Illinois notebook: Weber to decide about Pruitt on Sunday
Illinois coach Bruce Weber wasn't ready Friday to put senior center Shaun Pruitt back on the starting lineup and back in the game, and Weber won't make the decision until Sunday.
Pruitt's 87-game streak of starting assignments ended Tuesday when he was suspended indefinitely for what Weber called a "team matter'' and later implied was a bad attitude. Illinois (9-11 overall, 1-6 in the Big Ten Conference) hosts Northwestern (6-10, 0-6) at Assembly Hall on Sunday (7 p.m., Big Ten Network).
"We'll see how Shaun reacts to everything,'' Weber said. "That's what I've said since the beginning. He has to have a positive attitude. That's what we're looking for. If he has a good attitude, he'll be fine. A lot will be determined by him and how he reacts to everything.
'We'll monitor the next couple days, talk as a staff, talk to the upperclassmen and make a decision.''
Pruitt leads the Illini with 12.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Pruitt didn't dress against Ohio State on Tuesday. He sat the bench in team sweats.
"Obviously (the suspension) not good for anybody,'' Weber said. "It's not great for Shaun. It's not great for our team. It's not good for the program. It's just that when you lose there's a lot of frustration. Then the way we've lost, with a lot of close games, a lot of games where this could have happened, that could have happened, you get to a point in the season where it's not easy.''
In the final four season in 2004-05, the end of practice didn't necessarily mean the end to practicing. Players such as Dee Brown, Deron Williams and Luther Head would keep playing. That's not the case with the current Illini, Weber said.
"When you win, it's easier to spend more time in the gym,'' Weber said. "You feel better about yourself. The light at the end of the tunnel is there. It's human nature for a kid to go home and feel sorry for himself. My idea is if you're struggling, put in the extra time.''
Weber holds mini-practices with the young Illini for 45 minutes up to four times a week, forcing them to work harder on improving their games. All players are welcome, but for the young Illini it's mandatory. Redshirt guards Jamar Smith and Alex Legion are also expected to attend.
Thanks to the Big Ten Network, the Illini might be playing their first Sunday night game in the history of the program, according to athletic department personnel. The game was scheduled for Sunday night in an experiment by the league's fledgling channel.
Weber realized by putting a game on cable TV on Sunday night, the Illini could take advantage of little competition during the air time at the inconvenience of fans traveling a long distance to see the game. The game is the only Sunday night game planned this season for Big Ten Network.
"We gave it one shot,'' Weber said. "We'll see how the ratings go. There's no (NFL) game Sunday.''
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. For more coverage, read Illini Talk blog at www.sj-r.com and www.pjstar.com.