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):
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.
will the strengths and weaknesses of
this yearís team to be?
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
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
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?
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?
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
Realistically, what should we expect out of your team this year?
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.