We're talking about practice. Specifically, an open scrimmage that is even less structured than practice. During this event, players routinely switched teams so that the coaching staff could get a look at different lineups even. While some of these early results are interesting, and even telling, they should be taken with a few grains of salt. Not an entire mine full, mind you, but probably enough to ruin a slice of pizza, for reference.
And while yesterday's scrimmage wasn't as telling as the exhibitions will be - those at least have some aspect of real competitive intensity - some of the things that came out of that scrimmage give us a pretty clear idea of what Groce's players have been working on over the summer. Nnanna Egwu hasn't given up on that three-pointer, though he shot under 22% from behind the arc on the year. Malcolm Hill appears to have put in some hard work on his shot. Hill was aggressive in the latter periods, scoring all 18 of his points in the final two quarters of Sunday's scrimmage. Rice followed Hill on the scorers sheet with 17 points and Egwu was the Illini's 3rd leading scorer with 16. Most interestingly, Hill was 2 of 2 from the arc, Rice was 3 of 6 from three, and Egwu was 2 of 4 from range. Now, it was only a scrimmage and the bright lights weren't truly on but if this is at all indicative of the sort of improved shooting Illinois can expect from their stars then Groce will be sweating his NCAA tournament seeding in March rather than waiting to see if his club has earned a bid.
And did I mention Kendrick Nunn, Illinois' best shooter during conference play last season, didn't even participate?
The biggest takeaway here is that Illinois could be much better shooting the ball this year, and that's a scary thought for other programs in the Big Ten because Illinois' drivers were already tough to keep out of the lane.
Below, check out some highlights from yesterday's scrimmage to see a bit more on Illinois' new players and exactly how Hill, Rice, and Egwu ended up north of 15 points each.