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Return to the 2006-07 Top 144 Preview

October 15th, 2006

By Joel Welser

Broadcast Basketball


Illinois Fighting Illini


Overall Rank: #28

Conference Rank: #4 Big Ten


2005-06: 26-7, 11-5, 2nd (t)

2005-06 postseason: NCAA


Illinois and Coach Bruce Weber have a little reloading to do.  Long gone are the days of Deron Williams and Dee Brown and the Final Four.  Yet, there are enough weapons on this team to continue the success Illini fans have become accustomed to seeing at Assembly Hall.


Who’s Out: The loss of Brown and James Augustine, the team’s top two scorers last year, means a couple new scorers have to emerge.  Brown averaged 14.2 points and 5.8 assists during his senior campaign, while Augustine averaged 13.6 points and 9.1 rebounds.


Who’s In: Illinois brings in a solid group of newcomers, which they will need to provide depth all over the floor.  Trent Meacham averaged 6.4 points and 2.7 assists two years ago at Dayton before transferring to the Illini.  The 6-2 guard is a solid long range shooter and will battle for the starting point guard spot.  Up front the big name is Brian Carlwell.  The 6-11 center is a decent scorer in the post and a big time defensive presence on the other side of the floor.  He’ll have some growing pains early, but big things are expected from the Maywood, Illinois product.  Power forwards Richard Semrau and C.J. Jackson will battle for minutes under the basket.  Semrau already has a nice scoring touch and can run the floor quite well for a 6-9, 230 pounder.  Jackson, who was a medical redshirt last season, has the strength to battle with just about anybody in the Big Ten.


Who to Watch: There definitely isn’t a lack of shooting in this Illinois backcourt.  Rich McBride, who is suspended indefinitely after being charged with a DUI, and Jamar Smith took around 75% of their total shots from behind the arc.  That’s alright when the duo combined to make 149 three’s and Brown is in the backcourt to provide a threat to get to the basket.  Without Brown, the pressure will fall on Chester Frazier to run the show and add another dynamic to the backcourt.  Frazier, who averaged 1.3 points and 1.9 assists in limited minutes as a freshman, showed promise when given the opportunity.  He only turned the ball over 21 times, while dishing out 50 assists.  Not spectacular numbers, but with a year in the system, the assist to turnover ratio could get even better.  If Coach Weber opts to go small and start that trio, the depth on the perimeter will have to be handled by Meacham and returnee Calvin Brock, who only averaged 6.4 minutes in 17 contests last year.


Final Projection: Brian Randle is the top returning rebounder with 5.4 per contest.  Randle is expected to take over the load left by Augustine in the scoring and rebounding department.  He’s a superb athlete who just needs to become a leader and stay out of foul trouble.  Warren Carter and Marcus Arnold will battle for minutes at the four.  Carter, a 6-9 senior, has continually showed promise, but has lacked consistency throughout his time in Champaign.  Marcus Arnold averaged 3.5 points and 2.4 rebounds his first year at Illinois after transferring from Illinois State.  Shaun Pruitt took major strides last year in becoming a major force under the basket in the Big Ten.  The 6-10 center averaged 6.2 points and 5.1 rebounds as a sophomore and should see a nice increase in production now that Augustine is gone.  Illinois has enough talent and athleticism to be in the top 25 all year long.  The questions arise around the issue of leadership and if some of the young guys can answer the call, the Illini will be in the NCAAs for the eighth straight season.


Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA


Projected Starting Five:

Chester Frazier, Sophomore, Guard, 1.3 points per game

Rich McBride, Senior, Guard, 10.0 points per game

Brian Randle, Junior, Forward, 8.5 points per game

Warren Carter, Senior, Forward, 4.8 points per game

Shaun Pruitt, Junior, Center, 6.2 points per game


Also: Interview w/ Illinois Head Coach Bruce Weber

Also: Big 10 Preview & Ranking

29 Hofstra » Complete List » 27 Marquette

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