Tracy Abrams is expected to miss his second consecutive season after tearing the Achilles’ tendon in his left foot, Illinois announced on Tuesday.
Abrams, who missed the 2014-15 season after tearing his ACL, suffered the injury on Monday.
“Abrams went through so much the last 10 months fighting back from a torn ACL to return to the court this summer,” head coach John Groce said in a statement. “This is obviously a very difficult time for him right now, but I’ve said it before, Tracy has the heart of a champion and I now that he will handle this latest setback with the same resolve and courage in making a full recovery.”
Abrams averaged 10.7 points for the Illini in 2013-14. He was expected to be the starting point guard for Illinois this season.
Expecting to enter the 2014-15 season with three players who started every game last season (and two others who started 12 games), the Illinois basketball program announced Thursday that it will be without one of those experienced options for the entire campaign.
Senior guard Tracy Abrams, who started all 35 games and averaged 10.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per contest in 2013-14, will miss this upcoming season after tearing the ACL in his right knee. The plan for Abrams, who has yet to undergo surgery, is to have him redshirt this season and return for his final year of eligibility in 2015-16.
Given Abrams’ experience and production, this is a tough personnel loss for the Fighting Illini to absorb less than a month before the start of practice.
“Tracy worked hard in the offseason to put himself in great position heading into his senior year, so he’s obviously disappointed and we are for him as well,” Groce said in the release. “But Tracy personifies toughness; he has the heart of a champion and I know that he will only come back stronger from this experience when he returns to the court next year.
“In the meantime, he will continue to play a vital role for our program with his leadership.”
Without Abrams more will be asked of Oregon State transfer Ahmad Starks, who sat out last season, at the point guard position. In three seasons at Oregon State, the Chicago native averaged 10.2 points and 2.2 assists per game. Starks is the better shooter of the two, but Illinois will lose something with regards to both distribution and defensive ability at the position with Abrams sidelined.
Two other players who have point guard experience at the college level are redshirt junior Aaron Cosby (3.0 apg as a sophomore at Seton Hall) and sophomore guard Jaylon Tate. Tate finished the 2013-14 campaign second on the team in assists (1.9 apg) despite playing just over 12 minutes per contest as a freshman.
Tracy Abrams picked a great day to have a big game for Illinois.
The junior point guard had a game-high 25 points as the No. 9 seed Fighting Illini knocked off No. 8 seed Indiana, 64-54, in Thursday’s opening contest of the Big Ten Tournament.
RELATED: Is your team in the field of 68? Check our latest Bracketology
The 25 points for Abrams, on 8-for-16 shooting, is a season-high for the junior from Chicago and its his first 20-point performance since knocking in 22 points in a December 21st win over Missouri in the Braggin’ Rights game.
Junior guard Rayvonte Rice also added 13 points for the Illini while freshman guard Kendrick Nunn added 10. The Illinois defense also did a great job of forcing Indiana into 16 turnovers as the Fighting Illini defense continues to play very well down the stretch.
(MORE: Browse through all of our conference tournament previews)
John Groce’s ballclub won four of its final five games in the regular season and they’re a dangerous team in the Big Ten Tournament because of their ability to defend.
Indiana (17-15) has now lost three straight games and struggled to find consistent offense as sophomore guard Yogi Ferrell finished with a team-high 14 points on 3-for-12 shooting. Senior forward Will Sheehey (13 points) and freshman wing Troy Williams (11 points) also finished in double-figures for Indiana, but freshman forward Noah Vonleh struggled to find his rhythm on offense, going 3-for-9 from the field for nine points.
Illinois advances to face No. 1 seed Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals on Friday at 12:00 p.m.