Grading the play of the Fighting Illini centers this season was actually much harder then you would expect.
The national hype surrounding starting 7'1" center Meyers Leonard has been deafening at times, but for those who have been consistently watching the sophomore's game, he has left a lot to be desired.
He has vastly improved from the uber-talented yet emotionally fragile freshman that he was last year (averaged 8.2 minutes, 2.1 points, and 1.2 rebounds in 2010-11). Much of that improvement can be attributed to his play this past summer in the USA Under-19 National Team under the coaching of Duke's Coach K.
Where grading this man became difficult was when I started to dissect the intangible aspects of Leonard's game.
When Leonard is being double or triple-teamed, he will get overly frustrated and often makes careless turnovers in an attempt to score.
He will turn, square his feed and face his defender head-on when he should be using his superior size to simply shoot over said opponent.
Also, Leonard can consistently be found on the top of the key setting screens for his fellow Illini instead of being in the paint where he should be. And this has managed to frustrate Illini Nation to no end.
In light of these frustrating aspects of Leonard's game, he has still managed to post quality stats, averaging 29.7 minutes, 13 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, while also posting 38 blocks this season.
And don't forget that Leonard has stepped up and played impressively (on both offense and defense) this season against his two greatest NBA caliber match ups, Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and Gonzaga's Robert Sacre.
It also must be noted that freshman centers Nnanna Egwu and Ibby Dijmde have been working to improve. Their hustle has been impressive for any big man, and while both are extremely raw, there are still talented enough to win minutes in order to give Leonard a much needed breather.
Final Grade: B