Home > Illinois basketball > No coincidence that Ibby contrasts recent Illini big men

No coincidence that Ibby contrasts recent Illini big men

Listening to Bruce Weber’s descriptions of latest signee Ibrahima Djimde – “He likes to play physical. He likes to bang,” the Illinois coach said – it didn’t take long to realize why the Illini rolled the dice in offering the late-blooming, 6-foot-9, 250-pound power forward from Mali, Africa.

Djimde, his name is pronounced EE-bruh-hee-muh JIM-day but goes by the nickname “Ibby,” is a true, throwback “4.” He’s the antithesis of the skilled but skinny Illini post men that have – or at least attempted – to fill the paint the past four years.

That’s no accident.

“We believe physicality, strength, size, if we could find anybody with any of those attributes it would be a positive for us,” Weber said.

After choosing the Illini over Old Dominion, Djimde became the seventh member of the Illini’s Class of 2011, the final building block to Extreme Makeover: Illini Basketball Edition.

Djimde isn’t the foundation. Far from it. He lacks the offensive skill set for that level of expectations.

The team’s value in 2011 will be determined mostly by returners D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul, Meyers Leonard and Crandall Head and Tyler Griffey with incoming recruits Sam Maniscalco, a senior transfer; Mycheal Henry and Tracy Abrams expected to contribute early.

But Djimde, who immigrated to the U.S. two years ago and attended prestigious Huntington (W.V) Prep last year, is an ingredient of the mortar that fill the cracks.

From Weber’s account, Djimde accepts that role as well. A few years from now, that presumably will complement point guard Tracy Abrams, primary scorers Henry and Head and Nnanna Egwu and Mike Shaw, more face-up scorers in the post.

“To me, it’s just so pleasant that he wants to rebound, he wants to guard, he wants to battle in the post and he doesn’t have any visions of grandeur of shooting threes on the perimeter,” Weber said. “He knows what he is and he feels good about that.”

The Illini could have rolled over its open scholarship to next year. But with a weak in-state 2012 class with little to no big men worthy of a Big Ten scholarship, Weber went with the burly big man he met just about a month ago.

In the end, Djimde could be a 2012 prospect if he redshirts a season as he acclimates to the 40,000-student Midwest campus and the rigors of Big Ten basketball.

Sure, it’s a gamble for the Illini staff. He’s not the star all fans yearn for out of the next recruit.

But he fits the profile of what Illinois needs by not fitting the profile of recent Illini post men.

“Once we saw what he’s about – his future, his body, his strength, his maturity – it just made sense to give it a go,” Weber said.

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Categories: Illinois basketball
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