Tracy Abrams sprained his ankle severely last fall playing a pickup game. When he played with his Chicago Mt. Carmel team at the University of Illinois Assembly Hall last December, he was still missing his quickness and cutting ability. He played, but the ankle was far from normal.
"It was a slight tear, but nothing real major I had to get surgery for. It took about 2 months and a half to feel healthy. It seems like I'm back now."
Even then, he still played tentatively and displayed a slight limp at times.
"I didn't have my speed at the time, but it's back now. I'm not limping any more. I think it was all mental when I was limping. I pretty much gained my confidence back now."
He played with the Mac Irvin Fire last summer, but poor team chemistry due to an excessive number of self-interested egos did little to help Abrams's game or national reputation. He knew he needed to find a team more conducive to his talents.
Once his high school season ended this spring, he started practicing with the Illinois Wolves 17 and Under AAU team, coached by Mike Mullins. It has been a learning process for him, playing in a structured offense around players who had grown up in the system.
"Yeah, it's been a difficult adjustment. I've got to find my role on the team. It's a learning experience, and I really like it. I've had a couple months of practice, but it takes awhile to learn about these guys and get a better team chemistry."
The Fire didn't worry much about practice or teaching technique. In contrast, Mullins is a coach in the true sense of the word.
"He's real hard on us. He expects a lot out of us, so we've got to go out and play hard."
Fortunately, he is used to that coaching style. Mike Flaherty is much the same at Mt. Carmel.
"I'm kind of used to it, so it's not really a big adjustment."
Abrams played tentatively with the Wolves in Fort Wayne the weekend of April 30 to May 2. He was still thinking on the court, wondering what to do when. However, that problem appears to be in the past.
At the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions last weekend, Abrams broke out with games of 28 and 23 points to help the Wolves reach the semifinals. He scored, but he also set up his teammates and played a complete game, displaying outstanding quickness and improved outside shooting. It was what Abrams expected of himself when he joined the Wolves.
Uncommitted Rock Island combo guard Chasson Randle has been playing with the Wolves several years now, so he is their go-to player at the moment. National talent experts commented positively about the tandem of Abrams and Randle, saying they complimented each other well.
"Oh yeah, we get along pretty well," Abrams agrees. "It works pretty well. I can't really explain it, but we like playing with each other. We help each other's play. Chasson's been playing a little better since I came along. So we're just working and putting the team first."
Abrams is a natural point guard, and that will be his role at Illinois. But Randle can also play some point. It allows the two of them to share the responsibilities of setting up the offense.
"Most of the time I have the point guard. Sometimes he'll get it. It's anybody who has the ball. It's pretty cool playing with him."
Abrams is a bottom line guy. His top priority is the team, and the Wolves have won three tournaments this spring and advanced far in two others. If point guards are judged on how their team plays, Abrams has a quality resume.
"We keep winning," he says matter-of-factly.