Randle, Pruitt to continue playing, consider options

Illinois reacts after Brian Randle (42) was called for his fourth foul during the March 13 game versus Penn State at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. Erica Magda

Brad Vest The Daily Illini

Illinois reacts after Brian Randle (42) was called for his fourth foul during the March 13 game versus Penn State at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. Erica Magda

By Jeff LaBelle

Seniors Brian Randle and Shaun Pruitt have plans to continue playing basketball beyond this season, and both have inquired about their respective options, head coach Bruce Weber said Monday at the season’s final press conference.

Weber said Pruitt has a predraft camp scheduled in Portsmouth, Va., where 48 of the top college seniors participate before heading to Orlando, Fla., in late May for another camp. Pruitt will showcase himself for NBA scouts at both events.

Randle, after sitting down with Weber a few days ago, has less defined options. He recovered from a separated shoulder Feb. 20 against Wisconsin to play against Michigan State and Minnesota less than two weeks later, but never developed into “the kind of player” most people expected.

“I had some talks with Brian over the weekend, and he said he would like to continue to play if possible,” Weber said. “We just kind of talked about different strategies and ways to approach it, so we’ve made some calls about Portsmouth to see if we can sneak him in at the end when other guys cancel, things like that.”

Pruitt currently only has an independent study course between him and graduation, Weber said, and thus will spend a lot of time training in Chicago in the upcoming weeks.

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Randle, however, has other things to worry about and will likely sign with an agent soon.

Chris Hicks, a walk-on reserve senior, is foregoing his senior season to initiate a career in sports medicine. Weber said Hicks is “moving on to bigger and better things.”

The one and only

The lone high school player joining Illinois next season is Stan Simpson, a 6-foot-9, 220 pound forward/center from Simeon High School in Chicago.

Weber said he saw sound improvement from Simpson, who was an integral part of the Class 3A second place team.

“Some people have heard the comments that he’s probably the best big man in the state, and I don’t think people would have said that early in the season,” Weber said.

“(Simeon) plays hard, and I think that’s helped him because he had a tendency to be a little laid back at times.”

How about a do-over?

Bill Cole played in 12 games for 81 minutes this season before a stress fracture and a shoulder injury halted the freshman forward. The team is seeking a medical redshirt, Weber said, that would effectively extend his eligibility one more season.

“I think we’ll pursue that,” Weber said, adding that Cole may have played in one game too many. “I’m hoping that at some point (the NCAA) will have a positive viewpoint on it, and he gets a redshirt because he’s going to be better four years from now.”

The gym rats

Weber said the only players to stay in Champaign to workout over spring break were Brian Randle and Kentucky transfer guard Alex Legion. After transferring in December, Legion was forced to forego the rest of this season’s eligibility and will return in time for the Big Ten portion of Illinois’ schedule next year.

“He has that passion for the game and loves to play, will put that time in and you know, if we keep getting more guys like that … I think we’ll make the progress we need to make.”