southern in an exhibition game in the Assembly Hall next Friday.


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