Ibrahima “Ibby” Djimde, a 6-foot-8, 250-pound center from Mali, signed with the Illinois basketball team earlier this week, and the late signing could prove to be an important pickup for the Illini’s immediate future.
But there are hurdles to clear — maybe more than Weber realized. After working with Illinois’ compliance office to get a clearer handle on what must be done to ensure Djimde’s eligibility, Weber traveled to West Virginia and met face-to-face with Djimde and his head coach at Huntington Prep to make sure paperwork is in order.
“We have to get him into summer school first, and there are some hurdles,” Weber said. “I personally have not dealt with anyone from Africa and I don’t think anyone around us has either. It’s different to deal with an international student and even more so when that student is from Africa.”
Djimde left his home in Mali, Africa, in 2009. He hopes to join the Illini next month.
Weber said there are NCAA Clearinghouse matters to get in order, mainly because Djimde’s academic work in high school began in Africa.
He also said for Djimde to be eligible to join the Illini on an exhibition tour of Italy in August, he’ll need two visas.
And then there is the language issue.
“He’s actually pretty good speaking English,” Weber said. “He speaks three different languages. It’s just that when he gets going fast or gets excited, the words kind of flow together you’re not sure if he’s switching from one language to another. Sometimes I think he does.
“They said two years ago he had very few English words, but he’s doing real well.”
Weber was asked if he decided to gamble the scholarship on Djimde because they were concerned primarily about having enough beef on the front line this season, or because they liked the way he projected as a contributor in a future season?
“It’s a little of both,” he said. “We just looked at who was out there and if someone popped up we felt good about, we’d see. And obviously physicality was something we looked for.”
Less, not more, from Scheelhaase: Illini football coach Ron Zook is asking quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase to back off a little this offseason.
Rather than trying to map out a busy summer that might include a visit to some NFL quarterback’s camp, Zook has asked Scheelhaase to take some time off.
“He’s going to be here this summer,” Zook said. “The thing we have to do with Nathan is get him away from it for a few weeks. He goes and goes and goes and I want to make sure he’s fresh and ready when we start in August.
“(Last) Saturday morning I was in (the Illini football offices) and he brought the whole crew of wide receivers in. He said, ‘Coach, I need the key to the indoor facility. Coach, I need some footballs.’
“They were in here by themselves, which is a great tribute to Nathan. That is why as a coaching staff we feel very, very good about the direction we’re going.”
Coaches cannot have on-the-field contact with their players during the summer so they rely on them to organize 7-on-7 passing drills and carry out drills that the coaches created earlier this spring.