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Illinois Basketball Freshmen Preview

TCR's preseason coverage kicks off with a class-by-class preview of the players. Today, we're featuring the newest members of the family.

Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Attention--there is no Illinois Football this week.  This is probably devastating news for about two of you, but don't worry because we have you covered during these dark times. We're not suffering from the #ByeWeekBlues here at TCR; in fact, the bye week has given us the chance to start this season's basketball coverage.

Over the next several days we'll be previewing Illinois' team on a class-by-class basis. Today we'll be taking an in-depth look at the three freshmen on the roster. Here we go:

Leron Black

Bio: 6-7 / 220 | Power Forward | Memphis, TN | #12

Nickname: "Savage"

High School/Recruiting Background:

Black was a consensus top-50 recruit; he was rated #38 Rivals, #43 by 247Sports, #44 by ESPN, and #50 by Scout.  Black originally gave a verbal commit to Baylor in September of 2012, but he changed his mind in January of 2013.  He committed to Illinois during his official visit in September of 2013 and proceeded to sign his letter of intent during the early signing period in November. He selected Illinois over the likes of Florida, Memphis, UConn, Indiana, Ohio State, and Louisville.

During his senior season at White Station high school, Black led his team to a 30-3 record while averaging 20.2 points and 12.9 rebounds per game. He was named Tennessee Mr. Basketball and Tennessee Gatorade player of the year, among other awards/honors.

TCR Analysis:

Make no mistake about it--Leron Black is a 5-star talent. He was a top-25 player when he gave his original verbal to Baylor; he fell in the rankings because of an ankle injury during a critical AAU evaluation period.

Black is going to be a monster coming off the bench for the Illini this year (he'll probably be 6th or 7th man). His ridiculous effort and hustle has already been recognized by the team as they've given him an awesome nickname.  Look for "Savage" to get a lot of minutes right away thanks to his terrific defense and rebounding. On offense, he will wear down opponents by running the floor and finishing in traffic. Black also has a great mid range jumper and can knock down the occasional 3-pointer if left open.  He has a shot a B1G Freshman of the Year, but if he doesn't win look for him to still be named to the All-Freshman team.

He'll eventually try and transition to Small Forward (that's his path to the league), but he'll strictly be a Power Forward this year.

Michael Finke

Bio: 6-10 / 220 | Power Forward | Champaign, IL | #43


High School/Recruiting Background:

Finke was the #193 overall recruit in 247Sports' Composite Rankings.  He committed to Illinois over Wisconsin, Iowa, Purdue, and Kansas State in December of 2012.

During his senior season at Centennial high school, Finke averaged 19.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game; he also averaged 16.6 points and 7.6 rebounds as a junior. Finke was named Class 3A First-Team All-State by the Associated Press and Chicago Sun-Times.

TCR Analysis:

What does it mean to be an Illini? Look no further than Michael Finke--he embodies the term as well as anyone I've ever seen. The Champaign native loves the university and he often goes out of his way on social media to show his support.  Basketball-wise, Finke will bring a unique skill set to the table with his size, shooting, and passing ability.  He'll need to improve on his defense and body (he's already bulked up quite a bit), but this shouldn't be a problem for him.

The best part about Finke is that he's still growing.  At 6-10/6-11 he'll be a matchup nightmare in the Big Ten once he fully develops. It appears that he'll primarily be a Power Forward this season, but don't be surprised to see him at Center by his junior or senior year.  Look for him to be a major contributor down the road.

Cameron Liss

Bio: 6-6 / 220 | Small Forward | Northbrook, IL | #45


High School/Recruiting Background:

Liss was team captain of Glenbrook North during as a senior and averaged 12.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game.

TCR Analysis:

Cameron Liss will be one of three walk-on players this year (Mike LaTulip and Alex Austin). His primary position is Small Forward, but he can also play some Shooting Guard if need be.  Look for him offer some versatility if the team gets in foul trouble this season. We may not see Liss in action much during B1G play, but odds are he'll see some playing time during the non-conference schedule.


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