Nunn expected to play Friday night for Illinois basketball


Illinois’ Kendrick Nunn will return to the lineup this Friday when the Illini tip off the season against Georgia Southern. The sophomore guard missed the team’s lone exhibition game last Friday.

By Sean Neumann

Kendrick Nunn is expected to play this weekend for the Illini.

Head coach John Groce said the sophomore guard will be back for Illinois’ season opener against Georgia Southern on Friday night.

“Doctors have done a phenomenal job,” Groce said after Illinois’ 91-62 exhibition win over Quincy this weekend. “They’ve done a good job with keeping his conditioning up, which is hard to do. He obviously still has to get game-type conditioning, but we anticipate him being full-go next week.”

Nunn averaged 6.2 points per game in 35 games as a freshman for the Illini.

Groce said adding the 2013-14 Big Ten All-Freshman selection to the mix will make the offense even more balanced. The Illini put up 91 points with four players scoring double digits in their exhibition game against Quincy.

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Leron Black is for real

Illinois’ depth is already looking strong, even in the absence of Nunn and senior Tracy Abrams, who is out for the year with a torn ACL.

Freshman forward Leron Black made his Illini debut Friday night, and scored 15 points with eight rebounds and a blocked shot against Quincy.

Black received a standing ovation from the crowd at State Farm Center, impressing both Illini fans and teammates.

“He’s fun to watch,” senior center Nnanna Egwu said. “He still has a lot to learn, so it’s kind of scary to see when he finally really learns all that’s going on how great he’s going to be.”

Black’s block came in transition and on the heels of an Egwu block just moments before, igniting the Champaign crowd.

“It feels good that the fans already love me,” Black said. “I feel like they’re going to continue to start to like me, the more they see me play.”

Defense needs early tuning

Black’s defensive presence will be needed alongside Egwu.

Illinois had trouble defensively against Quincy in the teams’ exhibition game Friday, allowing 61 points to the Division II school.

“It’s kind of frustrating giving up 40 points in the second half,” Egwu said. “That’s not what we do.”

Despite Black and Egwu grabbing a combined 21 rebounds for Illinois, the team only out-rebounded Quincy by one (38-37).

Groce also wasn’t happy with his team’s defensive performance.

“I don’t think we defended very well,” Groce said. “We didn’t go to the basketball very well, we got in rotations too much, they got us on the glass.”

But now, heading into the team’s regular season opener Friday against Georgia Southern, Groce knows what needs fixing this week in practice.

“Offensively, we’re going to be fine,” Groce said. “But we’ve got to be better defensively.”

Sean can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @neumannthehuman.