University of Illinois coach John Groce reacts against the University of Miami during their third round NCAA basketball game in Austin, Texas

Three players, including forward Mike Shaw, to transfer from Illinois

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While Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson are the most noteworthy seniors to be leaving the Illinois program, John Groce has some work to do in the recruiting trail when it comes to the Fighting Illini front court.

Tyler Griffey and Sam McLaurin were also seniors, and Illinois’ five-member 2013 recruiting class includes forward Austin Colbert and center Maverick Morgan.

Those two will have the opportunity to earn playing time the moment they arrive on campus, and the decision of three players to transfer makes the adjustment process for both Colbert and Morgan even more important.

Forwards Ibby Djime (6-8, 245) and Mike Shaw (6-8, 215), as well as 6-7 wing Devin Langford, have all decided to leave the Illinois program. Of the three Shaw, a Chicago native, was the player held in highest regard when he arrived on campus (considered to be a Top 100 recruit in many circles) but none of them were able to earn a spot in the rotation.

“Mike, Ibby and Devin are outstanding young men who have always represented the University of Illinois in a first-class manner,” Groce said in a statement released by the school.

“We will help them in any we can during this process to find the best fit, so that they are able to achieve their goals on the basketball court and in the classroom.”

Langford saw the most playing time of the three this season, playing in 22 games and averaging 4.3 minutes per contest. In an interview with Scott Powers of ESPN Chicago, Shaw noted the lack of playing time as the biggest factor in his decision to transfer.

“At the end of the day, I’m trying to play,” Shaw said in the story. “I came to college to get an education and play basketball. It wasn’t looking too good here to play and get as much playing time as I thought I would.”

The decision of these three to transfer leaves Illinois with just one returnee inside: rising sophomore center Nnanna Egwu. It will be interesting to see if Groce and his staff look to add another big man to the program during the spring signing period, but given their lack of numbers in the paint that may be a necessity.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

[RELATED: Can WSU still make tourney?]

“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.