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October 28, 2010

Bruce Weber


THE MODERATOR: The first coach up this morning is Illinois head coach Bruce Weber.
Coach, if you would like to go ahead with an opening statement, then we'll go to questions.
COACH WEBER: There's no doubt we're excited about our team. We have, as he mentioned, quite a few veterans: seven different players that started last year, four seniors.
Kind of unusual in this time and this age of college basketball to have that many seniors and quality seniors led by Demetri McCamey, our point guard. And we also have a group of talented freshmen, including McDonald's All-American player Jereme Richmond from Waukegan, Illinois, and our Mr. Basketball in our state.
So a good mixture of old and young. Also I think just meeting with the coaches last night, very excited about the Big Ten as a whole.
Numerous teams in the top 25. Just I think great depth as a league. And, again, besides our seniors, you've got a lot of seniors throughout the conference which should lead to one of the most competitive conference races in many years.

Q. What are your thoughts on the July evaluation period? There's been some talk about maybe eliminating that or adjusting that. What are your thoughts on what you would like to see done there?
COACH WEBER: Well, I think obviously there's some flaws with the way it is. I'm not sure right now which way to go that we had some discussion as coaches last night.
The shortened period, change it, tweak it, there's some different options. But I know it will be a hot topic over the next year and to see what happens with it.
There's good and bad of it. The good, obviously you get to see a lot of kids at one time. The bad, I think sometimes the kids too much basketball, too much travel, you know, it's hard on the coaches, hard on the players in a tough period.
So it will be interesting. I've been doing it for 30 some years. And I've been out every summer. If it would change, it would sure be a big change for coaches, I know that.

Q. You were talking about your seniors a second ago. I wonder, can you talk a little bit about the recruiting class you were able to put together. Seems like there were a lot of freshmen in this recruiting class across the conference that had a big impact this year. Could you talk a little bit about that too?
COACH WEBER: We have three freshmen and a redshirt freshman, and I mentioned Jereme Richmond had a great year at Waukegan High School, led them to two different Final Fours in our state, Mr. Basketball, U.S.A. Basketball, McDonald's, the whole gamut throughout his career. Wanted to commit to us as an eighth grader. We didn't take the commitment until he was a ninth grader. We've had a close association with him. But he gives us a lot of versatility. Can go inside, can go outside.
Our next young man is one of our former player's brother, Luther Head's brother Crandall Head. Very, very athletic. Almost a clone of Luther. It's just amazing the body movements, the athleticism, the way he plays. He suffered an ACL a year ago, sat out the whole season. So he's kind of recovering from that. But I think he's a little further along than we thought. Gives us great energy.
Then Meyers Leonard, I think, may be the surprise kid out of Robinson, Illinois. Seven foot. Two and a half, three years ago he was 6'5". And just continued to grow. He's got great athleticism. Just trying to figure out how to play and how to be a seven-footer. I think that's the biggest thing. But a big upside for us.
When you mix that with our seniors and a good talented group of sophomores, I think they get forgotten. D.J. Richardson was Freshman of the Year, Brandon Paul played major minutes, Tyler Griffey. And then I mentioned the other sophomore that's a redshirt, who redshirted last year, Joseph Bertrand.
We have good athletes, good mixture of players.

Q. So you were talking about all of the freshmen and have a lot of seniors, too. How are they all meshing together, especially there's no juniors, there's no kind of in-between ages?
COACH WEBER: One thing we talked about since the beginning was make sure the seniors took control of the team in a positive way, but made sure this is what we do here, this is how we do it, make sure the younger guys understand that, from when they arrived last summer, whether it was weight training or going to class to taking care of business off the court.
So I think they've done a great job with that. We've really emphasized to all of them to be good teammates. I think we have good talent. There's no doubt. But are we going to be a good team? And are we going to be good teammates? And it's whether it's the freshmen or seniors, the seniors have to be good teammates, the freshmen have to be good teammates and understand that they have to earn their way into the mix.
But so far it's been good. I actually -- we have a lot of competition in practice. We've had little scuffles in practice, I think just going hard, competing. So that's very positive. And we haven't had that the last couple of years.

Q. You talked a lot last year about leadership, especially with Demetri McCamey and how he was kind of taken to that. How do you see him dealing with that specifically and do you see the senior class being better at the leadership role than they did a year ago?
COACH WEBER: I think when you lose somebody -- we lost Chester Frazier and Trent Meacham, guys that were leaders. You appreciate it. They do it quietly. And this group of seniors is a talented group, from Tisdale to Davis, to Billy Cole to McCamey.
But there's more to it than just having talent. And you have to do the intangibles, the leadership, the competitiveness, the keeping guys, the chemistry part. And Demetri has made huge strides with it since he arrived. I think last year was a learning experience for him, a total different role. And I think all of them as a group, I'm not sure anyone is real vocal, but as a group they've done a good job of this is their team leading the young guys, keeping the -- having a positive attitude as a whole group and a competitive attitude.
So it's been good so far. We'll see -- leadership is always tested when things go bad or you have a tough game or a tough loss. And that will be the key to our success, how we deal with the ups and downs. And that can be said of any team.

Q. As long as you've been around you've seen a lot of good big men. Can you just evaluate what you've seen in JaJuan Johnson's progress during his time at Purdue?
COACH WEBER: I think he's a lot like our guys. He's the type of college athlete that you want that you watch him come in as a skinny young man that has to develop. He put the time in the weight room. He started getting a little bit of confidence, more minutes feeling good about himself, and just has continued to make progress throughout his four years. And in this day and age, so many guys, you know, if you're not one and done or two and done, can you be a player?
And he's a player. There's no doubt. He put his name in last year. I talked to Matt a lot about it. We had a lot of conversation, whether our guys or his. And I think it was a good experience for him because he found out what he needed. And now he had a good summer. U.S.A. Basketball continued to make steps. So he gives them the length, the athleticism, plus he can shoot the basketball.
So it's tough to guard him. You put a real big guy on him, he steps out. You put some of those smaller, he'll post you up.
So just a very good player who has developed over the four years.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

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