Illinois freshman guard Tracy Abrams knew point guard would be his role in college. "At 6-2, I can't consider myself nothing else but a point guard,'' he said. "I just need to learn the position, learn the fundamentals of being a point guard.''
CHAMPAIGN -- Illinois freshman guard Tracy Abrams knew point guard would be his role in college.
"At 6-2, I can't consider myself nothing else but a point guard,'' he said. "I just need to learn the position, learn the fundamentals of being a point guard.''
The learning curve will get accelerated when Illinois hosts Division II Wayne State (Neb.) in the exhibition opener at Assembly Hall on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., no TV). Senior point guard Sam Maniscalco, who hasn't practiced for several days, won't play while resting his bothersome left ankle, leaving the point guard minutes in the hands of Abrams and junior Brandon Paul.
"We'll hold Sammy from the game,'' Weber said. "He pushed himself. We pushed him pretty hard. We should back it down a bit.''
Weber hoped to have Maniscalco back for practice on Thursday and ready for the second exhibition game against Division II Quincy on Monday.
The bone-on-bone pain reduced the Bradley transfer to coaching Abrams this week. A combo guard in high school, Abrams is a "little bulldog'' who has "made improvement almost every day,'' Weber said.
"The last two to three days, we really noticed it as a staff,'' Weber said. "He's a physical point guard, physical on defense and physical with the ball. The thing he has to learn is angles and spacing -- and you don't have to make a play every time you touch the ball.
"It's different than high school. We need him to make plays, but we also need him to get us into the offense.''
Like the bulk of the roster, Abrams battled through injury during the rugged practice sessions as a roster overloaded with newcomers looked for playing time. Abrams had a tooth knocked loose from an elbow after overcoming hamstring and turf toe injuries.
Guard Joseph Bertrand is questionable for the exhibition after missing two days with a hip pointer. Junior forward Tyler Griffey also took an elbow above the left eye, needing stitches to close a gash on the same spot opened up from a fall last season at Western Michigan. The injury report also included Devin Langford, the Alabama native out a month or more with a broken finger.
The starting lineup and playing time for the exhibition opener will partly depend on players' winning percentage from practice scrimmages, Weber said.
"We've talked a lot about competitive spirit,'' Weber said. "You just can't turn it on for the game. You have to have it every day.''
With coaching from Maniscalco and former Illini point guard Chester Frazier, Abrams posted an 8-2 record in recent scrimmaging after going 0-9, Weber said.
"He's not afraid to get down and dirty in the paint,'' Griffey said. "He's really competitive, wants to win, wants to learn and wants to play. With Sam and Chester here, it's really helped him.''
FOOTBALL: If there's anyone who gets a mulligan from the 10-7 loss at Penn State Saturday, it's Derek Dimke. The senior kicked missed a 42-yarder on the final play of the game, when the kick it the right upright and bounced back onto the field.
Prior to that kick -- with snowballs flying from the Penn State student section -- Dimke made his previous 10 field-goal attempts and was 7 of 7 this season and 36 of 41 in his career.
With an open date Saturday, the Illini took Sunday through Wednesday off before returning the practice field Thursday. The Illini host Michigan on Nov. 12. Gametime and TV will be set following this weekend's Big Ten action.
VOLLEYBALL: The Illini fell two spots to No. 5 after a three-set loss to No. 15 Minnesota Saturday at Huff Hall. It was the sixth loss at home in the last four seasons.
"It reflects our whole week of practice,'' senior outside hitter Michelle Bartsch said afterward. “It was kind of a weird vibe all week, and we aren’t playing together by any means.''
Illinois (21-2, 10-2) is tied for second prior to a match at No. 11 Purdue Wednesday.
IN OTHER NEWS: Seeded seventh, junior Stephen Hoh finished as runner-up in the Big Ten indoor tennis championships Monday with a 6-4, 6-2 loss to Michigan State’s Aaron Pfister. ... The Illini men finished seventh while hosting the Big Ten cross country championships Sunday. The Illini women were 12th after racing on the Arboretum course. ... Illinois seeded No. 2 in the Big Ten women's soccer tournament and open play Friday against No. 7 Ohio State. The championship game is Sunday in Evanston.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSupinie.
Illini vs. Wayne State (Neb.)
Where: Assembly Hall
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
What: First of two exhibition games
Note: The starting lineup will be determined partially with scrimmage records for each player, but a good guess would be Tracy Abrams, Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson at guard with forward Tyler Griffey and center Meyers Leonard. Don't overlook freshman center Nnanna Egwu as a candidate to start. ... Wayne State was picked to finish 11th in the 14 team Northern Sun Conference. Coach Paul Combs is the grandson of the former Purdue team doctor. Guard Amry Shelby earned second-team all-conference last season after averaging 13.9 points per game. ... The game can be seen on BTN.com.