Analysis

Early Practice Film Breeds Excitement for the Future of Illini Hoops

Seventy-four seconds of handpicked practice film and I am already giddy about the 2017-18 version of the Fighting Illini Men’s Basketball Team, mainly two specific players.

Before immersing yourself in my thoughts, I’d recommend watching the video for yourself.

Now these clips of film may be taken from several days, and they were certainly cut to make the team look as impressive as possible, but there are some takeaways from this that should have the Illini faithful hopeful for the not so distant future.

Most media covering Illini basketball have pegged Michael Finke as the biggest beneficiary of this coaching change, due to his size and skillset.  That is a fair assumption, and quite possible, but with the speed and intensity that new  Head Coach Brad Underwood is demanding his players to play with, I see Leron Black living up to his top-45 ranking coming out of high school and really becoming the player we all hoped he would be coming into his freshman season.

Leron’s block of a Mark Smith dunk attempt at the ten-second mark of this video is a peek into the tenacity he is capable of showing on a nightly basis – if he can keep away from foul trouble.  Offensively, Leron is seen getting dunks while playing on the wing (:31) and the high post (:55) positions.  It is likely that while on the court with Finke, Leron will be on the wing in Underwood’s “spread motion” offense.

This offense involves a lot of off-the-ball movement, an aspect of the game that Illini fans have not seen in quite some time, and Leron’s quickness and athleticism will be tough to deal with as he cuts off Finke’s screens or sits on the block with an empty back-side of the court to work with.

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I would not have said this at the time of his commitment, but Illini fans are going to want to become accustomed to saying the name “Gregory Eboigbodin.”  Gregory was quickly given the nickname “Spicy G,” either by teammates or assistant coach Chin Coleman, and that is what I’ll refer to him as from here on out.  Rewind that practice film back to the 20-second mark because I know you were thinking “who is this guy” when an offensive rebound was pulled down, and an athletic spin move was made into a gracious left-handed finish.  This, my friends, is our two-star, first-team all-city from Detroit, power forward.

Now I don’t think those two accolades go hand-in-hand, but as Underwood said in his introductory presser, he is not recruiting his student-athletes based on how many “stars” they’re given, he wants players who will fit in his system – see Spicy G.

Saying that the Illini are going to instantly become the favorites, or even a top-3 team in the Big Ten would just be foolish at this point.  But there is a definite sense of a newfound identity among this group, and with what looks to be another long football season around the corner, Fighting Illini basketball surely couldn’t get here soon enough.

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