It wasn't the best week for Illinois basketball in offseason recruiting. The Fighting Illini missed out on both Dylan Ennis, the highly-touted Villanova transfer, and Johnny Hill, the UT-Arlington point guard and former Illinois State Redbird, as possible transfer options. Ennis elected to attend Oregon while Hill landed at Purdue, leaving an inescapable void at the point guard position for the Fighting Illini. John Groce and company have been trying to fill that void with a fifth-year senior transfer, but have had no luck so far.
Could Illinois be in trouble at point guard next season?
Depth at the point guard position is certainly something that Illinois is lacking right now heading into the 2015-16 season. Illinois essentially has two guys who can play the position: Tracy Abrams and Jaylon Tate. Both have shown signs of consistency throughout their careers at Illinois, but both have also shown areas of weakness.
Tracy Abrams may be the biggest question mark of all the Big Ten. Coming back from an ACL injury for his senior season, Abrams has left everyone wondering what he's capable of. After averaging 10.7 points per game as a junior, Abrams certainly has the ability to deliver as a solid point guard both scoring and distributing. His 3.5 assists per game don't hurt matters either, but Abrams could be a huge liability for the Illini. Tracy shot just 27% from three point range his junior season, and if he can't utilize his quickness to get to the basket, he could struggle immensely. Defense is also a question. Groce continually praises Abrams as one of the team's best defenders, but it's not crystal clear what a year of sitting out on an injury could do to him.
Then there's Jaylon Tate. The Simeon graduate and long-time teammate of Jabari Parker knows how to pass the ball. During his sophomore season, Tate averaged a 2:1 assist per turnover ratio and led his team by making an outstanding 84% of his free throw attempts. Tate's weaknesses lie in his shooting ability. Despite being such a terrific shooter from the free throw line, Jaylon connected on only 37% oh his field goals and 8% of his three pointers. Without the ability to shoot the ball from the outside, Tate can be easy to play off of and could cause troubles for the Illini.
Illinois would love to add another player in terms of security to its roster. Groce still has one open scholarship to play with, and as of now, he's got his eyes fixed on incoming freshman Marcus Lovett. The freshman out of Morgan Park has picked up a gigantic offering of scholarships from various schools and seems to really like St. Johns. Illinois is right in the mix, but whether or not they'll score a commitment from Lovett still looms.
Regardless of whether Illinois actually has a point guard problem is still up in the air. Tracy Abrams is a huge question for next season. Could we see him step up his game and take this team to the next level, or could we see him slump after his injury? Will Jaylon Tate find his stroke and elevate his game, or will be he eaten alive in the Big Ten? We'll just have to wait and see, but it could mean a lot for whether the Illini can return to the NCAA Tournament.