“This is the standard he has set himself.”


championship – Matthew Meyer He has one round left in college basketball. He has goals and aspirations, both collective and individual. He wants to win the Big Ten, win a (second) national championship and get to the NBA.

These are, of course, very ordinary goals. Mayer also came to Champaign after four seasons at Baylor – and a national championship – with a single goal: winning the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. This, however, is not a new goal.

Meyer wrote a similar goal on his mirror a year ago while at Baylor. He wanted to win Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. At 6-foot-9, Meyer has the height and versatility to play multiple positions, and Eleni’s coaching staff praised his passing lane instincts during the program’s media day last week.

“I think I’ve been an understated defender for most of my career,” Mayer said. “I think people are starting to realize that I’m a good defender. I think I can really take it to the next level this year knowing it’s going to help our team win. … If you look at the stats (from last season), I’m really putting myself in that conversation. I get the first team, and I didn’t get the best defensive player of the year, but I put myself in that conversation. This year I want to take a step.”

Meyer noted the percentage of stealing and shocking, especially in his last two seasons at Baylor. According to KenPom, he was 14th in the Big 12 in theft percentage in team play last season (2.7) and seventh in the Big 12 in mass percentage in conference games (3.4). Over the course of the entire season, he was ranked 142 in theft percentage and 251 in mass percentage. Mayer was ranked among the top 20 countries for theft rate in the 2021 season. As of last week, he’s led the entire Illinois team on robberies during training.

According to Synergy, Mayer earned the 32nd percent of defense as a rookie, but climbed to the 49th percentile last year. That’s average from an analytical perspective, but his nose for the ball and his ability to switch all over the field are valuable assets.

Although Meyer was limited by back problems upon arrival on campus – he said on a media day he had been “out for a few days” but expected to be back in training last week – he was focused on showing his defensive ability. Illinois is focusing on centerless basketball this season to increase the height and athletic ability of the team, which matches Mayer’s skill set.

Mayer focus on defensive award – Rutgers Caleb McConnell He won last season and returns to the Scarlet Knights this year – he’s music to an assistant coach Chester Fraserears. Frasier is the Illinois defensive coordinator and has emphasized defense in his game during his four-year career in Illinois.

“We have a contract, he and I, with some goals in it,” Frazier told the Illini Inquirer. “One of those is to be the best defender in the Big Ten. Every day I hold him to that standard. … We were watching a movie one day. He doesn’t have the reputation of a defender. He would say to me, ‘Last year, I was an elite defender.’ I’m like, “Yeah, whatever.” He’s like, “Okay, I have the numbers to prove it.” He started showing me all blocks and defensive plus minus. I was like, man, the numbers don’t show everything. You have to put in some effort. I’ll tell you what, Oh man, in the first few practices, it was phenomenal.”

Did he study the film between Frazier and Mayer in support of Mayer’s ideas?

“He’s an elite pass predictor,” Fraser said. “He’s in the passing lanes he gets deflections, he’s long, he gives us the bonus of the blocker because he’s so long and he helps the weak side. He does a lot of good things. Now it’s about continuing that effort and doing that over the course of the game.”

Mayer has NBA aspirations and flirted with the idea of ​​going to the NBA after last season before eventually entering the transfer gate and relegation in Illinois after a four-year career at Baylor. He is known more for his offensive abilities than his defensive numbers. he is He’s been a starting player for Baylor the past two seasons, which included a 55-9 (27-5 Big 12) overall record for the Bears, two NCAA No. 1 seeded and a 2021 NCAA Championship title.

During the Bears National Championship season in 2020-21, Mayer came off the bench in all 30 games, averaging 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals while shooting 48.9% including 39.5% from three. Last season, Mayer started all 33 games and averaged 9.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 0.8 blocks while shooting 40.9 percent including 32.4 percent from 3.

Coach Brad Underwood He said earlier this month that defense is ahead of attack so far during training. This adds up given the length on this side of the Earth. Coleman Hawkins Last year he showed he can be an over-the-top defender – potentially throwing his hat in the ring for the Conference Defensive Player of the Year award – and that Terrence Shannon Jr. He has some sort of height and athletic ability to influence that side of the ball as well.

Mayer said Frazier has been helping him keep improving the defensive side of the ball, which has always been a focus for the teams Underwood coaches.

“If you look at his defensive numbers while at Baylor, they are amazing,” Underwood said. “Matt has a talent that not many people have. He has incredible instincts. He has incredible anticipation. He sees things and now that he has experienced the game, the game has been slow for him in his mind and the way he sees it. … He must continue to grow as a communicator. And a talker, but his natural instincts are pretty good. It’s great to see a guy come in with the ability to score but he also wants to be that other guy. That’s a goal for him to be the best defensive player of the year and he’s going to complicate those tasks. You put him and Coleman – we all know what Coleman could do on the defensive side – and then you put TJ, who’s an outstanding defender, and I hope that means we can become a very good defensive team. I’m excited about that.”

Now, about that contract with Fraser. What on the other end if Mayer reaches his goal?

That’s what he wanted. I said to him, ‘If that’s what you want, I’ll write it down and put the date on it, I’ll make some T-shirts and we’ll start a campaign.’ It’s fun because, again, he doesn’t have the reputation of an elite defender, but he wants people to see that, “I can do that too.”


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