Beacon sportswriter Rick Armstrong dropped the media guide on my desk today. Seniors Chester Frazier, Calvin Brock and Trent Meacham are on the cover. Yep, it's almost time for another season of Illinois basketball.
Even though the Illini athletic department put the senior class on the media guide, the real key to the season is sophomore point guard Demetri McCamey. Will he have the proper attitude? Will he play with consistency? Will he be the Illini's best player?
If this season is to be successful, 'Yes' needs to be the answer to all three of those questions.
I also saw a recent comment from Frazier, where he said team chemistry was much improved this season because all the "attitude problems" are no longer on the team.
That doesn't speak well of graduated seniors Shaun Pruitt and Brian Randle, or of Jamar Smith, whose legal problems led to his dismissal for the team.
I get the sense that Pruitt, an Aurora native, was too concerned last season with his individual skill development. His sometimes selfish play in the post hurt the team, as did his one-game suspension midseason.
As for Randle, he was always injured and couldn't be counted upon. The kid had sick athleticism, but injuries prevented him from reaching his potential. Neither Pruitt nor Randle are irreplaceable.
Good riddance to Smith, who embarrassed himself, his family, the basketball program and the university as a whole with his off-the-court problems. Hopefully, Smith can get his life turned around, but his issues became intolerable for coach Bruce Weber to handle.
My projected starting lineup for this year:
F: Dominique Keller
C: Mike Tisdale
Other contributors off the bench:
F: Mike Davis
G: Jeff Jordan
C: Richard Semrau
Also, look for Kentucky transfer Alex Legion to make a big impact as a guard once he becomes eligible second semester.
For additional thoughts about this year's team, take a look at what Paul Klee had to say over the weekend.