Illinois guard Tracy Abrams seems optimistic about health entering senior season

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The past two seasons have been a tough one for Illinois point guard Tracy Abrams as the Chicago native missed both campaigns with season-ending injuries.

Abrams tore his ACL in September of 2014 during preseason training camp and had to sit out the 2014-15 season before also missing 2015-16 due to a torn Achilles tendon that was suffered in July 2015.

The NCAA gave Abrams a sixth year of eligibility for this season and 6-foot-2 guard is hoping to make the most of it in trying to help Illinois break its NCAA tournament drought. In a story from Mark Tupper of the Bloomington Pantagraph, Abrams is optimistic about his return as he’s hoping to showcase an improved perimeter jumper while also staying healthy.

Abrams has hovered around 27 percent from three-point range for much of his career, but he says that part of his game has greatly improved. With 27 months since his last game, Abrams is also in better shape and stronger than he was before. From Tupper’s story:

Physically, Abrams looks like he’s ready for the Big Ten opener. His musculature is way more defined than when we saw him compete 27 months ago.

His chest and arms are bulging. Even though his weight is down a few pounds to 185, so is his body fat, having dropped from about 10 percent to 7 percent. His overall strength has soared.

And while Abrams refuses to brag on his improved shot, Illini legend Dee Brown does not.

“Tracy doesn’t miss,” Brown said. “And it makes sense.

“When I had that stress fracture and had to sit out, all I could do was shoot. That next season my field goal percentage went up eight points. All Tracy has been allowed to do is shoot and he has become a much better shooter.”

Abrams was pressed on the point, asked if he’s a better free throw shooter. “No question,” he said.

Is he a better 3-point shooter? “No question,” he said.

Better mid-range jump shooter? “No question,” he said before tapping the brakes.

“But talk is cheap,” Abrams said. “Show is better than tell.”

Obviously, Abrams is hoping to stay healthy to be a key factor for Illinois in his final college season but he also has to be a weapon from the perimeter so teams don’t clog the paint with the ball in his hands. Abrams does have some new weapons to work with since he last took the floor as Malcolm Hill has become a go-to player and other key role players like Jalen Coleman-Lands are returning. At 24 years old, Abrams is also much older and wiser than a lot of his competition and he could have a strength advantage over some smaller guards this season.

It’s hard to say if Illinois has enough to make the NCAA tournament this season, but a healthy Abrams could be a huge factor in their overall outlook.