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updated: 9/27/2013 8:24 PM

Illinois opens basketball practice with youth

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  • Illinois men's basketball coach John Groce

      Illinois men's basketball coach John Groce
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer, March 2013

 
Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois started preparing for the upcoming basketball season Friday with its first practice.

The Illini return only four players from last season's surprise 23-13 NCAA Tournament team.

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Second-year head coach John Groce will lean heavily on point guard Tracy Abrams, shooting guard Joseph Bertrand and center Nnanna Egwu. All return from last season.

The Illini have five freshmen on the roster. They include center Maverick Morgan and guards Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate.

Transfers Rayvonte Rice, Jon Ekey and Ahmad Starks are also expected to get heavy playing time.

The Illini open play with an exhibition on Oct. 24 against McKendree and start the regular season Nov. 8 at home against Alabama State.

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