We’re still waiting for confirmation on the status of Myke Henry within the Illini basketball program.

Is he leaving?

Is he staying?

Is he upset by being cast as a “4” and seeing the coaching staff chase down 4s all around him?

That will play itself out, but here’s what scares me about the composition of the current Illini basketball roster, beyond the tidal wave of young, unproven bodies that will begin working out June 7:

What scares me is what happens if Tracy Abrams were to get hurt?

I look at Tracy Abrams and see a tough-as-nails kid who seems almost bulletproof to serious injury. Then I remember that no player is bulletproof. Then I remember that injuries happen. Then I remember Chester Frazier, another tough-as-nails former Illini who seemed immune to serious injury, until, that is, he got hurt and Illinois could not function going into the 2009 NCAA Tournament without him.

Abrams may not be Chris Paul as point guards go, but his combination of toughness, hard work and a feeling that he’s still improving makes me understand his value to the upcoming Illini team.

But what if Abrams got hurt?

What then?

I don’t like thinking about a season in which the only other option at point guard is freshman Jaylon Tate. No offense to the young man from Chicago Simeon, but only the very best flourish in the Big Ten as freshmen point guards and even most of those show their inexperience eventually.

His high school teammate, Kendrick Nunn, could help out, but it would be unfair to him and awkward at best to shove him into that role out of necessity.

That’s why gobbling up someone like Oregon State transfer Ahmad Starks is a no-brainer to me, assuming two things are in order.

One, Illinois would need to have a scholarship to offer the little point guard.

And, two, he would need to be academically accepted and granted the NCAA medical hardship consideration that would allow him to waive the sit-out year and play immediately.

Call me crazy, but I think there’s a chance this Illini basketball team could be much better than outsiders are suggesting.

Personally, I think the strength of this coaching staff will prove to be their ability to “grow” their players. Development, Groce stressed at the team banquet Saturday night, is the key piece to the puzzle.

So in that regard, I was looking forward to seeing what they might be able to do with Henry, who needs to become a better defender, ball-handler and shooter and doesn’t seem to rev his engine the same way hard-work trailblazers Nnanna Egwu and Abrams do.

If Henry is staying, that’s fine. But get to work.

If Henry is leaving, grab Starks. He may already be warming up in the bullpen.

Depth at point guard is sorely needed, especially if something happens to Abrams.

(15) comments


What a crazy off season this is shaping up to be but very exciting to me and i hope others. Funny that Tupps talks about the point gaurd situation being scary thin as i have read other articles talk about if we get Starks how will it all play out having three point gaurds. I am one of the few that believe Tate may be better than expected. Starks looks pretty good, if we get him that is a possition that goes from iffy to solid. They will push each other to get better and we can always have a fresh body run run run!!! I think i am also in the minority that believe we will be better next year than last year and be in the top six of the BIG!... In G I trust GO ILLINI!!


Henry does not really fit in the Groce system, it that he does not appear to be a highly-skilled ball handler. Two years with limited playing . Playing behind good players but not exceptional players. Increase competition for playing time the next two years. Unless he has an emotional attachment to he university or wants to stay for academic reasons, seem quite likely he will depart the friendly confines.

On the not so good new front a Fox New Alert s is reporting that Joe Bertrand is leaving also. believing that the Arizona weather would be more condusive for the rehabilitation of his shoulder.. :) crk

Pistol Pete

I totally agree with illini4fan. When I saw the headline of this article, I thought Mark was going to say our PG depth would be scary good if we get Starks, which is what I believe. I also think Tate will be better than many think & the team will be better also. At some point I'd like to see Starks start at the point, Tate be his backup, & Abrams be in the mix at the 2 or 3 spots. I know he's kind of small, but he's fiery & seems better suited to be a scorer than a distributor. He could still log PT at PG & all 3 of them could be fresh to push the pace like Groce wants to.

Red in a blue state

I guess we can state the obvious about depth, an injury away from starting inexperienced freshman etc. But when I look at the league it seems everybody is in the same boat at times. I've seen several freshman starting guards so why should it be any different for us? I don't know much about Nunn and Tates game but I trust Groce does and believes they can step in and play.
To get Starks, along with the his wanting to come here and the NCAA stuff, somebody has to go. Seems a little wierd thinking that way. Loosing any player who has played significantly and has more than a year of eligabilty left too seems like a stiff price to pay.
To bad Groce can't print scholarships like the Feds do money.


Tate has played against some very good competition. I think he will end up being the starter at point this coming year sooner than later. Like I said yesterday.....I agree with you on Henry. Remember what Groce said several times when he first hired in? He used the words 'the right fit' a lot when talking about players. Count me in, like I said a month or so ago, that we could be better than expected this coming year.


I was under the impression from reading previous posts here that a scholarship is not a four year commitment by the University, but is renewable every year at the discretion of the head coach. Is that not correct??? crk

Pistol Pete

crkcrk2 - Yes, that is correct.

Red in a blue state

How many Illini head coaches have ever used that discretion? Scholarships renewed at the discretion of the coach sounds very old school. The use of that discretion would require some serious diplomacy. I suppose it would be much easier to put into play if you're not the coach who originaly recruited that player to the current program. With all the coaching changes out there no wonder there is so much transfering going on.

Red in a blue state

I really thought Henry when he was being recruited and then commited that he was going to be a star for the Illini. He had some great HS numbers, but by the way things look he's not on track to be one. He is or was the only player out of the group that is leaving (and many are sure he is) that looked like he had a future with the Illini. Some had him projected as a starter. I don't think anybody here has been exactly overwhelmed with his play though.
So for the fun of it I've moved on to my next projected star. Malcolm Hill. He's put up some awesome numbers. Any takers? If only these kids who had super HS careers carry it over into college ball with more regularity for the Illini.


Any takers? If only these kids who had super HS careers carry it over into college ball with more regularity for the Illini.

RinB Good point. We probably out to to keep in mind that Henry would be the 4th player to leave a recruiting class that was ranked 14th in the nation by scout.com in 2011. At the time many of us thought Weber may have turned the corner. crk

Pistol Pete

Red - I think M Hill will get a lot of PT next year, if not be a starter.


It goes back to the old adage: was it the players or the coach? Player development, team chemistry, players liking a coach.....so far seem to favor Groce over Weber. We can speculate on who is going to get playing time but who knows at this point? I think Groces' ideal game plan involves 9-10 guys who get a lot of playing time. It is going to depend on how the freshman adjust. The opportunity is there, will they seize the moment when the time comes?


MDM, i would agree. I supported Weber longer than most, but I think JG siimply has more personality, emotion, energy and enthusiasm. Weber's personality seemed more appropriate for an already established program (UK, KU, NC Duke ect) where the head coach rolls up in the Mercedes Limo to the recruits home and high school and "seals the deal." For example, when Weber used that "five fingers become a mighty fist" analogy prior to the national championship game, I am thinking, can you not do better than that tired cliche? Seems to me that most coaches lose their jobs not because of x's and o's but because of they lack the ability to "tell and sell." Energy, emotion, and enthusiasm are powerful sources of influence. Perhaps the football team needs to look for a coach with the same dynamism. crk

Red in a blue state

The Sparks/Henry speculation continues with no solid answers yet. Henry potentialy leaving makes the Ekey transfer that much more important doesn't it?
I agree with you crk2. Sell and Tell is every bit as important as X's & O's. It's the ole walk the walk - talk the talk thing. If one ain't working so well right now you always have the other to fall back on. When the Illini had their bad spell early on in this B1G season( and we looked BAAAD) Groce still maintained optimism and the we are getting over the hump attitude and they did. Even after graduation of key players and up to four departing transfers we still buy in 100%. Wasn't that Webers problem? He couldn't sell diddly even after reaching one win short of the pinnacle of college basketball.


Wiggins to Kansas


Rather large difference between a 5star recruit and a 4star recruit. crk

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