Monday, November 09, 2009

Fresh Faces

Bruce Weber's freshman class has generated their share of buzz as the Illini prepare to tip off their 2009-2010 season. Already, Coach Weber has said that he's seeing leadership from his freshman. So let's get to know them a bit.

This backcourt could be a memorable Illini backcourt, and easy as 1, 2, 3...

1 - D.J. Richardson - Peoria, Ill. Dietrich James Richardson is proof that the Peoria Connection is alive and well. D.J. is proud of his Peoria roots, and he says his favorite Illini growing up were Dee, Deron and Luther, and he's looking to follow in their footsteps. He says he's excited to improve his defense, but he put on a bit of a show in the final exhibition game against Quincy, scoring 23 points. He went 5 for 8 from 3-point range, as well. His team mentality, work ethic, conditioning and talent are all signs that we could see special things from this new Illini.

2 - Joseph Bertrand - Sterling, Ill. Joe Bertrand is one example of the influence D.J. has on others. D.J. helped persuade this 6'5" guard to join him in Champaign. Bertrand is the all-time leading scorer at his small-town high school, and became a familiar name on the local high school sports highlight show. He also joins the list of "freakish" Illini athletes. However, he had surgery on his knee in September, and still has the option to redshirt. That decision should be made this week, and although Bertrand wouldn't choose to redshirt, he will need to consider the condition of his knee. But he's got plenty of potential...

3 - Brandon Paul - Gurnee, Ill. The 2009 Illinois Mr. Basketball, Brandon Paul is the first Mr. Basketball to choose Illinois since some kid named Dee Brown in 2002 (remember him?). Paul also caught the attention of former Illini Deron Williams, who likes Paul's potential. Oh, and Paul can get to the free throw line -- one area that this team of talented jump shooters needs to work on. He scored 13 points in the Missouri-Southern exhibition game, and 11 points against Quincy. Another player to watch over the next few years.

And although the backcourt is getting plenty of attention, let's not forget the addition up front.

42 - Tyler Griffey - Wildwood, Mo. Tyler Griffey is the all-time leading scorer and rebounder at his St. Louis-area high school, which lists former Illini Robert Archibald among its alumni. Griffey could log some minutes as a backup for Mike Tisdale this year, unless he opts to redshirt. However, he could earn a spot in Coach Weber's rotation, as could every member of this class. Tisdale describes Griffey's game as European in style.

These boys should be fun to watch over the next couple months and years. Go Illini!

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