Jamall Walker leading Illini through challenging times

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CLICK THE VIDEO ABOVE TO HEAR FROM INTERIM HEAD COACH JAMALL WALKER, MALCOLM HILL, AND TRACY ABRAMS ON MOVING FORWARD WITHOUT JOHN GROCE.

CHAMPAIGN -- It's been a tough couple of days for the Illini.

Their coach got fired.

Their NCAA tournament dreams went up in smoke.

Can they get fired up for the NIT? That's the big question for interim head coach Jamall Walker.

"It's the NIT," Walker said. "...It's (about) who's prepared and ready to play. Who's excited to play, who wants to play more than anything else."

Walker expects his players, especially the seniors, to go out with a bang. He compares his team to a stubborn fighter that just won't give up.

"This team's been knocked down, our staff's been knocked down. I'll be honest I feel like we've done a good job with dusting ourselves off and moving straight forward. We're like that puncher that just keeps getting hit and knocked down and you're like 'man, just go down', and we refuse. And we're going to continue to until they run us out of here as a group and the seniors play their last game."

Illinois will host Valparaiso in the first round of the NIT Tuesday at 6:15 CT.

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