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COLLEGE HEAD COACH: PREVIEW Q&A's

College Preview | Top 144 Previews | More Interviews

By Shawn Siegel

shawn@collegehoops.net

September 3rd, 2006

 

Illinois Basketball: Bruce Weber

 

Bruce WeberBruce Weber does nothing but win.  Over the past five years, three with Illinois and two with Southern Illinois, Weber's teams have averaged a whopping 28 wins per season.  Now that Dee Brown and James Augustine have graduated, there are questions about how the Illini can compete in the talented Big Ten.  History has shown though that Bruce Weber will once again be able to answer all questions.

 

Shawn Siegel (CHN): How hard will it be to deal with the losses of Dee Brown and James Augustine?

 

Bruce Weber (BW):  In replacing Dee Brown and James Augustine, you canít do it with just a couple guys. You canít replace 1-for-1 with each one. They were two of the greatest players in history in terms of wins and stats -- not just Illinois history, but Big Ten history. Itís not going to be easy to do that. The other thing they had, besides numbers, was great work ethic and a winning attitude, that belief that youíre supposed to win. I think those guys always thought they should win, thatís all they knew, and then it becomes a habit mentally.

 

CHN: What will the strengths and weaknesses of this yearís team to be?


BW: I think itís kind of hard to tell at this point, to be honest. We have a lot of experience returning with three starters back as well as a number of guys that came off the bench.  But at the same time, I donít know if weíre experienced in last-second situations, with who will step up and make a big play or a big bucket. We relied on other guys to do that the last two years who have all moved on now, whether it was a Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Luther Head, James Augustine or Roger Powell. That leads into leadership, and I think thatís a big thing with this team, who will be the leaders? Itís something that weíve really worked on and weíre working on this summer, any type of leadership opportunity that they can have weíre trying to give that to them, because that may be the key. Weíve got some athleticism, length and quickness at a number of different positions, so we could be an uptempo team, and we should be a solid defensive team once again. There are some unanswered questions obviously, but at the same time, we feel good about the work ethic and attitude of our group, and if things click we feel like we can end up being pretty good.

 

CHN: Talk about a player on your team that deserves more credit for how hard they work in practice and in the weight room:

 

BW: Rich McBride is a guy that has worked very hard and has made huge strides for us. He lost around 25 pounds last summer, and was able to lose that much weight and then maintain it throughout the season. He stayed working on the treadmill after practice, he put in all that extra time and he deserves credit for that. Shaun Pruitt has also worked very hard behind the scenes. He's made tremendous improvement in terms of flexibility, quickness and footwork. We gave Rich the most improved award at our banquet, but Shaun was right there too. We could have given it to either guy because they made the biggest strides.

 

CHN: Who stands out for their leadership, on and off the court?

 

BW: In terms of leadership, Brian Randle was quietly a good leader last year, and even the year before that too, when he was taking a medical redshirt. Heíd pop up in the huddle and say some really quality things that the guys had to listen to. In terms of being a more vocal leader, Chester Frazier is a natural, talkative guy who works hard and has the respect of his teammates. So he has the ability to be a leader for us too.

 

CHN: What should we expect out of the incoming players. Who will make the biggest impact?

BW:  We add two recruits and two players who sat out last year. Brian Carlwell is an Illinois product, from a high school with a great tradition, Proviso East, Brianís very tall and long. He has a lot of athleticism and length that he can give us and add to our frontcourt. Adjusting to the intensity that you have to have every day, that will determine if he can give us minutes right away. But I think he has all the tools.
 
Richard Semrau is very skilled forward. He has a great feel for the game, is a good passer and a pretty good shooter. For comparisons sake, heís a more athletic Jack Ingram. He can step out on the court and hit that 15 footer, and has the ability to also where he can also go inside. We feel good about him as well.
 
Trent Meacham is an intelligent player that has very good skills. He played as a freshman at Dayton, so heíll have as many minutes as a lot of our guys in key situations against quality opponents. It will be interesting to see where his confidence level is at after sitting out a year. We need Trent to step up. He can play both guard spots. Heís a steady point, but he's also known for his shot, catching the ball and shooting.
 
C.J. Jackson had a rough time with the injuries last year which held back his progress. Now that he's finally healthy we're hoping he can get back on track. He can set a screen, he can rebound, I think he can defend in the post. He needs to stay healthy and keep his weight down and then get a niche on our team."

 

CHN: What coaches really helped you reach the level of success youíre at today? Do you still keep in touch with them?

BW:  Obviously, with all the years that I spent with him, coach Keady has been very instrumental. I learned so many things from him: never be satisfied, donít take yourself too seriously, it can all change overnight. He also taught me a great deal about believing in the kids, getting the most out of each one and helping them develop. He always said 'Donít worry about what they donít have, worry about what they can give you.' I think thatís something Iíve tried to do as a coach and something I'll continue to try and do.


CHN:
Realistically, what should we expect out of your team this year?

 

BW:  Itís going to be an interesting year, because when looking at the Big Ten as a whole, thereís not a lot of experience across the board. Even though we lost two great players, we probably have as much experience as a lot of teams. I hope that becomes a benefit. This summer, more than any other since Iíve been here, their improvement on skills, strength and athleticism is probably more crucial than ever. I hope theyíre taking on that responsibility, because we canít be around them in the summer to help them work on their game, get in the weight room, play extra, come in late and shoot. I tell the kids if everybody improves two percent, we improve as a team 15-20 percent, we can be very competitive. And if weíre competitive within our league, then weíll be in good shape in terms of the NCAA Tournament.

 

CHN: Good luck this season coach.

 

The annual Illinois Basketball Coaches Clinic will be held in Champaign on Oct. 21. To register for that, or for 2007 summer camp dates and information, visit www.fightingillini.com and click on the Camps & Clinics link, or contact the Illinois Summer Camps Office by phone at 217-244-7278 or by email at sumcamps@uiuc.edu

 

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