The last few weeks have been filled with bad news for Illinois basketball fans. Just days after announcing the Jalen Coleman-Lands injury news, the program issued a press release to report that Tracy Abrams will miss his second consecutive season with a torn Achilles tendon. Life without the senior floor general won't be easy for the Illini, but John Groce needs to find a way to make things work.
Last week, we covered some of Groce's potential options on the current roster. Though there isn't another 'pure point guard' behind Jaylon Tate, it's entirely possible that Coleman-Lands, Kendrick Nunn, or someone else could fill in for a handful of minutes each night. Here are the results of our poll question, where we asked readers who they'd like to see as the backup:
But the good news (?) is that the roster isn't completely set in stone. There's one available scholarship to hand out for the 2015-16 season and the coaching staff is in the process of exploring all possible avenues before Fall training camp begins. Here are two other players to keep an eye on over the next few weeks:
Donivine Stewart, SIU Edwardsville
Illinois asked for the transcripts of Donivine Stewart, a 5th year transfer from SIU-E, shortly after the announcement of Abrams' injury. He has one year of college eligibility remaining and has also heard from USC and Minnesota within the last week.
Way back when Bruce Weber was still roaming the sidelines of the Assembly Hall, the Illini expressed interest in the Peoria, IL native out of high school. Stewart eventually committed to Bradley before transferring to SIU-E for his sophomore and junior seasons.
Stewart wouldn't be a game-changer by any means if he were to join the team, but he'd come in and provide a veteran presence off the bench. That's exactly what Illinois needs right now.
Khalid Lewis, La Salle
Khalid Lewis is another 5th year transfer from La Salle and, according to CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein, he'll be taking a visit to Champaign on Wednesday. At 6'3, the senior guard can play both backcourt positions.
La Salle transfer Khalid Lewis will visit Illinois on Wednesday, source told @CBSSports. Visits Baylor tomorrow. Immediately eligible.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) August 2, 2015
Lewis started every game during his freshman year at Delaware, but he proceeded to transfer to La Salle after leading the Blue Hens to the CBI. He struggled throughout his first year in the Atlantic Ten and was never really able to regain his form.
Like Stewart, Lewis would provide the team with some more depth and experience. These two options have zero downside because each player would only be at Illinois for a single season. If they work out--great! If not, they'll graduate and move on next Spring.