Meyers Leonard was supposed to meet with the media Tuesday morning, but due to a scheduling conflict, the session was postponed, hopefully to be rescheduled next week.
John Groce was going to visit with us after that, so that’s been pushed back, too.
Groce has already been a very, very busy man.
He had a second assistant coaching candidate in town Tuesday after hiring Jamall Walker from his Ohio University team on Monday. Walker’s hiring was expected. He played at St. Louis University and was the main recruiter on Ohio’s best player, D.J. Cooper, who they plucked out of Seton Academy in Chicago. So he has experience recruiting in the big city.
I’m not optimistic on Jerrance Howard, however, although I’ve not heard that from Jerrance. But we should all understand that it’s a dicey dynamic for Groce. If Jerrance stays, who do the players run to whenever there’s a problem? Jerrance. And, frankly, Jerrance has head coaching aspirations and needs to put something on his resume that doesn’t say Illinois.
I love the guy, but the timing might not be right.
That said, it will hurt if John Calipari hires him at Kentucky (he has tried to in the past) or if Bill Self feels Jerrance is what Kansas needs to fill Danny Manning’s spot now that Manning has taken over at Tulsa.
With Leonard turning pro, Groce now faces a roster without a proven big man.
It would be nice to project that Nnanna Egwu makes the same progress Leonard made from his freshman to sophomore season. But no one knows that.
The good thing is that Egwu will work his tail off, he’s very coachable and he can run. And it sounds like Groce’s offense will favor the fleet of foot.
That said, I would expect Groce to investigate junior college big men. Illinois needs experience in the post because the Big Ten is going to be loaded again.
ESPN’s Andy Katz posted his early 2012-13 Top 25 and Indiana is the pre-season No. 1 (presuming that Cody Zeller returns) followed by Louisville, Kansas, Kentucky and Ohio State. He has Michigan State No. 7 and Michigan No. 8, as long as point guard Trey Burke comes back. And he has Wisconsin at No. 21.
So making progress against the upper division of the Big Ten will not be easy.
That’s OK. One reason I like John Groce early-on is that I don’t think he’s easily discouraged because something is tough. I think he’s a scrapper.
By the way, new Kansas State coach Bruce Weber has told people he plans to return to Champaign for the annual Kiwanis Illini Basketball Awards Banquet next Tuesday. (It’s a dead time for recruiting so that shouldn’t be an issue). That should make for an interesting night, and good for Weber for returning. This is his team and he’ll receive a rousing thank you and sendoff from his loyal friends in the Kiwanis Club.
Weber has good feelings for most everyone in Champaign, with the exception of the man who fired him, AD Mike Thomas.
But Thomas understands how these things work. Remember, he did not attend the football awards banquet shortly after firing Ron Zook. He understood that was Zook’s night to honor his team and to say farewell.
This will be Weber’s night and Thomas won’t infringe.