Abrams' Absence, Other Injuries, Leave Illini to "Experiment" During European Tour


By Matt Loveless

CHAMPAIGN -- It was another piece of bad news for the Illini ahead of a highly-anticipated European tour.

Senior point guard Tracy Abrams tore his left achilles during what head coach John Groce described as rather routine set of non-contact drills Monday. His surgery is set for August 5th.

The injury, according to the team, will cause him to miss the entire 2015-2016 season.

The Illini will now be two guards short in Europe, when they play four games during a tour through Belgium and France, August 11-17.  

A media session that was likely intended to be a lighthearted discussion about their upcoming trip quickly turned serious, as Groce was again lamenting the loss of his veteran point guard.

"He's hurting right now," said Groce. "He's invested so much time in this in his time here, in this team, and this comeback."

Abrams was just ten months removed from his last injury -- an ACL tear that sidelined him for the 2014-2015 season. He was granted a waiver for another year of eligibility for 2015-2016.

Groce said the news is still too fresh to consider what the future may now hold for the 23-year-old.

"My number one concern, by far, is his mindset and his health," he said.

It's also a recurring concern for Groce, who also has to keep the health of one of his incoming freshmen in mind.

Last week, guard Jalen Coleman-Lands suffered a stress fracture in his left leg.  He's now being held out of summer practices, and will not play in Europe.

Groce isn't making any proclamations about Coleman-Lands' long term health, only saying they would re-evaluate him following the trip.

"He think he's healthy, which is always a good sign, that he wants to be out there," said Groce, "but we're just being precautionary."

Touted as an opportunity to get more hours, more practices, and more game with the team, the European tour will also take the team to Normandy Beach.

Groce, who says his grandparents fought in Europe in World War II, hopes to build some comradery, and admits the trip will be valuable for tinkering with some lineups.

"We'll be able to experiment a little bit.  We certainly see that as a benefit that we would not have normally," he said.

He added, "We'll do the best we can to try to make lemonade out of lemons."

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