Today checking into Chicitysports.com is Former Illini basketball stand out and current ESPN Basketball Analyst, Stephen Bardo.
PH: Duke has seemed to be unstoppable this year, what makes them so dominant?
SB: Before Kyrie Irving’s injury (toe) they were the odds on favorite to repeat but since his injury they aren’t quite as dynamic. Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler are still the best guard/forward combination in the nation. Miles Plumlee gives them an athletic big that can score when called upon. Dawkins and Curry provide scoring depth. But without Kyrie’s creativity and scoring ability they don’t have that player that can take over a game.
PH: Besides Duke which team has impressed you the most this year?
SB: Ohio State and Kansas would have to be the next two in my opinion. Buckeyes super freshman Jared Sullinger has blended in well with the upperclassmen (William Buford, John Diebler, David Lighty, and Dallas Lauderdale) to form a team that has no weaknesses in their starting five. Kansas is the most efficient offensive squad in the land behind Marcus Morris and Tyshawn Taylor. Let’s see how the highly touted, NCAA suspended Josh Selby meshes with the 9-0 Jayhawks.
PH: Which Illini player has impressed you the most so far this year?
SB: There’s no question Demetri McCamey is playing as well as any guard in the nation right now. Fellow ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla calls McCamey the best passing guard in the nation. The light came on for Demetri this past off season with working as a counselor at two Nike skills academies, one of which was Deron Williams’. If he keeps it up could be a mid to first round pick in next summer’s NBA draft.
PH: The Illini have been very good this year, 10-1, what has made them so successful this year?
SB: Besides the play of McCamey their chemistry seems to be very good this year. They pull for one another, they help each other better on the defensive end. They share the ball better on offense. The key player in how far the Illini go this year will be the emergence of Jereme Richmond. He gives the Illini a player they haven’t had since Roger Powell, an athletic forward that can play multiple positions.
PH: The Illini are playing UIC at the United Center this weekend. Do you think it is a good idea to have college teams playing at NBA stadiums?
SB: Why not? If I was coaching I would want guys that have aspirations to play in the NBA. All of the players watch the NBA anyway, why not let them see what it like in the locker rooms, how the energy in the building is, and what its like to play on an NBA floor.
PH: Which 2011 recruit are you most looking forward to watching next year, why?
SB: Tracy Abrams will have to step in next season and run the point position. No player on the current roster is a true point. Brandon Paul is the current back-up but he is not a point and doesn’t think like a point guard. So Tracy will have tremendous pressure from day 1 to produce.
PH: How far can this years Illini team go?
SB: If they stay healthy and get consistent production from their bigs, I could see a possible Sweet 16 run depending on their draw in the tournament. This year’s Illini don’t get to the FT line often enough to put pressure on opposing defenses. If they can improve on this area they could be dangerous in the Big Ten and the NCAA tournament.
PH: Which game are you most looking forward to calling this year?
SB: Hard to pick just one. I’ll tell you I enjoyed the Illinois/Gonzaga game thoroughly for multiple reasons. I’ve covered Gonzaga and the WCC more than any other conference in the last 4 years so I have a deep knowledge of their program and great relationships there. Probably the biggest reason I enjoyed the telecast the most was the fact that was the ONLY game Terry Gannon and I are calling together this season. I think Terry and I are the BEST duo calling college basketball today on any network period!
PH: I understand you have a new book out, what can you tell us about it?
SB: The title is “How To Make The League Without Picking Up The Rock”! Its a teenage success guide and its a collection of topics that I think are important for young people to think about relating to their future. The title is a play on words we used in college. The basketball players refer to the league as the NBA, Howard Griffith and his football teammates would say the “league” when they were talking about the NFL and so on. Trying to show young people, particularly African-American youth, there are many other avenues to success besides sports and entertainment. Go to www.stephenbardo.com for more information.
Once again please check out Mr. Bardo’s website, StephenBardo.com.
We would like to thank Stephen for joining us and hope to talk to you real soon.