Illinois Men's Basketball: News and Notes From Offseason

Jonah PulsCorrespondent IApril 2, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 12:  Head coach Bruce Weber of the Illinois Fighting Illini reacts to a play during their game against the Wisconsin Badgers in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 12, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Though the season just ended last week, many positive things have transpired through the course of the off-season. These are things Illinois fans have been longing for.

First-News has broke out that three of Illinois' top recruits coming in within the next two years-Jereme Richmond, Meyers Leonard, and Tracy Abrams-have been invited to try-out for the 18u USA Basketball Team.

This comes as no surprise to many, because we have seen the extraordinary things these three athletes can do.

To start off, Meyers Leonard had the season of his life this year. He may have single-handily lead his team to a victory in the 2A State Championship game.

He was a major force down low. He rebounded, blocked shots, and hit shots when it was needed most. He was simply unstoppable throughout the whole season, and the Illini faithful are hoping he will continue this astounding play throughout his career at Illinois.

As for Richmond, I will not be surprised if he makes the team. He has the potential to be one of the best players Illinois has seen since the 2005 team.

He is just coming off a third place finish at state. In the game were his team claimed third place, he recorded 36 points and 16 points.

He also had some other major accomplishments this year. He was a member of the East team in the McDonald's All-American Game, and he was named Mr. Basketball in Illinois.

Tracy Abrams was also invited to try-out. He is a junior, so he will not be a part of the Illini next year. But, he's proving that he is exactly what Illinois wants.

I have seen several highlights of him, and had the luxury of seeing him play on television as well. He reminds me of Dee Brown; extremely quick and athletic.

These three players are building steps in turning Illinois into a national 'powerhouse'.

Second-Bruce Weber told Tyler Griffey that his goal next year is to beat out Mike Davis for a starting position.

This is supposed to be motivational fuel, that way these two will hopefully work their 'tails' off.

In my opinion, this is fantastic news for both the team and these two players. They are both extremely talented player, so I am comfortable with either player he chooses.

First, it means that both will be working very hard during the off-season, so hopefully they will become better.

Second, it gives Tyler Griffey the chance to shine. He may have been the most underrated player on Illinois this year. Giving him the chance to compete for the starting job will be great for him in two ways: His skills and his mental state-of-mind.

Third-Bruce Weber had talked to the media recently about the past season. It was very interesting to see what his thoughts were.

He stated, "It's going to start with a lot of competition through spring, motivated workouts throughout the summer. In all of that, mental and physical toughness will be emphasized."

This is great news. He is finally taking steps to keep the players motivated and working hard. Those are two things Illinois lacked immensely this year. So working on those limiting factors will help this team head in the right direction.

He also emphasized getting in the weight room. He wants his players to get tough, or they will not be able to compete with that best.

All of these steps are a part of his new Get Tough policy. He realizes that he was too soft on his players this year, and they paid for it with a disappointing year.

This philosophy will be great for the Illinois team, who's expected to have a fantastic season next year. It teaches them mental and physical toughness.

It's great to see Weber doing everything possible to help this team succeed. It shows that he cares for this program and fan base, and will do everything in his power to get fans excited for the basketball season next year.

I will continue to update you if anything major happens in the off-season. In the meantime, I wish Bruce Weber and his squad the best of luck in the off-season.

Go Illini!