With senior point guard Tracy Abrams out for the entire 2014-15 season after suffering a torn ACL, what the remainder of the Illinois backcourt does will have a major impact on the Fighting Illini’s fortunes. Leading scorer Rayvonte Rice returns after averaging 15.9 points and 6.0 rebounds per game last season, and he’ll once again be the team’s primary scoring option. But he’s going to need help on the perimeter, and while transfers Ahmad Starks and Aaron Cosby provide additional Division I experience, Illinois’ three sophomore guards will be important as well.
Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate were all part of the Illinois rotation last season, with Hill and Nunn moving into the starting lineup during Big Ten play. Of those three Nunn was the most effective offensively, as he accounted for 6.2 points in 19.5 minutes of action per game. Sunday afternoon the team held an intrasquad scrimmage, and it was Hill who was their most productive scorer.
Hill scored 18 points, with all of those points coming in the final two quarters of the scrimmage, and teams he played on (they switched things up after each period) won two of the three periods. Hill averaged just 4.4 points per game as a freshman, but it should be noted that four of his five double-digit scoring performances came in Big Ten play.
Hill shot 6-for-9 from the field Sunday, and his improvement as a shooter (38.3% FG, 34.1% 3PT as a freshman) is something that has to occur if the Fighting Illini are to improve as a team.
Also reaching double figures during the scrimmage were Rice (17 points) and senior forward/center Nnanna Egwu (16 points). Rice capped the scrimmage with a three-pointer in the final seconds, which can be seen in the video above. What can also be seen in that video is Egwu knocking showing off some range from beyond the arc in pick-and-pop situations. Whether or not that’s a sign of things to come remains to be seen, as Egwu was just 5-for-23 from distance in 2013-14.
Egwu averaged 6.9 points and 6.0 rebounds per game as a junior, and given Illinois’ lack of experience inside (three of their six front court players are freshmen) he has to lead the way. Nunn did not participate in the scrimmage as he has yet to be cleared for full-on scrimmaging after undergoing a procedure on his left knee this summer.