Illinois starting point guard suffers season-ending knee injury

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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.