Today was "Illini All In" at the Ubben practice facility. It was a great event that saw more than 200 fans and students come to watch the team practice and scrimmage. I unfortunately didn't go, but I was able to watch the scrimmage online and was real impressed with the team. Here are some of my observations:
(NOTE: I'll add stat totals when they become available. I think Malcolm Hill led all scorers with 18, though)
Malcolm Hill has made the "sophomore leap" this offseason; he looked phenomenal out there. Shooting, defense, ball handling, post moves, rebounding--he was showcasing it all today. He tied the final "period" up on a long three with 6 seconds left, but Rayvonte Rice went down the floor and answered with a three of his own to win. Oh and today was Hill's 19th birthday--happy birthday, Malcolm!
Speaking of Rayvonte Rice, he's still a tank out there. You can tell that he's being more patient since the team has more scoring options--he's willing to wait/pass for a better shot now. Rice made a few long 3's and had several strong drives to the hoop.
Kendrick Nunn practiced today, but didn't participate in the scrimmage due to his knee injury. He'll be good to go when the season starts.
Freshman Leron Black is truly a "savage." He's such a physical presence down low and he's a GREAT rebounder. Black's face-up game will be extremely effective this year as he can bang it down low and shoot 17-footers all day. The issue with Black is that his physical play often leads to fouls; he'll need to learn how to control himself.
Today was our first glimpse at transfers Ahmad Starks and Aaron Cosby. Cosby struggled a bit today (he was being defended extremely hard), but he had a few nice drives along with several great passes. Starks will be fun to watch this year. The team will miss Tracy Abrams' leadership, but Starks will bring a new dimension to the offense with his shooting ability. He made a few 3's and had a couple nice pull-up shots off of pick-and-rolls.
Jaylon Tate was a nice surprise today. He had a 2, or 3 great lob passes and he was pretty effective in running the offense. His jumper appears to have improved, but it still needs a bit more work. Tate's added strength will really help him throughout conference play this season.
Maverick Morgan struggled shooting today, but he had some real nice moves down low. His left (?) thumb was taped up so that may have played a role in him not being able to finish.
Lastly, and certainly not least, is Nnanna Egwu. At this point he's probably the front-runner for B1G Defensive Player of The Year--he covers up so many mistakes on the floor. He also showed off some three point shooting today! I know some people don't want him taking those, but I'm all for it. He has a nice, confident shot so why not if he's left open?
UPDATE: Scoring Totals
Scoring from today’s #ILLINIALLIN scrimmage. Hill, Rice & Egwu all in double-figures. #Illini pic.twitter.com/L2cFMYRXNI— Illinois Basketball (@IlliniHoops) October 26, 2014