After bad day Saturday, Illinois basketball looks better behind Leonard, Maniscalco and Bertrand.
The next generation of Illinois basketball must prefer game day to practice.
Illini coach Bruce Weber admitted Saturday's practice during the annual coaching clinic was so bad, he stopped the session more than once. At times in the first nine days, the Illini have been loose with the ball, and a team that saw four key seniors move on from a season ago is still in the midst of piecing it together.
"We have a lot of interchangeable parts,'' Weber said. "A lot of guys can do a lot of different things. As as staff, we have to figure out how to blend them together. That's our biggest challenge.''
During the orange and blue scrimmage Sunday before a crowd estimated at 3,500 at Assembly Hall, sophomore center Meyers Leonard, sophomore guard Joe Bertrand and transfer Sam Maniscalco stepped forward during the series of four 8-minute quarters when rosters changed prior to each period.
Leonard ran and floor and produced, finishing with 18 points on 9-for-10 shooting and seven rebounds. Maniscalco, who limped periodically while playing with an uncooperative left ankle that underwent two surgeries, had 17 points. While projected starters Tyler Griffey (17 points) and Brandon Paul (15) scored more, sophomore guard Joe Bertrand served as the eye opener.
The athletic wing guard had 13 points and led the day with nine rebounds, displaying improved skills to go with his exceptional athletic ability. A redshirt as an incoming freshman because of a knee injury, Bertrand is a third-year player still trying to make an impact.
"Coach told me to get to the rim, get rebounds,'' Bertrand said. "I'm long and athletic. I can help the team with rebounds.''
Leonard made a better showing, he said, than the alumni game in August and the scrimmage earlier in the week.
"Today, I did some things and showed some things,'' he said. "I played pretty well, had energy, got up and down the court.''
Maniscalco remained a little behind with his conditioning, but he's the experienced point guard the Illini desperately need. There's little coincidence he was on the winning team in the first three quarters. He missed a jumper at the end of the fourth quarter that would have left him undefeated. Leonard was 4-0 on the day.
The Illini finished with 18 assists and 17 turnovers. That's improved, Weber said, but still a long way from efficient.
"It's been our biggest troublesome thing,'' Weber said. "Taking care of the ball and trying to make the home-run pass.''
Fans likely left the Hall encouraged. Nine practices into the season, Weber remained optimistic the young roster will grasp his concept.
"The whole thing is the vision to play hard, push the basketball, be patient, get to the paint and use our depth,'' Weber said. "The key will be can we implement that, can they grab the vision and go with it. At this point, you feel pretty good.''
NOTE: There was no overall final score. . . Assistant coaches Jerrance Howard, Chester Frazier and Sean Harrington combined to beat Tyler Griffey, Myke Henry, Maniscalco and Bertrand.John Supinie can be reached ate Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnSupinie. Orange and blue scrimmage Assembly Hall Combined stats for two teams Maniscalco 6-10 5-9 0-0 17, Richardson 3-8 2-4 3-3 11, Head 1-7 0-3 0-0 2, Shaw 1-4 0-2 0-0 2, Egwu 3-5 0-0 0-0 6, Bertrand 5-6 1-1 2-4 13, Paul 3-6 3-4 6-8 15, Leonard 9-10 0-0 0-0 18, Abrams 2-7 2-4 4-5 10, Henry 4-10 1-4 4-5 13, Griffey 5-10 2-5 5-6 17, Langford 2-3 0-0 0-0 4, Djimde 0-0 0-0 0-0 0, Selus 0-1 0-0 0-0 0. Leaders: Rebounds -- Bertrand 9. Assists -- Paul 7.