Abrams is back and ready to go for the Illini


Daily Illini File Photo

Illinois’ Tracy Abrams (13) attempts a layup during the game against No. 12 Michigan, at State Farm Center, on Tuesday, March 4. The Illini lost 84-53.

By Thomas Polcyn

Two missed seasons and multiple injuries are a thing of the past: Illinois basketball’s Tracy Abrams is back, and he’s ready to ball.

“I’m at a great place right now, and it definitely feels good to be back in this position,” Abrams said. “Just to be out here, back playing this sport again, back competing with my teammates is definitely a blessing.”

Abrams’ story is a well-known one amongst Illini basketball fans. He was on his way to play his senior season, coming off a strong junior campaign, leading the team with an average 10.7 points and 3.2 assists per game.

But Abrams’ season was derailed after an ACL from September workouts sidelined him for the entire 2014-15 campaign.

After 10 months of rehab, Abrams suffered yet another setback.

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This time it was a torn Achilles that took the point guard out of the rotation for the season.

Now an uneasy feeling came along with the rehab. Abrams had to be granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA in order to return to the floor for Illinois.

Luckily for Abrams and the Illini, he was granted that waiver in June and returns healthy for 2016-17 season.

With Abrams finally back, the question is for the Illini is what does he bring?

While playing time is still up in the air, one thing is for sure; head coach John Groce is happy to have Abrams and his experience back on the court.

“I think he sees things a little bit as a coach, because he was sitting there at the same perspective and viewpoint,” Groce said. “I think that has made him more mature, it’s made him a better leader, and ultimately a better player. It’s like having an old man out there.”

For now the starting spot is his to lose, with freshman Te’Jon Lucas the only other true point guard on the roster.

All signs point to it being a point guard by committee behind Abrams this season. Groce noted senior Jaylon Tate had gotten reps at the position along with many of the wing players.

The extent of Abrams’ contributions is not only in his on-the-court talents. Being the eldest member of the Illini, the rest of the roster has looked to Abrams for guidance, especially the youngest member: 18-year old Lucas.

“He’s taken Te’Jon under his wing, and helps a lot of his position group,” Groce said. “He demands a lot of himself, which is why he’s able to demand a lot out of others.”

A couple years of experience seems to have given Abrams a new perspective on basketball, but it won’t be until he gets extended time on the court that we will see if the rust has been shaken off.

Regardless of all the talk and speculation, Abrams says he’s going to show everyone that he’s still got game.

“Talk is cheap,” Abrams said. “I’m stronger, I think I’m faster, and I’m sure I jump higher. I think that will translate to the court, and I’m always confident.”

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