Legion shines on offense in annual Orange and Blue Scrimmage

Brandon Paul appeared a little uncertain when Jeff Jordan threw the ball up to the hoop for him toward the beginning of the Orange and Blue Scrimmage on Sunday. But after overcoming a little hesitancy and a slight pause from the crowd, Paul tipped the ball into the basket for his first points of the scrimmage.

After passing the hesitancy hurdle in the first period of the four-period scrimmage, the Illini seemed to fire on all cylinders for the remainder of the evening. Mike Tisdale tipped in nearly every pass he received, Demetri McCamey drove to the hoop and Mike Davis hit the boards.

But junior guard Alex Legion was the biggest surprise of the night, as he led the scrimmage with 36 points, including 18 from behind the arc.

“I kind of know my spots now, jumping off curls, going from corners for shots, just being more comfortable with the motion offense,” Legion said. “Last year, I kind of didn’t know when to shoot and I was forced a lot.”

After a disappointing performance in his first year at Illinois last season, Legion finally found his groove Sunday.

“At Illini Madness, us coaches, we were really just rolling our eyes,” head coach Bruce Weber said of Legion. “First he misses a layup, then an airball shot. He hasn’t really shot consistently, but today he got hot, and I told the coaches to get him out at the end. He made his last shot, so to make him feel good about things.”

The players swapped teams throughout the night, as they played four different eight-minute scrimmages. Legion said his unexpected fire on the court was due to a much better environment compared to that of Illini Madness on Oct. 16.

“(We) had a two-hour practice before. I had a headache at Illini Madness. I’m not trying to make excuses, but today we were fresh, got to shoot around, got some food in our systems, came out here and played,” Legion said.

Meanwhile, freshman D.J. Richardson may have shown the most toughness out on the court. Weber said last week he wanted to see bodies on the floor during the scrimmage, and Richardson’s play resulted in just that.

“It just showed us really the things we could do,” Richardson said. “Coach always talks about toughness. That’s something our team has, a lot of toughness. We like to talk a lot of trash to each other.”

Richardson, who put up 22 points, outplayed his freshman teammates and looked like a veteran on a play where he passed the ball behind his back to Tisdale, who then made a layup.

McCamey let him know his place, though, as he swatted the ball into the crowd as soon as it left the freshman’s hands from a shot behind the three-point arc.

“I think the upperclassmen probably had the upper end on it,” Weber said of the scrimmage. “But I think the other night the freshmen probably had the upper end when there was no crowd and we were playing in Ubben with just a handful of people.”

Weber added, though, that is exactly what he wanted.

“The more consistent the older guys are, it’ll make it easier for the younger guys,” Weber said.

“I think one thing we have is a lot of depth. Alex shined today, but the other day D.J. shined. It’s going to be a lot of different people, but we’ve got to have the older guys be consistent. Demetri’s got to be consistent every day. Mike Davis, he didn’t get real involved, but then he got a couple of putbacks and then he got a steal.”

In the second half of the scrimmage, McCamey began to dish out the ball more, including a pass to Richard Semrau for a three-pointer. Semrau made the shot, but he is still adjusting to this year’s team chemistry after missing a few days of practices recently due to his grandmother’s death.

Weber said it might take not only Semrau, but the entire team some time to figure out its identity.

“It might take until Christmas to figure it all out,” Weber said. “I hope it comes sooner, but it might take a little time.”