Tag:Illinois Fighting Illini
Posted on: February 9, 2011 11:22 am

Bruce Weber seeks toughness for Illini

HEY! Is that some toughness over there? Bring that to me!

Posted by Eric Angevine

In the Big Ten, talent is not enough. A look at Michigan State, a team that is falling hard despite a talented and experienced roster, will give you anecdotal evidence of that fact.

In a similar vein, the Illinois Fighting Illini have plenty of talent. Bruce Weber's team is currently fourth in the league race, but it's a highly dubious fourth. At 5-5 in conference play, it's tough for fans to get overly excited about the standings. A once-impressive win over Michigan State loses value every day, and losses to Penn State, Indiana and Northwestern have cast serious doubts on this team's ability to enter postseason play at all, let alone on a high note.

And they have the talent to do better. Demetri McCamey has an NBA-worthy skill set, but his recent play has been erratic. More baffling is the performance of the Illinois bigs. Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale and Jereme Richmond present a rather formidable-looking frontcourt, but all three were held to single digits in scoring and rebounding by the much-maligned Northwestern bigs in Saturday's 71-70 loss.

So what's missing? Coach isn't shy about saying it. It's grit, he told Paul Klee of IlliniHQ.com.

"When you're looking for the future, you've got to find (a guy) that maybe doesn't have quite as much talent but he has that toughness and leadership that makes a difference. If you find the special guy that is talented and has the toughness and the leadership - whether it's Deron or Dee, or (Jared) Sullinger or (David) Lighty - that's when you really have the special teams."
So, he knows this team has had it in the past, and he acknowledges that his opponents have more of it right now than he does. So where's the silver lining for current Illini fans?

"I think this next group, Tracy (Abrams), that's what he's about. He's got a little bit of an edge, the toughness. Nnanna (Egwu), he plays his butt off. He loves to play," Weber said. "I even think with our guys now. Jereme (Richmond) has great competitive spirit. I think Meyers (Leonard) does. He's just got to control his emotions a little bit. I think Crandall (Head) really does. I feel good about all those guys, and the incoming group also."

Hmmm. That sounds an awful lot like "Wait 'til next year", which is not a popular phrase in the state of Illinois. A 5-5 record is a tipping point. Bruce Weber's team is sitting right on the fulcrum, and something or someone is going to tip the beam over the next few weeks. The question is, which way will it fall? Thursday's road date with a sinking Minnesota program will give us some indication as to whether Weber has found the right buttons to push. Sunrday's home game with 8-3 Purdue will be a Herculean task, but could still show some promise.

The problem is, the Boilermakers knew where their toughness was going to come from in November of last year. Heck, maybe even in July. At Purdue, toughness is a program mandate under Matt Painter, and I'd be surprised to ever hear the head Boilermaker sending out a public search party looking for his team's heart.

If the tenacity Bruce Weber seeks is there, hidden somewhere he can't find it, dissatisfaction in Champaign is going to reach an all-time high.
Posted on: December 27, 2010 3:27 pm
Edited on: December 27, 2010 3:42 pm

Reggie Smith breaks up with Marquette

Posted by Eric Angevine

Ah, teenage romance. It's so intense, yet so short-lived.

In December of 2009, Reggie Smith was all "It clicked real fast," and "I was meant to be at Marquette ."

One year later, the Golden Eagles and Smith were still an item. As a freshman, he started five games at point, but the relationship obviously wasn't exclusive any more. Buzz Williams started casting wayward glances at Junior Cadougan and Vander Blue while Smith was out sick .

Now, Smith seems to be pushing his former paramour away to forestall worse pain down the road.

Smith failed to report back to MU on Christmas night, as was required for Golden Eagles players after a three-day holiday break, didn’t show up for a scheduled doctor’s appointment and then didn’t take part in the first of the two practices the team held on Sunday.

That led to a meeting between Smith, Smith’s stepfather and coach Buzz Williams.

“Reggie didn’t say anything; it was just his stepdad," said Williams. "The meeting was three minutes in duration, and the only thing that I knew was he wasn’t playing as much as he would want.”

-Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Call me callous, but neither party seems too broken up about it right now.

Where will Smith look next? He's from Illinois, and this is Demetri McCamey's last season in Champaign. That's a possibility. Then again, back before he slipped on Marquette's class ring, Reggie Smith was quite taken with the USC Song Girls basketball team. L.A. probably sounds pretty good to a guy who's digging out in Milwaukee right now. Wherever he goes, he should be available to play in the 2011 after sitting out just the fall semester, and that has to be an attractive option for several schools that lack a strong point presence right now.

Photo: AP
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