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?
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.