The University of Illinois basketball team have just begun preseason skill workouts and it’s already been a costly start to the season for John Groce’s bunch. On Thursday, the athletic department announced that senior point guard Tracy Abrams will miss the 204-15 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Luckily, in the face of this bad news there is some good news in the fact that Abrams will be able to redshirt and return to the team for next season.
“Tracy worked hard in the offseason to put himself in great position heading into his senior year, so he’s obviously disappointed and we are for him as well,” coach Groce said. “But Tracy personifies toughness; he has the heart of a champion and I know that he will only come back stronger from this experience when he returns to the court next year. In the meantime, he will continue to play a vital role for our program with his leadership.”
Last season, Abrams led the team in assists with 3.2 assists per game and was second on the team with 10.6 points per game. That team finished 20-15 and 7-11 in Big Ten play, missing out on a return trip to the NCAA tournament because of that losing record in conference play.
This season, Abrams was expected to lead an improving Illini squad along with fellow seniors Nnanna Egwu and Rayvonte Rice.
Losing Abrams means losing two of the three players from the Illini’s dynamic backcourt last season. Also gone is Joseph Bertrand, whose eligibility expired after last season.
It leaves a big hole to fill, as sophomore Jaylon Tate takes over as the leader in assists among returning players. He had 64 assists in 33 games, but never made a start last season. Additionally, Tate averaged just 12.2 minutes per game.
With Bertrand out of the mix, it was possible Tate would be given more playing time as it was, but he will be thrown in to the fire quickly now thanks to this injury.