The Illini have had a profitable offseason. They added an assistant coach, added an important transfer and kept a key player who opted out of the NBA draft.
That player, forward Roger Powell, thought he might be an upper-echelon player when he flirted with the idea of becoming a pro. However, as reality started to take hold and Powell realized he would not join Wisconsin's Devin Harris as a lottery pick, he decided to return to Illinois.
Powell averaged 11.6 points and 5.0 rebounds, while shooting 59.5 percent from the field, in 2003-04. He is especially adept at creating space for himself within 10 feet of the basket and that's why he's been able to shoot such a high percentage. Head coach Bruce Weber was sweating for a little while, but he was thrilled with Powell's decision to return.
"I'm happy Roger has decided to return," Weber said. "This decision is best for him and becomes a positive for him and our team, and gives him an opportunity to prepare for a possible future professional career."
As Powell prepares for his senior season, Weber has his future replacement waiting in the wings.
The Illini got an offseason boost with the decision of junior forward Marcus Arnold to leave Illinois State and move to Illinois. The Chicago native won't be able to play in 2004-05, but he will have two years of eligibility starting in 2005-06. Arnold is a 6-8, 240-pound power player who should provide a major impact. He started 27 games for the Redbirds and averaged 12.3 ppg and 4.6 rebounds.
"He's a player that will provide a low-post presence and give us depth on the front line," Weber said.
"Usually you discourage a transfer, but occasionally you have a situation where a fresh start benefits the individual and this was the case with Marcus. He has an opportunity to come in and work hard and help make our team better next year."
Weber also hired former Purdue assistant Tracy Webster in mid-May. Webster had been interviewed by Weber at Southern Illinois and the two struck up a relationship at that point. Webster should be able to give the Illini a much greater recruiting presence on a national scope.
"I'm very excited," Webster said. "This is a great opportunity at this point in my career. Being from Illinois, I've watched those guys play over the years and I'm aware of the great tradition at the U of I. I'm looking forward to working with Coach Weber, who really understands the game. "
With these three offseason moves, the Illini appear to be in solid shape for the foreseeable future.
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: The Illini return nearly their entire roster — including stars Dee Brown and Deron Williams — and should be able to stay at or near the top of the Big Ten. Head coach Bruce Weber also will be bringing in 6-9 Shaun Pruitt, an all-state forward from West Aurora. Pruitt should give the Illini a bit more muscle on the inside. Winning two games in the NCAA tournament should give the Illini the taste of success that could push them to greater heights next year.
Weber should have a much greater presence on the sidelines as well. Throughout the first three-quarters of last season, Weber had to deal with questions about former Illinois coach Bill Self, as in "Would Bill Self have made that move?" or "Bill Self wouldn't have done that."
But once the Illini took charge in the Big Ten and put together a solid run late in the season, Weber's presence was appreciated. Self is a distant memory at this point.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "My best decision is to return to Illinois and play for the Fighting Illini my senior season. I bleed Orange and Blue and I can't wait for this next season to get started. With all the players we have returning and having Coach Weber here for his second year, it should be a fun and exciting season." — Illinois forward Roger Powell on his decision to withdraw from the NBA draft.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
KEY RECRUITS AND TRANSFERS: Swingman Calvin Brock — The 6-5, 180-pound Chicago native was a devastating scorer at Simeon High School, averaging 24 points a game during his senior season. He is a slasher who has an eye for scoring, but he will need to add strength in order to handle the physical battle that is such a big part of the Big Ten.
Forward Shaun Pruitt — At 6-9 and 225 pounds, Pruitt should give head coach Bruce Weber a bit more versatility in the frontcourt. Pruitt moves well and has a knack for rebounding.
Forward Aaron Spears — After spending two years at Illinois, Spears has decided to leave the program. He played in 20 games last year and averaged 1.1 ppg. "Aaron had a troubled year," Illini head coach Bruce Weber said. "He fought through some adversity and tried to do what the coaches asked, and came to the point where he felt he needed a fresh start.
INJURY IMPACT: Guard Dee Brown is one of the quickest players in the nation and his surge in the second half of the season was probably the key to Illinois' improvement last season. He played much of the last two months with a stress fracture in his right leg. He should be fully recovered as he gets ready for the 2004 USA Basketball World Championship For Young Men (under 20), along with teammate Deron Williams.
Don't expect the 2004-05 Indiana Hoosiers to look anything like the team they put on the floor last year.
Head coach Mike Davis and his staff are expecting considerably more than the 14-15 record that was significantly below Indiana standards.
While the Hoosiers will have five incoming freshmen — including standouts D.J. White and Robert Vaden — the biggest reason for optimism may start with Bracey Wright.
A year ago, Wright had offseason back surgery and could not practice or workout during the summer. This year, Wright is going at it hard, motivated by the Hoosiers' depressing record last year.
"My back is a lot stronger," Wright told the Indianapolis Star.
"I haven't had any pain back there. I'm doing a lot of exercise and weight programs that I wasn't able to do when I was hurt. It gives you a sense of confidence when you know that you're going to be injury free going into this situation."
Wright is trying out for the U.S. team that will be looking to qualify for the World Championship For Young Men (under 20).
"It's going to be extremely tough," Wright said. "As a player, you've got to go and give it everything you've got. You really have to put your ego aside and whatever Team USA needs you to do, that's what you've got to go do."
Davis will also have a new face on his bench assisting his team prepare this season. Kerry Rupp, who served as Utah's interim coach when Rick Majerus stepped down due to illness, will serve as a Hoosier assistant. John Treloar and Ben McDonald both left Davis's staff after the season ended. Treloar will assist John Brady at Louisiana State.
Rupp has a reputation as an outstanding teacher who excels at getting his message across to his players.
"I think the word that characterizes Kerry best of all is teacher," said Majerus.
"He's a teacher extraordinaire, and he knows how to impart his knowledge and help players become better. Kerry is a genuine guy who has a heartfelt concern for the players, and yet he remains a tough disciplinarian who demonstrated that he can get our players to improve in the classroom, as well as on the court."
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: This is a critical year for the Hoosiers and head coach Mike Davis. Last year's sub-.500 record is simply not acceptable in Bloomington. There may have been good reasons why the Hoosiers were not up to their own lofty standards, but the IU community and the state of Indiana simply will not stand for it. Reasons for losing are looked at as excuses.
As a result, Davis and his players need to make a statement this year. Bracey Wright is sure to be the leader of what should be a very potent team.
Wright averaged 18.4 ppg and shot 37.4 percent from the floor. He needs to pick up his shooting percentage and Wright is putting in the time to step his game up this season. Last year, Wright was coming off back surgery and was unable to play or practice last summer.
D.J. Wright, Robert Vaden and A.J. Ratliff are expected to come in and help out quite a bit this year. Marshall Strickland, Ryan Tapak, Mike Roberts and Mark Johnson are all returning players who are expected to play key roles for the Hoosiers this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel like this year I have a chance to have a full summer and stay on pace with everybody else and hopefully that will give me an advantage." — Bracey Wright on the practice and conditioning work he is doing to get better for the 2004-05 season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
KEY RECRUITS AND TRANSFERS: Robert Rothbart — Rothbart averaged 21 points and a state-high 15 rebounds for Natomas HS in Sacramento, Calif., last season. "We have been recruiting Robert for three years now, and especially over the last year, he has really matured as a player," coach Mike Davis said. "He is very athletic, and he has gotten much stronger. He definitely gives us a low-post presence, and his ball-handling and outside shooting ability, especially for a seven-footer, are a good fit for our offense."
Forward Marco Killingsworth — He transferred from Auburn after Cliff Ellis was fired and Jeff Lebo was hired. He averaged 13.7 points and 6.9 rebounds last season for the Tigers, earning him second-team All-SEC honors. Killingsworth will not be eligible to play until 2005-06. A second transfer from Auburn, 6-5 guard Lewis Monroe, will also be eligible in 2005-06.
Incoming freshmen D.J. Wright, Robert Vaden and A.J. Ratliff should all be able to make contributions next year. Wright has impressed Bracey Wright with his all-around play. "I've had a chance to see D.J. play a lot and he's going to be a key player for us next year," said Wright. "It will be a lot of different looks from this year's team to last year's team. We'll have a lot more athleticism. Our practices will be different; the atmosphere will be different."
INJURY IMPACT: The Hoosiers appear to be healthy as they make their offseason preparations.
The Hawkeyes have a chance at stepping up significantly next season.
Not only will established players like Jeff Horner, Greg Brunner and Pierre Pierce be returning to form the core of the 2004-05 team, but they will be getting a big addition in junior college transfer Doug Thomas. The 6-8, 240-pound Thomas led Southeastern Community (Iowa) College to back-to-back junior college titles.
Thomas helped Southeastern post a two-year record of 69-5 while winning two national titles. Thomas averaged 10.1 points and 6.7 rebounds as a sophomore, starting 29 of the 31 games he played. He shot 49 percent from the field and 63.4 percent from the free throw line, collecting 48 assists, 35 blocked shots and 33 steals.
Thomas should be able to make his presence felt as a rebounder. He is strong and powerful and should be able to eat up space in the paint.
"We're excited to add Doug to our program," said Iowa coach Steve Alford. "He is a very athletic forward who is a hard-nosed rebounder and solid defensive player. He is a very competitive player who has been associated with winning teams throughout his career."
Alford is facing pressure to turn this team back into a consistent contender in the Big Ten. The natives are getting restless and want to see the Hawkeyes make the NCAA tournament.
"I wouldn't say making the NCAA Tournament is the only measure of whether we're making progress, but it's certainly one of them," athletic director Bob Bowlsby told the Des Moines Register.
"I think there's more to it than identifying a goal on the floor. I think we want to see progress in a lot of different areas, and in some areas, we're doing very well. In some, we've got to move forward."
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: The Hawkeyes were overachievers last season with a 16-13 overall record. Injuries and academic problems left Iowa short-handed in the second half of the season, yet they were regularly competitive late in the year. Pierre Pierce, Greg Brunner and Jeff Horner return next year and that should be the core group of a fairly hungry and competitive team.
Among the newcomers next season will be sophomore guard Adam Haluska, who sat out in 2003-04 after transferring from Iowa State. A 6-foot 5-inch guard, Haluska started 31 games, averaging 9.2 points and 3.6 rebounds for the Cyclones during the 2002-03 season.
The honeymoon is definitely over for Steve Alford. It's not that the marriage between the school and the coach is on the rocks, but it is definitely entering a critical phase. If the Hawkeyes don't make the NCAA tournament next year, athletic director Bob Bowlsby may have some critical decisions to make.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think it's going to be a very demanding. All five schools, the top five finishers this year, really return the heart and soul of their teams. Michigan, winning the NIT, showed their toughness." — Steve Alford on how tough the Big Ten may be in 2004-05.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
KEY RECRUITS AND TRANSFERS: Forward Doug Thomas — He should be able to give the Hawkeyes a strong physical presence. He averaged 10.1 ppg and 6.7 rebounds in leading Southeastern Community (Iowa) College to its second consecutive junior college title last year.
Forward J.R. Angle — An athletic, slashing forward who may be able to help out immediately and should definitely be a major factor throughout his career. Angle is a scorer who can shoot and also take it inside.
Guard Adam Haluska — The former Iowa Stater is now eligible and will be expected to make a significant contribution.
INJURY IMPACT: Center Jared Reiner was turned down in his petition to the NCAA for an extra season of eligibility after going out with a stress fracture in his foot in mid-January. His college career is over.
It was no surprise to Michigan fans when forward Bernard Robinson was taken by the Charlotte Bobcats with the 45th overall selection in the NBA draft.
Robinson was a consistent producer for the Wolverines, ending his senior year as the 15th all-time leading scorer in school history with 1,505 points.
The 6-foot-6 Robinson, who should play guard in the NBA, is the only player in Michigan history with more than 1,400 points, 600 rebounds, 300 assists and 150 steals. He is a surprisingly good passer and ballhandler, but his true strength is as a scorer.
Robinson may owe a debt of gratitude to former Wisconsin guard Devin Harris, who was taken with the fifth pick in the draft by the Washington Wizards. When the Bobcats were interviewing Harris, he let Charlotte coach/GM Bernie Bickerstaff know that Robinson is very tough.
"When we asked Devin Harris, when he worked out for us, who was the toughest player he played against, he said it was Bernard Robinson," said Bickerstaff. "Because of his length and his strength."
Robinson averaged 12.5 points and 5.3 rebounds a game in a four-year career with the Wolverines. Robinson was the Wolverines' MVP in 2004, when Michigan won the NIT title.
While Robinson moves on, the Wolverines should be very talented next year. With starters Daniel Horton, Graham Brown, Dion Harris and Courtney Sims returning, the Wolverines should be in a strong position to contend for the Big Ten title and get to the NCAA tournament.
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: Michigan coach Tommy Amaker knows that there's a lot more to his job than making the Wolverines a respectable basketball team. The standard for the team is set by the Michigan football program and its consistent excellence. Amaker knows that putting an NIT championship on the board is just the first step and that the Wolverines need to be a consistent NCAA tournament team before he'll get the approval of the Ann Arbor community.
However, the last steps of the 2003-04 team were winning ones. Michigan clinched the NIT title by beating Rutgers in the championship game. Bernard Robinson has gone on to the NBA, but the Wolverines still have Daniel Horton, Graham Brown, Dion Harris and Courtney Sims. The team is moving in the right direction and should be a serious factor in the Big Ten next season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Because of his physique and the way he handles the ball, I think he is going to create some problems with other (shooting guards) who try to defend him off the dribble." — Charlotte head coach/GM Bernie Bickerstaff on the skills of former Michigan star Bernard Robinson.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
KEY RECRUITS AND TRANSFERS: Swingman Ronald Coleman — A solid, well-rounded top 100 recruit, Coleman checks in at 6-6 and 210 pounds and should be able to help Michigan as a scorer and on the defensive end. Head coach Tommy Amaker should be able to help Coleman learn the nuances of the game — especially on the defensive end.
INJURY IMPACT: Michigan appears to be a healthy team heading into the 2004-05 season.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo knows that more than a win and a loss are at stake when he takes his Spartans to Duke for the 2004-05 ACC/Big Ten challenge.
The Big Ten suffered a significant drop in national prestige last year, failing to impress the critics when it went outside the conference. Now, let's see if the Spartans can somehow record a win when they visit the Blue Devils a year after getting hammered by Duke at the Breslin Center.
Duke defeated Michigan State, 72-50, on Dec. 3, 2003, in what is MSU's only loss in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Duke finished the season with a 31-6 record, capturing the ACC regular-season championship and advancing to the Final Four. MSU finished the 2003-04 campaign with an 18-12 mark, advancing to its seventh straight NCAA Tournament.
"Duke lost some key players from last year's Final Four squad, but they also return some very talented players," Izzo said. "Daniel Ewing, J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams all earned some type of All-ACC honors and they are all back this season."
Izzo believes his team can get back to form if it can start to play tougher basketball and do it on a consistent basis.
"I think all of the problems are fixable if people buy into it, leave us alone and let us get this team tougher," Izzo said. "Finesse doesn't work in anything if you're trying to be the best."
In order to step up the toughness quotient, Izzo has brought in four recruits — forward Marquise Gray, center Idong Ibok, guard Drew Neitzel and center Goran Suton. All four players were noted for their willingness to mix it up. How well that translates to the college level will be seen quite soon.
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: While Wisconsin has stepped up and Indiana has a historic significance on the national scene, Michigan State is the standard bearer for basketball in the Big Ten. The Spartans were knocked out of the NCAA tournament by Nevada and looked nothing like Tom Izzo's team of past years. The Spartans need to play with more urgency and show the willingness to trade an elbow in the face for a rebound. That tenacity was largely missing in 2003-04.
The Spartans have a high talent level. Michigan State usually excels at fundamentals and players rarely make mental errors. With Paul Davis, Chris Hill, Maurice Ager and Kelvin Torbert all slated to return, Michigan State should be an upper-echelon team once again.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's always been one of my dreams to play at Duke. I have great respect for the program because it has accomplished so much over a long period of time. I am looking forward to this challenge for my team." — Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo on his team's game at Duke in the ACC/Big Ten challenge next season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
KEY RECRUITS AND TRANSFERS: Center Idong Ibok — The 6-10 and 260-pound Ibok averaged 10 points and 8.5 rebounds per game for Montverde (Fla.) Academy. Coach Tom Izzo believes he can help give the Spartans a more toughness under the rim.
"In Ibok, we are adding a player who is a great complement to our team," said Izzo. "We are excited about his size, his length and exceptional athleticism. He is a good shot-blocker with good footwork in the low post."
Forward Marquise Gray — With a Flint, Mich., pedigree, you know that the 6-8, 215-pound Gray brings the requisite toughness that Izzo wants to see. Gray can get it done as a scorer and a rebounder.
INJURY IMPACT: Tom Izzo wants more toughness from his team and that means that the Spartans must put in the work and the effort in the weight room in order to avoid injuries. So far, they are a healthy team.
Bill Carmody has done a good job of getting his team to play disciplined basketball. The Wildcats have been climbing the ladder and are coming off a year in which they just missed qualifying for postseason play.
Northwestern was 14-15 and 8-8 in the Big Ten. Had they managed to finish with a .500 or better mark, they could have been selected to play in the NIT.
Carmody knows that the groundwork has been set and the system is in place. However, Northwestern simply needs better players. One of those players came in June, when Bernard Cote transferred from perennial powerhouse Kentucky. Carmody had recruited Cote hard before the decision to play for Kentucky was made. When that didn't work out, Cote turned back to Carmody.
Cote is a 6-9 and 235-pound forward who played in 27 games and put negligible numbers on the board — 1.4 ppg. However, Cote has solid talent and could turn it around for Northwestern, starting in the 2005-06 season.
Carmody is hoping that the recruiting class of guard Brandon Lee, guard Gary Lee, center Michael Thompson and guard Sterling Williams can give the Wildcats some extra juice. Gary Lee and Williams have the kind of flair that can give a program new life.
Those two along with returning veterans Vedran Vukusic, T.J. Parker and Mohamed Hachad will have to step up if the Wildcats are going to continue to climb in the Big Ten.
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: Bill Carmody is one of the best coaches in the Big Ten. He's done a nice job of maximizing his talent. If he can continue to upgrade in this area — and Kentucky transfer Bernard Cote should help — the Wildcats have a chance to move up in the Big Ten.
Cote will wear a Northwestern uniform for two seasons, starting in 2005-06. Carmody had recruited Cote out of high school and the two have a solid rapport.
Forward Vedran Vukusic is a solid scorer who can fire away from the outside. He averaged 14.3 ppg and connected on 45.1 percent of his shots from the field last season. Guard T.J. Parker is an outstanding ballhandler and Mohamed Hachad gives the Wildcats a dose of toughness. Guard Evan Seacat needs to continue his development as a shooter.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are excited to bring in Sterling, who we feel is a high-caliber student-athlete. He had a great senior year this winter, leading Whitney Young to a successful season after they lost a lot of talent from a year ago. He can play a number of positions, and in addition to his many offensive skills we think Sterling will be a great defensive player at this level." — Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody on incoming freshman guard Sterling Williams.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
KEY RECRUITS AND TRANSFERS: Guard Gary Lee — The 6-6 guard from Flint, Mich., can be a great all-around player, coach Bill Carmody said. "People recognize him as a good shooter," Carmody said, "but we think he can do a lot of things well and has the potential to get better in all aspects of the game."
Guard Sterling Williams — Not only is he a hard-nosed defensive player, but he brings an array of offensive skills that should make him a fan favorite. Williams comes from Chicago's Whitney Young High School and he is the first Chicago Public League player to come to Northwestern's basketball team since Mike Jenkins (Westinghouse) enrolled in 1979.
INJURY IMPACT: While the Wildcats are relatively healthy, forward Vedran Vukusic has had shoulder problems in the past.
And the winner is ... Thad Matta.
The Xavier coach came on like a stretch-running thoroughbred and was offered the Ohio State head coaching job on July 7. He told Xavier athletic director Dawn Rogers that he would be leaving for Columbus to become the head coach of the Buckeyes.
Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger interviewed a number of candidates before hiring Matta. In the final days before the hiring, it looked like it would come down to Rice head coach Willis Wilson and Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings. Matta had publicly said he was happy at Xavier and not interested.
When he was told by a reporter from the Cleveland Plain Dealer that his name had surfaced as a candidate for the job, Matta seemed shocked. "Is that right?" he told the paper. "No comment."
Matta, 36, took Xavier to the Elite Eight last season before losing to Duke in the regional final. Xavier also gave Saint Joe's its first loss of the season, in the Atlantic 10 tournament. The Musketeers went on to win the league title.
In addition to Wilson and Stallings, Penn head coach Fran Dunphy and Los Angeles Laker assistant Jim Cleamons also interviewed for the job.
Former head coach Jim O'Brien was fired in early June when a $6,000 payment he made to a Yugoslavian recruit five years earlier came to light. Ohio State assistant Rick Boyages served briefly as the interim coach.
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: New head coach Thad Matta will have to come in and put his imprint on the team right away, since it has been rudderless for a month. The team has some talent in Terence Dials, Ivan Harris, Tony Stockman and J.J. Sullinger, but the Buckeyes clearly need a strong head coach.
A quick look around the league shows that programs like Wisconsin (Bo Ryan), Illinois (Bill Self and Bruce Weber), Michigan State (Tom Izzo) and Purdue (Gene Keady) have all benefited from having strong-minded head coaches and Matta needs to step up right away if he doesn't want the Buckeyes to fall woefully behind.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Any time you sit down and visit with folks face-to-face it gives you a chance to evaluate who they are and what they stand for. They were very impressive. There were no chinks in the armor, if you will. It went well." — College basketball analyst Clark Kellogg on Kevin Stallings and Willis Wilson, both of whom were candidates for the open head-coaching job at Ohio State. Kellogg was one of several former and current Ohio State basketball players who were allowed to sit in on interviews by the OSU athletic department. The job ultimately went to Xavier's Thad Matta.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
KEY RECRUITS AND TRANSFERS: Guard Nick Dials — Although he started nine of the 19 games he played in last season, Dials transferred to Akron in late June. Dials, a former walk-on, was looking for a scholarship commitment for the next three years, which Ohio State was not offering.
Guard Jamar Butler — A big-time scorer from Lima, Ohio. Butler averaged 30.5 ppg and 5.8 rebounds as a senior and knows how to take charge and appears to have the ability to score at the collegiate level.
INJURY IMPACT: The Buckeyes have no major injury issues.
Finding new talent was Ed DeChellis' main goal in the offseason.
When the Nittany Lions begin practicing in October, DeChellis may find that he has a much better team than the one that ended up in the Big Ten cellar last season.
Junior college transfer Travis Parker should give the Nittany Lions some immediate help in the front court. Parker averaged 13.7 and 5.6 rebounds per game for Southwest Missouri State Community College. Parker is very tough and aggressive and should give the Nittany Lions some help on the boards. They really need some assistance in that area because Jan Jagla has left the program to play in Europe.
Incoming freshmen guards Mike Walker and Danny Morrissey should be able to give DeChellis some help off the bench. Marlon Smith and Ben Luber should be the starting guards, but they can't play every minute and Walker and Morrissey should help.
Forwards Geary Claxton and Brandon Hassell should give Penn State some help in the front court. DeChellis knows that power forward Aaron Johnson — nearly 10 ppg last year — can get the job done but he needs help. Claxton showed he could score as a Connecticut prep star, but he may not be prepared for the physical game that is played in the Big Ten.
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: The Nittany Lions got their man when they hired Ed DeChellis a year ago to take over their moribund program. Does he understand the game and can he get his point across? Certainly. However, DeChellis has had a hard time holding on to players.
Ndu Egekeze and Rob Fletcher have graduated, Jan Jagla has left the program to pursue his professional career in Europe. Brandon Cameron is going to IUPUI, Robert Summers has moved on to West Virginia and Deforrest Riley-Smith left for Xavier. Penn State appears destined for another long season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've been down a lot of times, but the kids have never quit. Our kids tried to play as hard as they could today and that gave us a shot at winning. We emphasized earlier today that we had actually won three of four quarters against Northwestern, and if we had hit some shots, we probably could have won the game." — Ed DeChellis on his team's effort in the season finale vs. Northwestern
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
KEY RECRUITS AND TRANSFERS: Forward Travis Parker — With Jan Jagla leaving the program for European professional basketball, Parker will get an opportunity to show what he can do right away. He averaged 13.7 ppg and 5.6 rebounds per game for Southwest Missouri State Community College last year and should have the kind of strength needed to get the job done on the boards.
Forward Brandon Hassell — He averaged 17 ppg and nearly 11 rebounds per night as Ohio high school star. He decommitted from Wisconsin-Green Bay after it seemed apparent that he would see regular playing time at Penn State.
INJURY IMPACT: Center Rob Summers has transferred to West Virginia from Penn State. Summers started 41 of the 56 games he played at Penn State and averaged 3.9 ppg and 4.2 rebounds per game. Summers will not be eligible to play for the Mountaineers until the 2005-06 season. ... Forward Jan Jagla has left the program to play European pro basketball.
Gene Keady has one more year on the Purdue sidelines, but the transfer of power to Matt Painter is already taking place.
Painter is hard on the recruiting trails, and when Marcus Green of Leyden (Ill.) High School announced that he was going to Purdue, it was widely reported as the new coach's first commitment.
Green will start his senior season at Leyden High School and won't be ready to play for the Boilermakers until the 2005-06 season. Green averaged 14 ppg and eight rebounds last season and has remarkable athletic ability, according to his high school coach Ken Davis.
"This is a kid who has a phenomenal work ethic and is committed to becoming a great player," Davis said. "He is a very, very explosive athlete. He has a special body and great athleticism."
Painter is a former Purdue player who comes to the Boilermakers from Southern Illinois. Painter will try to return a program to glory that has slipped from its previous heights. The Boilermakers have a 505-249 record and have won six Big Ten titles in 24 seasons under Keady. However, the Boilers are just 66-58 over the past four seasons, including 28-36 in the Big Ten, and have made only one NCAA tournament appearance in that span.
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: Few teams in the Big Ten can match Purdue's basketball tradition. Gene Keady has taught his team to play with consistency and toughness, and the Boilermakers can always be expected to bring those qualities to the table.
The Boilers have four solid players returning — guard David Teague, point guard Brandon McKnight and forwards Matt Kiefer and Ije Nwankwo — and that group will form the core of this team.
This is Keady's last on the sidelines (with Matt Painter waiting in the wings), which should provide an emotional backdrop — for better or worse — to the season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He can run the floor and he can defend, and I think those were two things that coach [Matt] Painter was looking for in particular. He has a wingspan of about 6-10 and he can defend point guards and big men both." — Leyden (Ill.) High School coach on his player Ken Davis, who will go down as Matt Painter's first recruit at Purdue.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
KEY RECRUITS AND TRANSFERS: Guard Bryant Dillon — A very athletic point guard who figures to help the Boilermakers in future years. He had a serious knee injury and will not be rushed.
Guard Xavier Price — A highly athletic scorer who was pursued by Cincinnati and UNLV in addition to the Boilermakers. He knows how to get his own shot even when he is being crowded by active defenders.
INJURY IMPACT: Backup wing Melvin Buckley left Purdue and will transfer to South Florida. "The coaching staff as a whole just didn't embrace my talents," Buckley told The Times of Northwest Indiana. "That's the way I like to say it. They just didn't embrace me." ... Incoming freshman Bryant Dillon missed the 2003-04 high school season with a knee injury. He should be healthy for this season.
Devin Harris is now a memory.
He was the best player on the Badgers, and when he learned that he would be a lottery pick in the NBA draft, he put his college days behind him.
Traded to the Dallas Mavericks shortly after the Washington Wizards selected him with the fifth pick in the draft, Harris has already signed a three-year, $7 million contract.
The Mavericks were originally thinking that Harris would serve as a backup to Steve Nash, but those plans turned dramatically when Nash signed a free-agent contract with the Phoenix Suns. As a result, Harris is a likely starter for the Mavs next season.
Harris is coming off a season in which he was the Big Ten player of the year. He also broke the school's single-season scoring record.
Bo Ryan can't be happy about losing Harris, but he's not about to sit in the corner and start crying. The Badgers have a formidable returning lineup and will be among the elite teams in the Big Ten.
Senior-to-be forward Mike Wilkinson is one of the most underrated players in the nation. He excels as a scorer, rebounder and tough guy. He always hustles and plays with enthusiasm, two big factors in Wisconsin's success the last few years. Zach Morley, Boo Wade and Alando Tucker all return to give the Badgers a very capable lineup.
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: Wisconsin is a versatile team that can play the game in any style. The Badgers are still known for defense and toughness, though, and can bang with any team in the Big Ten. That's just how Bo Ryan wants it.
Yeah, he teaches defense first, but don't think for a moment that the Badgers are limited on offense. They play a very solid pattern game, but can also run when the opportunity presents itself.
"If people want to think that we want to slow everything down, that's fine," Ryan said. "It helps when someone wants to underestimate you. But we can play a lot of different ways."
The Badgers lost outstanding all-around guard Devin Harris to the NBA, but the Badgers are adding incoming freshman guard Michael Flowers, center Greg Steimsma and forward DeAaron Williams.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You do what's good for people and he's been very loyal and just done his homework. He does a great job of networking and in the drills. Whatever is asked, he does it well." — Head coach Bo Ryan on the promotion of assistant coach Rob Jeter to associate head coach.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
KEY RECRUITS AND TRANSFERS: Forward DeAaron Williams — He was chased by DePaul, Illinois, Indiana, Marquette and Missouri before finally choosing Wisconsin. Williams is a great athlete who slashes to the basket. At 6-5 and 185 pounds, he appears to be a solid scorer and rebounder.
Center Greg Steimsma — The Badgers may have added a big man who can make a serious contribution. At 6-11 and 240 pounds, the Badgers hope Steimsma can clog the middle and alter opponents' shots.
INJURY IMPACT: The Badgers are healthy as they prepare for the 2004-05 season.
Big Ten basketball roundup
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