Thursday was media day for the men's basketball team, and head coach John Groce addressed the media with a forty minute press conference. In lieu of watching the whole session, we look the liberty of recapping the presser and highlighting everything of note.
0:00 - Addresses the media, thanks reporters for coming out
0:09 - "We had a great...I think a really good offseason".
Oh, so this is the story we're getting? I guess it may be better to avoid focusing on the trials Paul and Abrams to start, but still. A really good offseason?
0:52 - "Team got a 3.23 GPA last spring, followed it up with a 3.5 this summer"
ACADEMICS ARE KEY!
1:57 - "I love the versatility of this team."
This is one of the bigger advantages the Illini have this year. Groce mentions how he has intriguing options at center; Mike Thorne Jr. can lock down the post, but a Michael Finke can bring guard-like skills to the post. It'll be interesting to see how he integrates their skill sets this season.
3:44 - "Guys like Hill and Nunn need to serve"
Since this year's senior class consists of 1) an injured/already graduated Tracy Abrams, 2) fifth-year transfers Thorne and Khalid Lewis and 3) Mike LaTulip (who will sit out this season in order to transfer), Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn become the default leaders of this team. Both two-year starters, it is their responsibility to lead this team on and off the court, both verbally and non-verbally.
6:14 - "The guys have really bought into the 'next man up' mentality
6:57 - Yeah, so then he drops this bombshell:
#illini Groce: Jaylon Tate suffered concussion Leron Black had surgery on knee. Out 4-6 weeks.— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) October 8, 2015
Ok. So it sounds like Tate is going to be fine, but Black goes down with a tear in his right meniscus? Dear God. Groce says it likely is something that developed over time, Leron is a "tough cookie."
9:35 - 11:00 Groce is really having trouble with the mic stand...
11:01 - He fixed it!
11:35 - Media member: Have the juniors embraced their leadership role?
Pauses, "Yes, I'd still like to see them do even more there."
It can be inferred that Hill, Nunn, and Tate all still have room to grow as leaders. Tate may be the most vocal of the three, having led from the point last season.
12:29 - "Fifth year transfers bring experience, Lewis has been a quick study"
Groce goes on to praise the LaSalle transfer for adapting quickly after not traveling with the team to Europe. Lewis is vocal and has apparently surpassed Groce's expectations to this point.
15:45 -We knew this before, but Groce loves Egwu. Mentions that Nnanna is playing in Indianapolis with the Orlando Magic Thursday night, wishes he could make it. Egwu brought so much to this team in character, leadership and defensive presence.
"Leaders lead, he led."
16:32 - Team defense will be much different this season, Groce appears disheartened. Without an elite defender like Egwu, its going to have to be much more of a team effort.
*sighs at the loss of Egwu
20:15 - "We've got guys who love to work."
Black has been coming in over the summer doing work in the gym, Hill doing extra running in the AM. Good stuff.
20:58 - "Hill and Nunn are even better shooters"
24:00 - "I expect Lewis to communicate"
Lewis likes to talk a lot. Good for a position (point guard) that Groce likens to a quarterback. Leadership is key.
24:30 - "Williams and Jordan had moments in Europe"
The two healthy freshmen have been growing over the course of the offseason. It sounds like they're getting better -- and Illinois will need them to make immediate impacts.
25:35 - "By the time Williams graduates, I expect him to have played four positions."
D.J. Williams presents a ton of versatility. Some questioned if he would have a role as a point guard this season, but Groce says he likes to teach freshman just one position. Groce says both he and Jordan have been taking reps on the wing.
26:15 - Thoughts on Jalen Coleman-Lands:
"He's a ridiculous shooter"
Groce continued to say that Coleman-Lands is one of the best shooters he's seen at the college level, be it during his tenure at Butler, Ohio State, Ohio, etc.
Good to know we've got a vocal leader for years to come.
"Can guard the basketball"
All good things.
28:25 - "Tate has worked this offseason, he's bigger and tougher."
Tate enters with a really good year of experience under his belt. With Abrams gone yet again, there's a good chance he'll be starting at point guard from day one.
30:10 - Groce reveals that he's spent the offseason studying great organizations (i.e. New England Patriots, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers).
EDITORS NOTE: YOU FORGOT THE CUBS, JOHN. THEY'RE THE BEST TEAM IN BASEBALL, JOHN.
36:20 - "It's been really good to have a healthy summer for Kendrick (Nunn)"
Nunn dealt with a lower body injury last offseason before entering his sophomore year. Groce says Nunn is the hardest worker in weight room.
38:30 - So apparently the games in Springfield have been sold out. Groce says Illini will be making three trips there for five games, rather than five for five. Should be a fun environment!
So there goes the press conference. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
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