Abrams injury deals blow to Illini’s 2014-15 chances

Illinois point guard Tracy Abrams tore his Achilles tendon and will be out for the 2015-2016 season, the school announced Tuesday. Abrams missed last season with a torn ACL. He redshirted last season and was expected to start for the 2015-2016 Illini.

Editor’s note: This column is written as part of a point-counterpoint. The other column, arguing that Abrams’ injury doesn’t devastate Illini can be found here.

Last week was a bad week for the Illinois basketball team.

As has been a recent trend, a top recruit left Illinois on the outside looking in — this time it was five-star point guard Jalen Brunson, who committed to Villanova instead of the Illini.

Shortly thereafter, it was announced that the Illini’s current point guard, Tracy Abrams, will miss the entire 2014-15 season with a torn ACL.

The loss of Abrams will significantly hurt the Illini on the court; of all the players who could have been injured, only losing starting center Nnanna Egwu would have been worse.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Abrams sets the tone for Illinois defensively and is the heart and soul of the team. While he takes too many “I got this!” moments on offense when the shot clock gets low, he is still a capable scorer. He can drive to the hoop and knock down the occasional jumper (although 27 percent from behind the arc could use some work). Abrams had 48 more assists last year than any other player on the team. He was second on the team with 30.1 minutes per game a year ago. Taking away his 10.7 points per game — second-highest on the team a year ago — will hurt the Illini this season, not to mention losing their best perimeter defender.

His potential replacements will be a mix-and-match approach of Jaylon Tate, Aaron Cosby and Ahmad Starks (God help me if walk-on Mike LaTulip is playing meaningful minutes).

While Starks and Cosby are probably more dangerous scorers than Abrams, Tate is a total non-factor on offense, shooting 26.3 percent from the field last season and 21.2 percent in conference games. He was 1-for-23 from behind the arc — which means a lot more clogged lanes for scorers Rayvonte Rice and Kendrick Nunn.

On the defensive end, the point guard position goes from being one of the team’s strengths to a potential weakness. Tate was bullied in Big Ten play last year and needs to bulk up in order to be able to keep up physically. Starks is listed at 5-foot-9, which might be generous, so his potential is limited on the defensive end.

The only silver lining in this situation is that the team actually has Starks on the roster, after his hardship waiver was denied by the NCAA a year ago.

Without Abrams, I think this Illini team drops down a tier in the Big Ten. This year’s squad had a chance to be in the top three of the conference and a mainstay in the top-25 rankings. With Abrams in street clothes, the Illini will still make the tournament as a middle of the pack Big Ten team but will land a lower seed with a much tougher chance to make a run in the dance.

Abrams’ injury was the end to a bad week. But the negative consequences of his injury will extend over the entire season.

Stephen is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @steve_bourbon.