Thoughts On Djimde To Illinois May 8, 2011
Around the time Alex Legion left the program, opening up a scholarship that could be used immediately, I remember thinking that the 2011 recruiting class would be 4 players.
Now, it’s 7.
Huntington Prep big man Ibrahima Djimde picked Illinois over Old Dominion today, becoming the seventh member of this signing class. One transfer (Sam Maniscalco) and six freshmen (Tracy Abrams, Nnanna Egwu, Micheal Henry, Mike Shaw, Devin Langford, and Ibby Djimde). The first day practice this fall, the new guys will outnumber the returnees. This is not a positive development.
For some reason, it wasn’t until today – specifically, the moment I realized the players may have to wear name tags for the first team meeting – that I fully grasped just how inexperienced we’ll be next year. Here’s our returning points per game:
Wow. Yikes. How did I not realize this before? We have only 6 returning players (4 who only played spot minutes), and here I am going around telling people we’ll likely finish with a record better than last year’s 20-14. For that to happen, this class might need to be the most Big Ten-ready recruiting class since Deron, Dee, and Augie. I like this class – quite a bit, actually – but they have a long way to go to be Deron, Dee, and Augie.
OK, where was I? Yes, Ibby Djimde picks Illinois. I think it says two things:
1) The staff thinks they need help immediately.
There are 80 minutes to be had at the 4 and the 5 next winter. And we just lost Mike Davis (33 mpg), Mike Tisdale (26 mpg), and Jereme Richmond (22 mpg). The next bigs in line, Meyers Leonard and Tyler Griffey, will likely take the largest share of those available minutes. But with foul trouble and such, I doubt they’ll take Davis and Tisdale’s 59 minutes per game. I’ll say more like 48 minutes per game.
So before today’s verbal commitment, that left 32 minutes per game to be divided between Mike Shaw and Nnanna Egwu. My guess as to why Ibby Djimde is joining this program now (instead of rolling the scholarship to 2012 and pursuing a wide variety of bigs that are still available) is because the staff doesn’t think Shaw and Egwu are ready for 32 minutes per game.
In an ideal situation, bigs, like offensive linemen, are brought along slowly. Tyler Griffey had 2 years and Meyers Leonard had one to get their feet wet. Between them, they averaged 14 minutes per game. Next winter, we’ll be looking at our inexperienced bigs to provide twice that. And, if Griffey or Leonard struggle as starters, even more than that.
My point: when Richmond left, we realized we really needed a fifth big for the rotation. With 95% of 2011 recruits signed and sealed at that point, we had to get creative and search for overlooked projects. Ibrahima Djimde is that project. Hope it works.
2) The staff wasn’t as high on Dejuan Marrero as I thought they were.
Of all the players in the very deep class of 2012 recruits in Indiana, Dejuan Marrero seems to be the one most interested in Illinois. I may be alone in this, but from the description of his game (6′-5″ forward who likes to rebound and do the dirty work), I pictured a Roger Powell-like player. And from all of his quotes on various recruiting sites, he seemed very interested in Illinois.
But with today’s commitment from Djimde, it appears that ‘ship has sailed. With (now) 5 forwards on the roster and a large number of wing guards, I’d say there’s a 90% chance our one 2012 scholarship will be used on a point guard. That 2012 scholarship is being used on Sam Maniscalco for one year, and when it comes open again, I think they have to look point guard. Which means no room for Marrero.
I had thought Marrero was a top target – a “we’ll keep a spot open for you” target. But apparently, the need for a big this winter trumped the need to hold a spot for Marerro (or another top 2012 target). I’m surprised.
By the way, did I mention we’re woefully inexperienced next winter? Like, only two players who averaged more than 3 points per game inexperienced? Oh, you already realized that?
For me, it took today’s commitment to realize it.