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Illinois Basketball: Junior Preview

TCR's preseason coverage kicks off with a class-by-class preview of the players. Today, we're featuring the first of the upperclassmen with three Illini junior guards.

Aaron Cosby will be a big key to Illinois' success this year
Aaron Cosby will be a big key to Illinois' success this year
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.

Today we'll be taking an in-depth look at the three juniors on the roster. Here we go:

Aaron Cosby

Bio: 6-3 / 205 | Louisville, KY | #11

Projected Position: Shooting Guard

Summary of Last Year:

From our very own Season in Review at the end of last season:

Cosby sat out the 2013-14 campaign due to NCAA transfer rules. He shot 40 percent from 3-point range on 165 attempts in his last season with Seton Hall. I would guess he'd end up with a similar number of attempts when he plays for the Illini next year. Groce has noted he also possesses point guard capabilities, giving a versatile roster more variability. If Groce wanted to have some fun, he could potentially put a lineup of Cosby-Nunn-Rice-Hill on the court and set some offensive points per possession records. Ok, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.

TCR Analysis:

Cosby will play a huge role in the success of the team this season. He's an excellent pure scorer and that's something this team really needs. Though he had to sit out last season, he has tremendous offensive and defensive ability so the year off only helped him develop his game even further. He actually traveled to China and played eight games there over the summer:

He can hit three's at a consistent rate (40% from behind the arc at Seton Hall) and along with senior guard Ahmad Starks, this team could go from being one of the worst offensive teams in the Big Ten to one of the best. Groce was raving about Cosby's work ethic and demeanor at Big Ten Media Day:

"I think the area of growth that's been really great to see as a coach for Aaron is when he came in here, I don't think he competed every day. I thought he was a pick-and-choose guy. Now, the guys will tell you: when he laces them up, if you're going against him, you better bring it because he's pretty consistent with that."

Expect to see a whole lot of points and even some highlights from "the Cosby Show" this season.

Mike LaTulip

Bio: 6-1 / 170 | Arlington Heights, IL | #10

Projected Position: Shooting Guard or Point Guard

Nickname: Snap Dragon

Summary of Last Year:

Mike LaTulip is essentially Mark Titus, but without the blog. He's the last man off the bench who was amazing in high school, but didn't want to play at a smaller school so he took a walk-on role. That means he doesn't play very often, and while LaTulip did manage to play six more minutes than he did last season (44 to 38), he appeared in four fewer games (12 to 16). He took nine shots all season, zero of which came from inside the arc. But in all honesty, there really isn't too much to write about the Snap Dragon.

TCR Analysis:

Barring injuries, LaTulip will probably only see action during non-conference games and blowouts. He may not be a key player for the Illini this year, but for a walk-on he certainly can provide a spark off the bench and can always be seen vehemently encouraging teammates from the sideline. He has the ability to hit shots from long-range (33% from behind the arc in his career) but isn't known for his inside scoring. He's a favorite with the fans (and Mark) as well, so no preseason article would be complete without a few glowing sentences about LaTulip.

Alex Austin

Bio: 6-4 / 185 | Chicago, IL | #44

Projected Position: Shooting Guard

Summary of Last Year:

Austin played in 59 games with 36 starts during his two-year career at Eastern Illinois. The Chicago Mount Carmel High School product had a standout freshman season with the Panthers. He averaged 9.3 ppg on 46% shooting while starting 20 of 32 games. He was also named OVC freshman of the week five times. It was a different story during his sophomore campaign. After starting 16 of the first 17 games, Austin didn't start in any of the last 10 due to disciplinary reasons, and his scoring average dipped from 10.7 points per game to only seven as the season drew to a close.

TCR Analysis:

Austin will be ineligible to play this year and will have to sit out until the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer rules, so although he won't make an immediate impact as an Illini, look for him to provide some spot minutes throughout next season. Austin also played with current Illini teammate Tracy Abrams for several years while at Mount Carmel High School, and both will be returning to the squad in 2015.