The Illinois Fighting Illini finished eighth in the Big Ten last season (19-14 overall, 9-9 Big Ten). It's a school that's experienced great success basketball-wise and hopes to continue that tradition under coach John Groce. Jalen Coleman-Lands, Illinois's top recruit in 2015, will add punch on an already loaded perimeter.
Coleman-Lands (La Lumiere School - Indianapolis, IN) is a 4-star recruit, according to ESPN. He is a 6'4", 185 pound combo guard who can really shoot. In fact, some say he may actually be the best shooter in his recruiting class. Coleman had scholarship offers from a number of schools, including Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina State, Notre Dame and UNLV. And while at various times during his recruitment, the order of that list changed, he ultimately ended up in Champaign.
With seniors Rayvonte Rice and Ahmad Starks gone, Tracy Abrams injured and a pair of offensively challenged point guards rounding out the backcourt, Coleman-Lands could see the floor relatively soon. He brings talent , athleticism and a great outside jumper and his shooting could be huge for an Illini team that has struggled to score. Of course it doesn't help that the freshman has had to deal with a stress fracture this off-season, but if everything goes according to plan he should be healthy in time for the season. Considering all of the turmoil surrounding the program, Illini fans are certainly hoping he'll be ready to go by then.
Coleman-Lands looks comfortable handling the ball and running offense. It's not clear if that'll be his role immediately, but he offers the flexibility to act as a playmaker for the Illini. He projects as a shooting guard, who could take over playmaking duties in crunch time. He's extra dangerous with the ball in his hands because he can shoot off the bounce. In pick and rolls, defenders will need to show aggressively and work over the top of screens. If not, he'll pull up and hit outside jumpers.
The mechanics of his jump shot are perfect. Coleman-Lands does a great job of gathering, setting his feet and elevating into the shot, even if he's on the move or has to make a difficult catch. Nothing looks rushed when he's taking an outside shot.
Areas for Improvement
Defensively, it's a bit unclear how he may project. Of course, he has the athleticism and size to guard multiple perimeter positions. That versatility is a plus, but he'll obviously guard more skilled and athletic wings in college. Coleman-Lands has the size and athleticism; it'll just be a matter of effort.
As long as he can defend and play smartly, Coleman-Lands will serve in some capacity. As the season wears on, he could definitely blossom into one of the Illini's primary playmakers.