After tearing an ACL right before the start of last season, Tracy Abrams was ready to take on his final year with the Fighting Illini, a year in which John Groce's squad was expected to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013. The injury created problems for Groce who struggled to find a reliable point guard that would take his team to the next level. Ahmad Starks found his stroke here and there, but he struggled from behind the arc a majority of the season and was too small to be effective in the lane. Jaylon Tate displayed his ability to set his teammates up with good looks, but his inability to shoot the basketball made him a liability on the court. But after a redshirt season of recovery and rebuilding, the senior is ready to bring the Fighting Illini back to glory.
According to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, Tracy Abrams is ahead of schedule in rehab and is expected to participate in Illinois' foreign trip this August. The Fighting Illini will play in France and Belgium late this summer, and Abrams' availability will be a great way for Groce to gauge the senior's progress.
Tracy Abrams is pivotal to Illinois' success this upcoming season. Entering his fifth year with the Fighting Illini Basketball program, Abrams has been a key player who has progressed under Groce's coaching campaign. After averaging 4.3 points per game his freshman season, he assumed the roll of starting point guard, following the graduation of Sam Maniscalco.
Tracy Abrams had a stellar sophomore season under Groce but plateaued his junior year. Abrams averaged 10.6 points his second year with the Illini on 39% shooting from the floor. He averaged 3.4 assists per game and shot the ball at 27% from behind the three point line. The last time we saw Abrams in action during the 2013-14 season, his play was somewhat of a letdown for Illini hopefuls. Despite getting more playing time, he nearly averaged the same number of points per game (10.7) and shot the ball worse from the floor (33%). His assists per game fell (3.2), and he failed to improve his three point shooting.
These are things that we must see improve in Abrams' game if the Illini want to be successful next season. Abrams has to be talented enough to score in the lane and from behind the arc, and if his injury becomes a nagging issue, then the Fighting Illini could be in trouble.
That being said, there are a number of things to look forward to in regards to Tracy Abrams' return. For one, the Fighting Illini seem to have had some success in the past when a player is forced to sit out and rebuild. Rayvonte Rice's year on the bench gave him the opportunity to rebuild his body and develop into a superstar player. Abrams will be the only player on next year's roster with roots in the Bruce Weber era. His experience on and off the court should give him some leverage next season, and the helplessness of sitting out all year long should give him the drive to lead his team to victory.
Tracy Abrams has what it takes to give the Fighting Illini just what they're looking for: a return trip to the NCAA Tournament. With a solid looking roster heading into next season, this is Tracy Abrams' team to lead, and his return may be the turning point for the Fighting Illini Basketball program under John Groce.