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2015-16 Big Ten Preview: Illinois Fighting Illini Wings

Examining the wing position for the Illinois Fighting Illini for this coming basketball season

Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

The wing position is perhaps best defined by the combination between a shooting guard and small forward. An ideal wing would be able to play the 3 position in the paint while also possessing the ability to knock down from three-point range and within.

This season, John Groce and the Fighting Illini return two "wings", while also welcoming in a freshman. Here's a closer examination at what to expect from this position during 2015-2016.

Malcolm Hill, Junior

Hill is unquestionably the most indispensable player of Illinois' roster this season. He comes of a breakthrough sophomore campaign that included drastic improvements in points, rebounds and minutes. During a nine-game span while Rayvonte Rice was injured, Hill carried the team on his back, dropping 28 points on Maryland and 27 on Penn State (including the game winner).

With Rice gone to graduation, it is Hill's time to shine. What makes him so dangerous is his versatility. After putting on 20 lbs last offseason, he was able to better control the lane, finishing strong at the basket. This parters will with his ability to shoot the jumpshot. At 38.9% from downtown, its tough to leave him open from range. He has the option to pop it from deep, or pump-fake and drive to the rim. Its this type of skillset that have some thinking he's a second team All-Big Ten candidate.

The one thing that Hill is working on is improving his leadership. While a monster on the court, he will need to step up and be vocal with his teammates. Because Rice and Nnanna Egwu are gone, and Tracy Abrams is out for a second straight season, Hill needs to understand this team will go as far as he is able to push them this season. It should be interesting to see how he develops as a veteran force over the course of the year.

Regardless, Malcolm should average around 16.0 PPG and 6.0 RPG. Who knows what his limit is.

D.J. Williams, Freshman

The latest product of the Simeon to Illinois pipeline joins the Illini this season looking to be an immediate contributor. At 6-7, Williams is a unique player for his ball-handling skills and stature. After Abrams went down for the season yet again, some speculated that Williams may become the point guard for this team. However after the transfer of Khalid Lewis to compliment Jaylon Tate, he will likely resort to backing up Hill.

There is still a lot of unknown around D.J.'s game and what he will bring to this program. He did have a solid foreign trip, with what John Groce called "moments". Williams was known in high school for his versatility and athleticism, with talents similar to Hill. He's developed a solid perimeter game and can also drive the hoop when needed.

Here's a mixtape from his junior season at Simeon. Judge for yourselves,

Cameron Liss, Sophomore

Liss hardly played last season, and will see minimal minutes again this season. The one fact you need to know: he has one career point. Needless to say, he and Mike LaTulip will be leading the bench celebrations at the State Farm Center come December.

Conclusion

Hill and Williams will be key if the Fighting Illini want to be successful this season. While John Groce's offense is highly regarded as guard centric, these two will be important contributors as they try to lead Illinois back to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2013.