Illinois freshman forward Myke Henry checked into the game Sunday against Chicago State with 8 minutes 6 seconds left in the first half. He scored the first time he touched the ball -- 6 seconds later.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Illinois freshman forward Myke Henry checked into the game Sunday against Chicago State with 8 minutes 6 seconds left in the first half.
He scored the first time he touched the ball -- 6 seconds later.
"I could say it felt good going up,'' said Henry.
There's not a shot Henry doesn't like, and Illini coach Bruce Weber could always use another scorer. When Illinois plays at Maryland in an ACC-Big Ten Challenge game Tuesday, the Illini will rely on experience from D.J. Richardson, Sam Maniscalco and struggling Brandon Paul, but Henry is another element for Weber, who may have learned some juggling while watching the World Series.
"I'm going to be Tony LaRussa for the whole year,'' Weber said, "pulling them in and out, figuring out who should be in, coming with a reliever and closer at different times.''
An emerging option might be Henry at power forward. The 6-foot-6, 225-pounder lost more than 20 pounds after arriving on campus in June but was slowed by wrist and ankle injuries in the first five games.
Totally raw on defense, Henry does have a nose for the ball as a rebounder and could force mismatches with his ability to shoot from the perimeter. Weber said Henry has "old man strength'' and wanted more options at the position with junior Tyler Griffey and freshman Mike Shaw taking the bulk of the minutes thus far.
"He's a kid who has no fear,'' Weber said. "He gets in there. He shoots the ball 6 seconds later. That was his first touch. He calmly sank the basket. We knew he can score. It's an amazing knack. The other thing he does well is rebound.
"You want Tyler and Mike Shaw to play well. If that doesn't happen, Myke has the body.''
In his first action since the season opener, Henry had 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting in the 90-43 blowout of Chicago State on Sunday. Maryland is a different challenge.
Meanwhile, Weber will juggle the number of freshmen on the floor while the Illini face a power conference foe for the first time this season. In Cancun, his bench was surprisingly short.
"It's easy when you have a lead to put them in,'' Weber said. "It's not quite as easy when we're not leading. We've got to watch groups. When we go to Maryland, I can't put five young guys in there. I know they play hard, but you can't do that.
"The one thing they do bring is energy. I've got to use that energy.''
Expected to be a leader offensively and develop into the star perimeter defender because of his amazing athleticism, Paul has been relatively quiet this season. Weber pointed to Paul's drive and practice habits.
"He has lost a little confidence,'' Weber said. "Until he picks it up, we do have people, which is a positive.''
Maryland has a six-game winning streak in Challenge games, but the Terrapins are rebuilding under first-year coach Mark Turgeon. The Terps lost by 20 to Alabama and 26 to Iona in the Puerto Rico Tip-off.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.
Illinois (6-0) vs. Maryland (3-2)
6:30 p.m., Comcast Center, College Park, Md., (ESPN, Illini Sports Network)
ILLINOIS (6-0) ppg rpg
F Tyler Griffey 6-8 Jr. 7.7 5.5
C Meyers Leonard 7-1 So. 12.3 6.8
G Brandon Paul 6-4 Jr. 7.8 2.8
G D.J. Richardson 6-3 Jr. 13.5 2.7
G Sam Maniscalco 6-0 Sr. Fr. 11.5 2.2
MARYLAND (3-2) ppg rpg
F Sean Mosley 6-4 Sr. 11.0 5.6
F James Padgett 6-8 Jr. 8.0 6.0
C Berend Weijs 6-10 Sr. 4.2 2.4
G Nick Faust 6-6 Fr. 6.8 4.2
G Terrell Stoglin 6-1 So. 20.2 3.0
Noteworthy: Illinois defeated Maryland 80-76 in the third-place game last season in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Madison Square Garden, but the Terrapins lead the series 5-3. The Illini lost all three ACC-Big Ten Challenge games against Maryland, including two in College Park. ... Maryland was picked to finish 11th in the ACC preseason poll. ... Coach Mark Turgeon is in his first year at Maryland after leading Texas A&M to the NCAA tournament in each of his four years there and guiding Wichita State to the Sweet 16 in 2006.
Key for Illini: Don't slump to start the second half, like they did during both games in Cancun.
Key for Terps: Get the crowd into it and see if the young Illini can handle it.
Key quote: "He's got to learn every time he touches it, he can't shoot. That kid is going to score points for us.'' -- Illinois coach Bruce Weber, on Myke Henry.
Prediction: Illinois 63, Maryland 60
ACC-Big Ten Challenge pairings
No. 14 Michigan at Virginia, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Northwestern at Georgia Tech, 6:15 p.m., ESPNU
Illinois at Maryland, 6:30 p.m., ESPN
Miami at Purdue, 8 p.m. ESPN2
Clemson at Iowa, 8:15 p.m., ESPNU
No. 3 Duke at No. 2 Ohio State, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Indiana at North Carolina State, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Penn State and Boston College, 6:15 p.m., ESPNU
Florida State at Michigan State, 6:30 p.m., ESPN
Virginia Tech at Minnesota, 8:15 p.m., ESPN2
Wake Forest at Nebraska, 8:15 p.m., ESPNU
No. 9 Wisconsin at No. 5 North Carolina, 8:30 p.m., ESPN