12/30 News & Notes

#1
Best quote of the day: Sam McLaurin: "Coach says we don't want to be a team that learns by peeing on the electric fence." #dechr

http://twitter.com/MarkTupper
Illini take 13-1 start into Big Ten play

That Illinois will march into the Big Ten Conference season Wednesday night at Purdue with a 13-1 record is remarkable, because, yes, this is a team with flaws, a team that has basically the same core of players who melted down severely last season, a team that most people would say isn't as good as its No. 12 national ranking.

But it's a team that has something I really like, and that's chemistry and belief and faith and heart and I'd much rather watch a team with flaws and heart than watch a heartless team with more talent.

Tupper
Abrams' new mindset leads to career day

Something changed in Illinois sophomore point guard Tracy Abrams from the time he went home for Christmas to when he returned to campus this week.

In the few days of practice leading up to Saturday's game against Auburn, Illinois coach John Groce began to see Abrams play with a different speed and mentality than he ever did.

"Have you ever read the book '212 degrees'?" Groce asked Saturday. "It's when water boils. All of a sudden two days ago, it started boiling for him."

Scott Powers
Illinois 81, Auburn 79: 'A great feeling'

"It was fun. I'm happy, excited," Mom said. "It's amazing that he did this on the Bulls' court."

Tracy Abrams said he regularly attended Bulls games as a youngster. The product of Mount Carmel High School on the South Side never imagined he'd have a performance like his exhibition Saturday against the Tigers.

"It's a dream come true," Abrams said as Bulls point guard Kirk Hinrich walked past him in the hallway. "Growing up in Chicago, you hear about the Bulls and the United Center. It's a privilege. I thank God for the opportunity. It's a blessing."

Marcus Jackson
Illinois 81, Auburn 79: Notebook

"It was a big deal since we didn't get accomplished what we wanted down in St. Louis. We did a good job," Chicagoan Nnanna Egwu said. "It was great. The Bulls are my favorite team, so playing on their court is special. To come back to Chicago and have all the Illini fans here was fun. It was good to play in front of them and it's a nice thing we get to do here every year."

All that first-year coach John Groce cares about is the result.

"I don't get caught up in what's happened in the past. I am glad for the seniors that were able to get their first one here because of how hard they work and how good of kids those guys are. That part's good," Groce said. "We love coming up here, I love it. We're blessed to have it. It's a great sports city. Our alumni are unbelievable; that's indicative today of the crowd. It's a big area for us recruiting. It's a special place, special city. We're lucky that it's so close to our campus. We enjoy coming up. Hopefully they'll continue to have us."

Marcus Jackson
Illinois hangs on for 81-79 victory

Illinois ended its United Center slump.

It wasn't without the typical Illini thrill, though.

Illinois gave up a double-digit lead against Auburn but fought off the Tigers' comeback attempt for an 81-79 victory Saturday.

"It was odd," coach John Groce said. "That's the grimiest 80-point game I've ever been a part of. We talked about it with less than four (minutes to play), 'Hey, it's not going to be one of those sexy ones. We have to come together.'"

Shannon Ryan
No. 12 Illinois beats Auburn behind Tracy Abrams' 27

Tracy Abrams' personal narrative is the portrait of a point guard as a young man. With each passing day, he is learning the subtleties and intricacies of the college game.

Illinois is the beneficiary.

Playing in his hometown, the former Mount Carmel star played a spectacular all-around game, scoring 27 points and adding eight rebounds, five assists and four steals as No. 12 Illinois escaped with an 81-79 victory over Auburn on Saturday at the United Center.

"I was just pushing the ball," the sophomore point guard said, "and I took what they gave me."

http://www.suntimes.com/sports/coll...nois-beats-auburn-behind-tracy-abrams-27.html
 
#2
ESPN: Big Ten Revised Predictions

It is impossible to say enough about what Illinois coach John Groce has done in his first half-season in Champaign. In the matter of a few months, he transformed senior guard Brandon Paul from an inefficient gunner to an All-American, totally revamped not only Illinois' style but its overall approach, made a team of little-used role players into one of the scariest offensive squads in the country, won the Maui Invitational and beat Gonzaga at Gonzaga, and almost single-handedly revived one of the nation's best fan bases out of its previously depressed stupor.

6. Illinois doesn't stay this hot all season, as the rest of the league scouts John Groce and his staff. But an efficient Brandon Paul is still worth the price of admission.
http://espn.go.com/mens-college-bas...21/a-primer-big-ten-season-college-basketball
 
#5
It is impossible to say enough about what Illinois coach John Groce has done in his first half-season in Champaign. In the matter of a few months, he transformed senior guard Brandon Paul from an inefficient gunner to an All-American, totally revamped not only Illinois' style but its overall approach, made a team of little-used role players into one of the scariest offensive squads in the country, won the Maui Invitational and beat Gonzaga at Gonzaga, and almost single-handedly revived one of the nation's best fan bases out of its previously depressed stupor.
If fans knew just how far gone and, frankly, depressed and downcast these same players were back in March, they'd be calling for JG to get a 10-year contract extension. The man has given this team and program an extreme makeover of the mess the previous staff left this program in.
 
#9
Banned
Northbrook
If fans knew just how far gone and, frankly, depressed and downcast these same players were back in March, they'd be calling for JG to get a 10-year contract extension. The man has given this team and program an extreme makeover of the mess the previous staff left this program in.
I believe it. I'm not sure how they'll do this year, but I think there is positive long range outlook.
 
#10
I believe it. I'm not sure how they'll do this year, but I think there is positive long range outlook.
I only got a few Ubben reports about JG and his staff after he took over, but the program he inherited was in shambles. The 2-12 finish, the mental and emotional wear and tear on the players, the frustration with BW, the tension between certain players -- by the time the season mercifully ended back in March, this team was a wreck. Most of the players and their parents were tired of the previous staff's system and how they dealt with the players. A lot of guys had lost confidence in themselves largely by how they were handled, the ill-fitting system for most, the tension around their late-season meltdown, getting thrown under the bus that infamous press conference after the home loss to PU.

JG and staff came in and exuded confidence, encouragement and enthusiasm from day 1. They quickly built relationships with each player, getting to know them and pouring not only teaching but positive reinforcement into them. It's been noted how TG said he received more encouragement in a few short weeks from the new staff than he received his first 3 years at UI. That's an enlightening indictment. I only know about JW from eyewitness accounts, but I was told how he amazed BP, DJ and the other guards with his ability to teach, instruct and correct while pouring on encouragement and patience. It was such a departure from the previous 3 years that they took to it like a fish to water. BP said he learned more about how to handle the ball and create in one summer than he received in 3 prior years.

I fully expect the B1G slate to be a struggle. I'd be shocked if we won more than 10 games. But, after watching how much improved we are down the stretch of games and the dramatic improvement of individual players (aside from his last 2 games, BP is starkly better than he was the last dozen or so games of 2011-12, TG is night and day better, TA is almost unrecognizable as a driving/creating/finishing PG, NE is showing off a beautiful new jump shot, etc.), I'm much more excited about the future than I was the last 5-6 seasons.
 
#11
I only got a few Ubben reports about JG and his staff after he took over, but the program he inherited was in shambles. The 2-12 finish, the mental and emotional wear and tear on the players, the frustration with BW, the tension between certain players -- by the time the season mercifully ended back in March, this team was a wreck. Most of the players and their parents were tired of the previous staff's system and how they dealt with the players. A lot of guys had lost confidence in themselves largely by how they were handled, the ill-fitting system for most, the tension around their late-season meltdown, getting thrown under the bus that infamous press conference after the home loss to PU.

JG and staff came in and exuded confidence, encouragement and enthusiasm from day 1. They quickly built relationships with each player, getting to know them and pouring not only teaching but positive reinforcement into them. It's been noted how TG said he received more encouragement in a few short weeks from the new staff than he received his first 3 years at UI. That's an enlightening indictment. I only know about JW from eyewitness accounts, but I was told how he amazed BP, DJ and the other guards with his ability to teach, instruct and correct while pouring on encouragement and patience. It was such a departure from the previous 3 years that they took to it like a fish to water. BP said he learned more about how to handle the ball and create in one summer than he received in 3 prior years.

I fully expect the B1G slate to be a struggle. I'd be shocked if we won more than 10 games. But, after watching how much improved we are down the stretch of games and the dramatic improvement of individual players (aside from his last 2 games, BP is starkly better than he was the last dozen or so games of 2011-12, TG is night and day better, TA is almost unrecognizable as a driving/creating/finishing PG, NE is showing off a beautiful new jump shot, etc.), I'm much more excited about the future than I was the last 5-6 seasons.
Awesome stuff, as always, HoC. Thanks
 
#12
If fans knew just how far gone and, frankly, depressed and downcast these same players were back in March, they'd be calling for JG to get a 10-year contract extension. The man has given this team and program an extreme makeover of the mess the previous staff left this program in.
Doctor,
I believe this statement is a violation of doctor / patient privilege.
 
#14
If fans knew just how far gone and, frankly, depressed and downcast these same players were back in March, they'd be calling for JG to get a 10-year contract extension. The man has given this team and program an extreme makeover of the mess the previous staff left this program in.
Hater. Can we stop focusing on the past and just enjoy that we're 13-1?
 
#18
Yeah, this is probably more detail than HoC let on in the past, when he actually had sources who saw practice regularly and heard things around the program. Now that the fallout has been replaced with rainbows and unicorns, it's alright to look back and think how far we had fallen.

That said, there's still time for this baby to go awry, but I'm content to enjoy 13-1 while I can.

A guy I work with who's not a big college basketball guy but whose son went to Illinois told me today how great Abrams looked and how good of a game it was. I think the positive vibe is spreading outside of Champaign, and you can see it from the 18k+ that showed up Saturday.
 
#19
Hey Dayton, I noticed USC upset the Flyers in OT last night. Good for our RPI, bad for Dayton's NCAA hopes.
Yes. Dayton is really suffering. They fired their starting center for the season for something that would not get even a slap on the wrist at UIUC. If the rumors of what he did are true, it's stunning that he'd get even a one game suspension. But that has really left a hole in the interior that is not easy to fill. They essentially have a big small forward playing center. It's a mess.
 
#20
I only got a few Ubben reports about JG and his staff after he took over, but the program he inherited was in shambles. The 2-12 finish, the mental and emotional wear and tear on the players, the frustration with BW, the tension between certain players -- by the time the season mercifully ended back in March, this team was a wreck. Most of the players and their parents were tired of the previous staff's system and how they dealt with the players. A lot of guys had lost confidence in themselves largely by how they were handled, the ill-fitting system for most, the tension around their late-season meltdown, getting thrown under the bus that infamous press conference after the home loss to PU.

JG and staff came in and exuded confidence, encouragement and enthusiasm from day 1. They quickly built relationships with each player, getting to know them and pouring not only teaching but positive reinforcement into them. It's been noted how TG said he received more encouragement in a few short weeks from the new staff than he received his first 3 years at UI. That's an enlightening indictment. I only know about JW from eyewitness accounts, but I was told how he amazed BP, DJ and the other guards with his ability to teach, instruct and correct while pouring on encouragement and patience. It was such a departure from the previous 3 years that they took to it like a fish to water. BP said he learned more about how to handle the ball and create in one summer than he received in 3 prior years.

I fully expect the B1G slate to be a struggle. I'd be shocked if we won more than 10 games. But, after watching how much improved we are down the stretch of games and the dramatic improvement of individual players (aside from his last 2 games, BP is starkly better than he was the last dozen or so games of 2011-12, TG is night and day better, TA is almost unrecognizable as a driving/creating/finishing PG, NE is showing off a beautiful new jump shot, etc.), I'm much more excited about the future than I was the last 5-6 seasons.
Excellent, excellent post ... I hope every Illinois recruit and potential recruit reads this ... !
 
#21
Rockford, Illinois
I only got a few Ubben reports about JG and his staff after he took over, but the program he inherited was in shambles. The 2-12 finish, the mental and emotional wear and tear on the players, the frustration with BW, the tension between certain players -- by the time the season mercifully ended back in March, this team was a wreck. Most of the players and their parents were tired of the previous staff's system and how they dealt with the players. A lot of guys had lost confidence in themselves largely by how they were handled, the ill-fitting system for most, the tension around their late-season meltdown, getting thrown under the bus that infamous press conference after the home loss to PU.

JG and staff came in and exuded confidence, encouragement and enthusiasm from day 1. They quickly built relationships with each player, getting to know them and pouring not only teaching but positive reinforcement into them. It's been noted how TG said he received more encouragement in a few short weeks from the new staff than he received his first 3 years at UI. That's an enlightening indictment. I only know about JW from eyewitness accounts, but I was told how he amazed BP, DJ and the other guards with his ability to teach, instruct and correct while pouring on encouragement and patience. It was such a departure from the previous 3 years that they took to it like a fish to water. BP said he learned more about how to handle the ball and create in one summer than he received in 3 prior years.

I fully expect the B1G slate to be a struggle. I'd be shocked if we won more than 10 games. But, after watching how much improved we are down the stretch of games and the dramatic improvement of individual players (aside from his last 2 games, BP is starkly better than he was the last dozen or so games of 2011-12, TG is night and day better, TA is almost unrecognizable as a driving/creating/finishing PG, NE is showing off a beautiful new jump shot, etc.), I'm much more excited about the future than I was the last 5-6 seasons.
:thumb: Thanks, HoC. It was apparent to any Illini fan who has followed this team for any length of time how our program had bottomed out. I felt so sorry for these kids. That's why it's so fantastic to see we've got a new coach who gets it. These players will not win every game, but I think they will fight to the end for HCJG because he believes in their abilities and has found a way to get them to believe in themselves again. :chief: :illinois:
 
#22
Yeah, this is probably more detail than HoC let on in the past, when he actually had sources who saw practice regularly and heard things around the program. Now that the fallout has been replaced with rainbows and unicorns, it's alright to look back and think how far we had fallen.

That said, there's still time for this baby to go awry, but I'm content to enjoy 13-1 while I can.

A guy I work with who's not a big college basketball guy but whose son went to Illinois told me today how great Abrams looked and how good of a game it was. I think the positive vibe is spreading outside of Champaign, and you can see it from the 18k+ that showed up Saturday.
You just have to watch the games to see the difference, it's so obvious.

Especially the last few games where other teams have taken away most of the easy 3 point shots, .

Instead of being a live by the 3 die by the 3 team and losing, we're winning by improving our mid-range and drives to the basket to get fouls.

That's a heckuva lot more fun for us and the players than watching a team pass the ball around the perimeter and launch a prayer as the shot clock winds down.

As we get better at the inside the arc offense, the 3 point shots will come back. Then we become a REAL tough team to beat. :)
Who gives a crap about last season?
 
#23
You just have to watch the games to see the difference, it's so obvious.

Especially the last few games where other teams have taken away most of the easy 3 point shots, .

Instead of being a live by the 3 die by the 3 team and losing, we're winning by improving our mid-range and drives to the basket to get fouls.

That's a heckuva lot more fun for us and the players than watching a team pass the ball around the perimeter and launch a prayer as the shot clock winds down.

As we get better at the inside the arc offense, the 3 point shots will come back. Then we become a REAL tough team to beat. :)
Who gives a crap about last season?
Did you notice the team also identified the zone quicker and pointed the PF into the hole in the zone. It was nice to see that adjustment come quickly. I think it will improve more as the season progresses.
 
#24
Orange Krush Class of 2013
Stanford, CA
Did you notice the team also identified the zone quicker and pointed the PF into the hole in the zone. It was nice to see that adjustment come quickly. I think it will improve more as the season progresses.
I fist pumped the first time we dropped it to Griffey at the FT line against their zone on Saturday. It was great recognition and led to a really nice four-pass possession for an easy score.
 
#25
Banned
The paign born and raised
I only got a few Ubben reports about JG and his staff after he took over, but the program he inherited was in shambles. The 2-12 finish, the mental and emotional wear and tear on the players, the frustration with BW, the tension between certain players -- by the time the season mercifully ended back in March, this team was a wreck. Most of the players and their parents were tired of the previous staff's system and how they dealt with the players. A lot of guys had lost confidence in themselves largely by how they were handled, the ill-fitting system for most, the tension around their late-season meltdown, getting thrown under the bus that infamous press conference after the home loss to PU.

JG and staff came in and exuded confidence, encouragement and enthusiasm from day 1. They quickly built relationships with each player, getting to know them and pouring not only teaching but positive reinforcement into them. It's been noted how TG said he received more encouragement in a few short weeks from the new staff than he received his first 3 years at UI. That's an enlightening indictment. I only know about JW from eyewitness accounts, but I was told how he amazed BP, DJ and the other guards with his ability to teach, instruct and correct while pouring on encouragement and patience. It was such a departure from the previous 3 years that they took to it like a fish to water. BP said he learned more about how to handle the ball and create in one summer than he received in 3 prior years.

I fully expect the B1G slate to be a struggle. I'd be shocked if we won more than 10 games. But, after watching how much improved we are down the stretch of games and the dramatic improvement of individual players (aside from his last 2 games, BP is starkly better than he was the last dozen or so games of 2011-12, TG is night and day better, TA is almost unrecognizable as a driving/creating/finishing PG, NE is showing off a beautiful new jump shot, etc.), I'm much more excited about the future than I was the last 5-6 seasons.

This matches what i was always told about Bruce Weber practices during his tenure. He would come out and yell at the guys for about 10 minutes and then go back into his office and let them work with the assistants. John Groce likes to work individually with his guys and actually teach them.

The local media love him.