By Alex Wallner


During Sunday’s post-game presser, Jalen Coleman-Lands donned an orange
Illinois vest over a white long-sleeve shirt, a look reminiscent of the Marty
McFly character in Back to the Future.

It was only fitting. In a 6-for-10, 20-point performance in just 23 minutes
of playing time against Illinois-Springfield, Coleman-Lands displayed the
confidence and swagger of a young Michael J. Fox.

After the 104-69 exhibition win, the freshman guard — flanked by head coach
John Groce and center Mike Thorne — fielded questions with the same

“Personally, I feel like every shot that I shoot is going in,” Coleman-Lands

Before the Indianapolis native had a chance to finish his thought, Groce
chimed in.
“So do me and Mike,” Groce said.

Translation: Coleman-Lands has the green light, even as a freshman coming
off a major injury.

Groce said the La Lumiere product played “as good or better” than what he
expected. Prior to Sunday, Coleman-Lands had only practiced twice with the
team. He sat out three and a half months due to a stress fracture in his lower
left leg, which meant having to miss European practices and games and the
entire fall training camp.

Coleman-Lands acknowledged his conditioning is not yet up to speed.

“A little bit of (conditioning issues), I’m not even gonna lie,” he said.
“I’m still getting my feet underneath me.”

Groce mentioned failing to block out and running into screens as areas for
JCL to clean up.

“He can see those things in drills, but they’re harder to execute at real
time speed,” Groce said. “He’ll be the first to tell you he’s still got a long
way to go.”

Coleman-Lands won’t be the only newcomer to provide instant offense for the
Illini. Thorne’s inside presence will play a vital role in Illinois’
ability to get open outside shots. The 6-foot-11, 270-pounder possesses the
low-post skills to warrant multiple defenders.

“When I get doubled, I find open guys on the wings,” Thorne said. “We draw
up things for me to get the ball out of the post, so I won’t turn it over and
(we can) make the right play.”

Illinois will feature multiple perimeter options. Freshman Aaron Jordan
and graduate transfer Khalid Lewis shot a respective 2-for-5 and 3-for-3
from beyond the arc against UIS on Sunday.

Like JCL, Jordan doesn’t see many shots he doesn’t like. The Plainfield
native put up the third-most shots Sunday with eight attempts (Coleman-Lands
and Thorne each attempted 10), sinking five of them.

Coleman-Lands is the better shooter, but Jordan provides versatility. The
latter is better at slashing and getting creative on the drive.

As for Lewis, his three-point percentage increased from 20 percent to 32
percent from year one to year two at LaSalle. He gets good lift on his jumper,
and his shot was wet against UIS – though, keep in mind, an exhibition versus a
Division II school isn’t all that telling.

Even Jaylon Tate, who enters his junior year an abysmal 2-for-35 (.057
percent) from,