Updates from Big Ten Basketball Media Day

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Illinois’ Kendrick Nunn (25) is guarded by Michigan’s Aubrey Dawkins (24) during the game at United Center in Chicago, Illinois during the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday, March 12, 2015. The Illini lost 73-55.

Editor’s note: Throughout the day, The Daily Illini basketball staff will have updates from Big Ten Media Day in Chicago.

Illinois basketball guard Kendrick Nunn has an injured left thumb, the Illini basketball program announced Thursday. 

The announcement came just before Illini head coach John Groce was set to take the podium at Big Ten Media Day in Rosemont. 

Nunn was scheduled to attend Media Day with fellow junior Malcolm Hill, but stayed in Champaign Thursday for further evaluation of the injury. Groce said he expects to know more regarding Nunn’s status later in the day Thursday.

Hill said that Nunn suffered the injury to his shooting hand in practice Tuesday, likely when he was going for a steal. He said Nunn didn’t notice the injury at first, finished the practice and reported pain afterward. 

Nunn averaged 11.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore, and is expected to be a major contributor for the Illini this upcoming season. His injury comes less than a week after it was announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a torn meniscus. 

The Illini open the season Nov. 13.

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Hill is from Fairview Heights, Ill., just 15 minutes from Busch Stadium in St. Louis. It’s not surprising that he wasn’t exactly thrilled with Tuesday’s Major League Baseball action.

Hill’s favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals, were eliminated from the playoffs by the division rival Chicago Cubs. Hill said he exchanged barbs with former Illini Nnanna Egwu, who is a die-hard Cubs fan, throughout the playoffs.

Egwu and his Cubs got the last laugh.

When asked if Hill would be pulling for the Cubs now that the Cardinals are done, Hill took a few seconds to think, before deciding that passionate fandom like Egwu’s deserves to be rewarded.

“I want them to win,” he said. “I want to see them get that curse over with.”

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Some of the best players in the Big Ten spent their offseasons studying NBA superstars. 

Michigan’s Caris Levert said he watched game film of fellow shooting guards James Harden, Klay Thompson and Bradley Beal. The 6-foot-7 senior paid special attention to Beal’s game, working hard to emulate his footwork, his skill at getting open off the ball and his ability to read screens.

Maryland’s Jake Layman honed in on Steph Curry’s playmaking tendencies. Layman said Curry is not only a great scorer, but he also possesses the cleverness to come off ball screens and hit the open man – something Layman said he’s looking to accomplish in his senior campaign. 

Layman said he’s also watched a lot of Atlanta Hawks games, because their offense is “very similar” to the Terrapins’.

Layman’s teammate Melo Trimble style of play resembles that of Davidson-era Curry — he shoots at above a 40 percent clip from 3-point land and has similar assist and rebound averages as Curry did in college. Like Layman, Trimble spent the off-season watching tape of the defending NBA MVP. 

He also said he’s been in touch with fellow Maryland natives such as Victor Oladipo and Quinn Cook, who serve as constant sources of advice in basketball and life in general.

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Groce told reporters that, regardless of where potential recruits are from, he’s going after so-called “Illini guys.” Groce defined “Illini guys” as tough players with high motors, good competitiveness, a high basketball IQ and a strong will to win.

Groce pinpointed the team’s three Simeon High School alumni – Kendrick Nunn, Jaylon Tate and DJ Williams – as players who exemplify the “Illini” spirit. Groce went on to say the size and proximity of Chicago, along with the talent pool and quality of high school coaching in the city, make for myriad of ideal recruits.

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