Bruce Weber Wants To Stay At Illinois

Fighting Illini fans are excited about the upcoming season. There are many topics of discussion in the off season. Coach Bruce Weber shared his thoughts Saturday on Oregon's interest in him, Kentucky's interest in Jerrance Howard, Jeff Jordan's departure, Joe Bertrand, team depth, the health of incoming freshmen, the schedule and more.

Illinois coach Bruce Weber discussed a number of subjects on WDWS radio Saturday morning. Among other things, he was contacted recently by Oregon concerning its search for a new head coach. Weber reiterated his desire to remain at Illinois.

"In my tenure here, there's probably been four or five times schools have contacted me. I don't have an agent. Ron Guenther doesn't want to deal with agents, so I don't even have one. In this day and age, a lot of it goes through agents. So they don't talk to the coaches per se. There's a lot of third party stuff.

"I was contacted, but I want to stay at Illinois. Even though Oregon is a good job and is one of Nike's main schools. They have a brand new arena, a brand new academic facility and have had success in basketball. I guess you feel good about it, but I don't think there was any doubt we want to stay at Illinois and Champaign."

Some of his responses to other questions follow:

*** On the subject of Illini assistant coach Jerrance Howard remaining at Illinois despite overtures from Kentucky:

"I think it's a nice compliment to Jerrance and I guess to our program. We must be doing something right recruiting-wise. This is the second time Kentucky has approached us about talking with Jerrance. He knows the people down there. He was there several months with Billy Gillispie after he moved up from Texas A & M.

"I'm just happy for our sake, for the program's sake, that in the end Jerrance stayed loyal to his university and our program. He's a good young coach. He's done a great job, but he still has a lot to learn. Hopefully he can stay at Illinois for awhile and then become a head coach down the road."

Did Kentucky request permission to negotiate with Howard?

"I had a voice message that they talked to him. But in this day and age, I don't even think people care about proper protocol. They just called and got hold of Jerrance. They may have even talked to Jerrance before they put a call in to me."

*** On walkon point guard Jeff Jordan transferring:

"After the season, I sat down with Jeff and then sat down with his mom. And our staff had conversations with his dad. I've always said it's really tough to be Jeffrey Jordan as a kid, tough to live up to what he has to live up to. I think the family just felt it was in his best interests that maybe he make a move and move on with his life.

"You don't have a large window of time when you can play, and you're never gonna have that opportunity again. In Richard Semrau's case he wants to get a Master's, and it's a good chance for somebody to pay for his school.

"C.J. (Jackson) had some success with that, ending up in Hawaii and having a nice year out there and worked on his Master's. You have to find your level if you want to play and have that opportunity to get on the court."

*** On point guard depth and the progress of Joseph Bertrand:

"The big thing obviously is Demetri (McCamey) took his name out of the draft. That was an important step for us at the point guard spot.

"Joe Bertrand had a good spring. I think he finally was healthy, and I thought he found the light at the end of the tunnel. When you're redshirting, it gets tough. He didn't travel with us all the time because we didn't want him to miss class.

"We're gone for two days, and he doesn't feel a part of it. Then you come back, we're preparing (for the next game) and he's not really part of it. We tried to keep working with him individually so he'd feel like he got some attention. When he got to the spring, 'Now I'm back with them.'

"He's talented. I'm not sure he's a pure point. I'm not sure what he is to be honest. A point three or a point wing. He's very long, he has some athleticism. He's a little unorthodox, he can get to the basket and make some spectacular passes. For me, for him to make progress as a point guard is to make the easy pass.

"He's going to Poland with Athletes In Action. Kent Williams, one of my former players and Saluki greats at SIU and an assistant at Missouri State, is going to be coaching the team. They're gonna play him at the point. They're gonna have four practices and four games. It will be a nice little opportunity for Joe to get going again and maybe develop some confidence."

*** On the subject of improved team depth for this upcoming season:

"Yeah, there's no doubt. There's a long way to go. A lot of things can happen obviously, hopefully improvement over the summer. Injuries, you hope you don't have them but they're a part of the game. There was an epidemic of injuries in the Big 10 this year.

"I really like the competition, I think it's good for our guys. Last year, there were a couple of guys that felt they had their spot and no one was gonna beat them out. We probably made a little bit of a push when I inserted Tyler Griffey and got Mike Davis's attention. We sat Demetri down a little bit and got his attention and held him accountable.

"This year (there's competition) at every position I would say. Maybe Demetri is pretty well established at point guard. Maybe Meyers Leonard can push Mike Tisdale a little, not only for playing time but in practice and make it more competitive. Tyler Griffey and probably Jereme Richmond can push Mike Davis, make sure that he is going at it all the time.

"At the three you've got so many guys. I think Billy Cole did a great job for us last year. He was definitely the most improved guy on our team. You've got Jereme Richmond at that position, you've got Brandon Paul at that position, Crandall Head could play a bit. And the same thing at the twos. D.J. (Richardson) was very good, but he's gonna have some competition with Crandall and Brandon and Joseph.

"Joseph can push Demetri, but I'm not sure we have a true point. In addition, I hope D.J. and Brandon make some improvement in ball handling because that was one of our biggest weaknesses.

"But we really feel Jereme Richmond can handle the ball and pass. He wouldn't be a pure point, but maybe he can give us a few minutes here and there handling the basketball."

*** On Mike Tisdale's improved dedication this spring.

"Ron Guenther and Tommy Michael feel the kids need a break. We're one sport that doesn't get any breaks, and they frown upon continuous school. Mike Tisdale approached them. He's gonna be done with school, he may have just one or two classes next spring. But he said he needed to stay, he needed the work.

"Obviously, everyone was excited to hear that. So we allowed him to stay in summer school. In his case, it's Monday through Thursday, and he can jump in the car Thursday night and be home for a long weekend. Riverton is an easy drive back and forth.

"He's in classes, and he's in the weight room. He's been very very motivated. He's got to his highest weight, about 244. So he probably gained 14-15 pounds since the season. He's making some nice strides."

*** On the health status of entering freshmen Head and Leonard:

"Crandall is starting to play a little bit. He was down playing with our guys a couple weeks ago in an open gym before they left campus. I wouldn't say he's 100%, but he's 80% or so. He is able to get up and down.

"He said the thing that really bothered him was his lateral movement. Straight up and down the court bothers him a little bit. And jumping, he still needs to get strength in his leg.

"His thing is when he gets down here and gets with Al Martindale and Jimmy Price and really getting that thing strong again. He's had physical therapy, but not probably as consistent.

"Meyers Leonard had a stress fracture in his foot. All injuries are major injuries, but it wasn't a fifth metatarsal. It was an area on the top of the foot, more toward the big toe. He had a boot on for four weeks and now took it off to let him walk a little bit. His big thing will be if he can go try out for USA basketball.

"The injury actually occcurred when he was in Portland for that Nike Hoops Summit, so they know about it. He talked to their trainers out there. We've got to look at his future. If we're not sure it's totally healthy, he probably won't try out.

"Jereme Richmond also has a tryout with USA basketball. I'm on the national committee, and the feedback I got is everyone felt pretty good about both guys. They do have to try out to make the team.

"But if either one of them or both of them make it, they would be in San Antonio from June 14 to the end of the month. It's the 18 and Under World Championships. It would be a great opportunity, then they'd come back for summer school."

*** The 2010-2011 schedule isn't complete, but it is taking shape to be a challenging one. The early season Madison Square Garden matchup with Pittsburgh, Texas and Maryland is a highlight:

"It just kind of happened. We were supposed to be in Cancun actually. We knew we were gonna have a pretty good team. We have to play at Western Michigan this year, so we didn't have an opportunity to play a special game at home.

"We were approached by Coaches vs. Cancer last fall and jumped on that because we thought it would be a good chance to play some quality teams. It's the kickoff tournament, the one everyone watches to help the season get going, before Maui and all the other tournaments. It's the week before the Thanksgiving holiday. There's four very good quality teams.

"I know Pittsburgh's up there. Texas has a lot of people back. Maryland has lost some guys, but they're still going to be a quality team.

"North Carolina got thrown in for the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, we're playing Gonzaga in Seattle, you've got the Missouri game. So it's definitely a very challenging schedule, and I hope it's a good one for our players and helps them be ready for the Big 10. And then make a run in the NCAA Tournament.

"SIU is coming. I don't know all the games yet. We have UIC in Chicago. It's required of us to play them every three years. I think the other two games in the Coaches vs. Cancer are Toledo and UC-Irvine. Those are the two home games, and then you head to New York."

*** On the subject of the yearly turnover at Kentucky. They bring in superstars who leave for the NBA after one year, to be replaced by other superstars with the same goal:

"First of all, who went to the Final Four? It was older veterans. Kentucky did not make it there. They advanced obviously, but the talented groups where kids are coming and going did not make it. The veterans are winning. They need the experience.

"The revolving door at Kentucky, I'm not sure anybody could anticipate that. It will be interesting to see what happens in the NBA with the next contract with the players association, if they're going to go to two years of college before they allow players to come.

"And the other part is this APR is out there. If they keep running guys in and out, are they gonna start losing scholarships? Is that gonna cost them? They've been very fortunate to get some very good players and stay on top. Coach (John) Calipari does an excellent job with those talented guys. It'll be interesting to see how the whole thing evolves."

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