Illinois won’t have Shaka Smart on the sidelines next season, tapping the rich Chicago hoops talent for the Illini.
So what now? How about a coach who knows that local talent as well as anyone?
This story from CSN Chicago features Simeon High coach Robert Smith stating his case for the Illinois job. After winning five stats titles in seven years, Smith says he understands how to coach talent and would “be interested” in the job.
It’d be a drastic jump – high school to the Big Ten?! – and more than a bold move for Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas. He’d be staking his job on it. The wild-card? Smith coaches Jabari Parker, perhaps the best college basketball prospect, regardless of class.
Here’s Parker’s take on the situation, from CSN Chicago:
“I pay attention pretty much a lot, because that would be a future coach I would be interested in playing for. If they happen to recruit me, then I have to do my research as a player to see where I can fit in their system.”
Parker went on to say that even though the Illini are currently coach-less, he’s still interested in the school because representing his home state is important to him, and if Smith were to get the job, it would be “special.” Steve Taylor, who committed to Marquette in the fall and is regarded as one of the top senior forwards in the country, echoed Parker’s comments and said he thinks Smith would be a good fit.
“[The University of Illinois] doesn’t really get kids from Chicago,” said Taylor. “If Coach Rob was to get that job, he would be able to bring in a lot of talent from Illinois.”
It’s a wild idea, but probably not one Thomas will consider. What AD would?
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.