The thing to do for Illini players is fix any issues they may have had while in college in the short time between school and the NBA draft. Demetri McCamey lost about 10 pounds after he finished school, and though it didn’t help him get drafted, losing that weight maybe could’ve helped him while in school. Don’t these guys realize that what they do while at Illinois demonstrates to the NBA scouts what they will be able to do after making the leap?
Soon after Bruce Weber was fired, Leonard announced that he would forgo his junior and senior years at Illinois and submit his name to the draft. The decision was in the air throughout the whole season, and many – including me – thought that he could use at least one more year in college.
Leonard made a dramatic improvement between his freshman and sophomore years for sure, but he could’ve taken things just a tad bit further. When he was on he was unstoppable. Against Coppin State he had 18 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks, and then in the next game against UNLV he had just 7 points, 6 rebounds and 0 blocks. After that, he headed to St. Louis and managed 19 points, a season-high 16 rebounds and 3 blocks against a very talented Missouri. In the end, the main issue was always that he needed to grow up. Case in point: Nebraska.
The Breathe Carolina song “I Won’t Black Out” will be lodged in my brain for a good few hours if I hear just a snippet. I used to like that song, but now I can’t hear it without thinking of Illinois being squashed by Nebraska in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers were at the bottom of the barrel on Feb. 18 and Illinois needed a road win to convince themselves – and everyone else – that they weren’t down for the count. Well that didn’t happen.
Down by more than 30 points in the 80-57 loss, it was a massacre. As we cut to commercial, the Breathe Carolina song played over images of mainly the Cornhuskers making impressive shots and dunks while Illinois looked defeated. It was the sporty version adaption, with the lyrics saying “I won’t back down,” and I hoped that the Illini would follow the words. But nope.
So now every time I hear that song I think of Leonard sitting on the bench crying. There was still plenty of time left on the clock, but when he came out of the game it was pretty much over, and he knew it. He collapsed into tears on the bench as Myke Henry awkwardly patted him on the back utterly confused as to what he should be doing.
Leonard was basically the face of the program last year, in addition to Brandon Paul, and that face was covered in tears. What’s even more frustrating, aside from the fact that the game wasn’t over and it was on live TV, was that things were far from over for Leonard. He had to know that he would be going to the NBA at some point, so in the grand scheme of things this game didn’t really matter to him.
I was tempted to post a video of Leonard’s tears, but this post isn’t about making fun of him. I was a swimmer in college and I can’t say that I never shed a tear after a crappy race, but I wasn’t on live TV, and I was at the bottom of the list at a Division III school. I didn’t have the same responsibility as Leonard. I love the passion he showed, just not the way he expressed it in that moment.
Photo by Cary Frye
Okay, so the NBA Draft is just a few weeks away on June 28. Right now, Leonard is projected to be picked between 15-20th. I want nothing more than for him to find success and have a great career, because let’s face it that is great for Illinois. Kids are going to fall in love with Leonard and want to be an Illini; everyone wins. But, I can’t help but wonder what could’ve been had he stayed just one more year and grown and matured a little more. I can understand wanting to jump ship with the coaching change, but who knows how high his stock could’ve risen, and how much more he could’ve really grown. And of course where he could’ve taken the Illini.
He says he’s more mature now, but I just don’t get what would’ve happen in the last few months to actually make that happen. I suppose only time will tell, and I’ve got my fingers crossed for the guy.
Meyers Leonard blocks a Robert Sacre dunk; Photo by Cary Frye
For the first time this basketball season, the Illini are ranked in both the AP (24) and Coaches Polls (22). In past years, and Illini ranking instantly meant that the guys would falter and lose, so let’s hope that’s not the direction this team heads.
In addition to the ranking, an Illinois player was finally recognized by the Big Ten, as sophomore center Meyers Leonard was named co-player of the week for his efforts last week. Here’s all the neat stuff that he did to earn his first ever weekly honor:
· Averaged 16.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks while shooting 75 percent from the floor in a pair of Illinois wins last week
· Recorded 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting with six boards and a game-high three blocks in the Illini’s 71-62 win on the road against Maryland in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, helping the Big Ten to its third straight victory in the event
· Tallied a game-high 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting with six boards in an 82-75 victory against No. 19/18 Gonzaga.
Leonard has to share the honor with Keith Appling, a sophomore guard from Michigan State.
The last Illinois Player of the Week was Demetri McCamey, on Jan. 3, 2011.
The Illini Athletic Department spent this past weekend honoring the greats of the basketball program. The attendees ranged from recent graduates Demetri McCamey and Mike Davis to great names of the past like Dee Brown and Deron Williams of the 2005 Final Four Team, and Kendall Gill from the 1989 Flyin’ Illini.
It was a great weekend for Illini basketball fans, even if the absence of air conditioning left the Assembly Hall hotter than the 90-degree weather outside. Regardless of the heat, the crowd was excited for the event and fans overflowed from the A and B section of the Hall.
The festivities on Saturday began with this year’s basketball team playing a scrimmage that served as their last practice before heading off to Italy. The scrimmage followed FIBA rules to prepare them for the trip, such as a 24-second shot clock and an 8-second time limit to get the ball over half court.
Each quarter acted as its own game and players rotated. Everyone looked sloppy at one point or another, but what can really expect from a scrimmage this early in the year? There were some promising moments, and one highlight was a follow-up dunk put in by Crandall Head after a Tyler Griffey miss. Head jumped over 7-foot Myers Leonard to make that dunk possible.
Another standout was incoming freshman Nnanna Egwu. He is 6’11 and 245 pounds, but can run the floor and beat his man out to follow through with a strong dunk. He isn’t the typical player that the Illini have had in the past few years, making him a welcome sight for Illini fans. Egwu led all scorers with 16 points in the scrimmage, while Joseph Bertrand had 12, and Head had 11 points.
The main event of the night was undoubtedly the Alumni game. First came the introductions of each of the alumni in attendance, and a few of them paused to say a few words. Most kept their time at the mic short and sweet, thanking the Illini fans for the fandom and support. Williams was welcomed with a standing ovation, and Gill had the most unique words giving a shot out to all of the 40-year-olds in attendance and got a good chuckle.
The Blue team’s big name players consisted of Gill, Williams, Brown, Brian Cook, Mike Tisdale, Briand Randle, and current assistant coach Jerrance Howard. The Blue team was coached by Kenny Battle and Levi Cobb. The White team’s big name players were James Augustine, Roger Powell, Cory Bradford, Robert Archibald, Demetri McCamey, Chester Frazier, and Jack Ingram. Lon Kruger, who coached the Illini from 1996-2000 and currently coaches Oklahoma, served as the coach for the White team.
The game was made up of four 8-minute quarters. The Blue team started strong with Gill scoring a quick 7 points and the team lead 14-0. However, McCamey broke that streak and put the White team on the board with a big 3. Williams originally told his honorary coaches Battle and Cobb that he did not want to come off the floor of the Assembly Hall once, but he sat to start the second quarter to give all the alumni a chance to be play at the Hall again.
At halftime, the 2001 and 2002 Big Ten Championship teams were honored and a highlight video was played that put a tear in many of the eyes in the audience and on the court. Bradford was choked up as he addressed the crowd and commented that to this day he is still great friends with many of these players.
To start the third quarter, the 2005 Final Four players Williams, Brown, Powell, Augustine, and Ingram took the floor together. Brown hit back-to-back threes, and the crowd responded with shouts of “Dee for three!” After the quarter ended, Brown addressed the crowd with a follow-up from Coach Bruce Weber, who once again thanked all the fans for coming out.
The alumni game ended with the Blue team winning, 70 to 64. Gill led all scorers with 13 points and 5 rebounds, and Williams ended up with 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. D-Will also had the highlight of the night when he bounce passed alley-oop to himself:
The event put on by the Athletic Department was a great experience for all who attended, giving them a chance to see their favorite players of all time. Fans were also treated to a glimpse of how next season’s team is shaping up. Here’s hoping that this event will be a staple for years to come in the Illini basketball program.
Watch more higlights of the game here:
Contributing writer Samantha Vanis is studying sports management at the University of Illinois. She is a member of the class of 2013.
Things may not have turned out exactly how Demetri McCamey wanted in his post-Illini career, but signing a deal with a basketball team overseas is never anything to sneeze at. After going undrafted in the NBA Draft a few weeks ago, McCamey has now signed a one-year deal with Mersin, a professional team in Turkey.
The lockout might actually be a positive thing for McCamey, who can now workout in Turkey for a year and perhaps return to the U.S. and join a team as a free agent next year.
According to McCamey’s agent, Roger Montgomery, a number of teams wanted to select McCamey in the second round, but wanted a guarantee he would play overseas for a year. Montgomery told the Chicago Tribune that he and McCamey felt it was better to keep McCameyâ€™s options open as a free agent instead of having his rights secured by one team.
While I have to question those statements that could just be an excuse as to why he wasn’t drafted, it still sounds as if going overseas during the lockout might be a blessing in disguise for McCamey.
I hope he fights hard to succeed so that he can find his way to an NBA team next year.
The NBA Draft is a show that always brings about memorable moments, and last nightâ€™s was no different. The 2011 NBA Draft showcased great suits, hilarious commentary (who knew Jeff Van Gundy was funny?) unintelligible comments from players, some surprise picks, some expected picks, and â€“ of course â€“ brutal honesty from Jay Bilas.
I have to start by proclaiming my love for Jay Bilas. Who else can start off an NBA Draft by essentially announcing that the players in attendance are just fine but none of them will be a superstar. He continually noted that this was a down year, and while every single guy had some positive attributes, there was no one that would really go down in history. So, no one get their hopes up that Derrick Williams or Kyrie Iriving would be a household name, just in case you hoped it was in the cards.
You have to appreciate someone thatâ€™s not afraid to tell it like it is. I feel like if I asked Jay Bilas if my outfit made me look fat, heâ€™d reply â€œlisten, your hair looks great, but maybe a different pair of pants would suit you better.â€
And so we begin â€“ for some reason, Adeleâ€™s Rolling in the Deep is the song for the evening and it plays over the images of all the top 10 players looking mighty serious. Donâ€™t get me wrong I love this song and I sound awesome rocking out to it in my car, but it makes zero sense for the Draft.
Opening line: There’s a fire starting in my heart
Reaching a fever pitch, and it’s bringing me out the dark
Chorus: We could have had it all
Rolling in the deep
You had my heart inside of your hand
And you played it to the beat
Not so much.
Another strange occurrence is that the show has been lifted from Madison Square Gardens and dropped at the Prudential Center in New Jersey. The change was due to renovations at Madison Square Gardens, not because of an attempt to allow others to enjoy the draft in their home city. Regardless of the location, New York fans were still the majority, and as loud and rowdy as ever.
Cleveland is on the clock, and even though by this time they HAVE to know who they are picking, they still take up almost five minutes to announce that Kyrie Irving from Duke would go first. Jay Bilas assures us that no one expects Irving to fill the shoes of Lebron James, so we can all relax.
Up next, Derrick Williams from Arizona is heading to Minnesota. If it were up to me I would have taken Williams first, since Irving spent most of the year suffering from a toe injury. However, Irving is probably happy that it is not, in fact, up to me.
With the third pick, the Utah Jazz pick Enes Kanter, and though he was denied eligibility at Kentucky due to the fact that he played professionally in Turkey (not sure how Calipari thought heâ€™d get away with that one), it was still announced that he was from Turkey and Kentucky. As if that wasnâ€™t enough, his entire two-minute interview revolved around him praising the people at Kentucky for all they did for him. Which was what â€“ made him look like a fool for trying to sneak into the program after playing on a pro team? Kentucky had nothing to do with him being drafted.
Another note, here is our first of MANY international players. Jay Bilas will tell you that there were a ton of international players this year because the draft is just so bad, which is a bit of a knock on those international players.
Cleveland takes Tristan Thompson from Texas as the fourth pick, a bit of a surprise, but it works. This is the first guy who is praised for his tremendous wingspan that is longer than his actual height, which I find amazing. How is it that physically possible? Just goes to show yet again that most of these amazing athletes are indeed a freak of nature.
The draft continues, and three more international players have their names called, including Jonas Valanciunas, the highest ranked Lithuanian player picked ever! It was hilarious watching Jeff Van Gundy try to say his name, give up and refer to him as the â€œLithuanian player,â€ then call himself out for his horrible attempt to hide the fact that he canâ€™t say the name properly.
Detroit takes Brandon Knight, who actually attended Kentucky, with the 8th pick, and Kemba Walker is looking a bit nervous. Luckily, Charlotte takes him 9th. Rounding out the top 10, The Jimmer gets drafted by the Bucks. Here is the full list of the top-10 picks. Then, stick around to see some awards Iâ€™d like to hand out for the first round of the draft.
Sacramento â€“ Bismack Biyombo, Democratic Republic of Congo
Detroit, Brandon Knight, Freshman, Kentucky
Charlotte â€“ Kemba Walker, Junior Connecticut
Milwaukee â€“ Jimmer Fredette, Senior, BYU
Golden State â€“ Klay Thompson, Senior, Washington State
Utah -Â Alec Burks, Senior, Colorado
Phoenix – Markieff Morris, Junior, Kansas
Houston – Marcus Morris, Junior, Kansas
Best Outfit: Not as many crazy outfits as we usually spot at the draft, so thus Kemba Walkerâ€™s powder blue suit will have to take the award. Close second would go to Marcus Morrisâ€™s paisley pink pocket square that was bursting out trying to get free (see video below).
Best Kiss: After hearing his name called, Jan Vesely stood up and planted a big fat wet one on a woman that we hope was his girlfriend.Â Everyone got a chance to make fun of the kiss before he headed to the stage.
Best/Scariest Hands: Kawhi Leonard of San Diego State has some HUGE appendages. You know what they say about the size of a guyâ€™s handsâ€¦
Worst English: Still no idea what Jonas Valanciunas actually said in his interview. Good thing heâ€™s heading to Toronto where they can teach him to say â€œeh.â€
Sweetest Moment: As any good Illini fan knows, there is no way I can like the Morris twins. Not only do they play for Kansas, but they made the Illini look small and weak as they dunked over us in the Tourney. Regardless, as soon as Markeiffâ€™s name was called, Marcus had tears pouring out of his eyes. It was a lovely moment to see Marcus so happy for his brother. Luckily, Marcus would get called up with the next pick just five minutes later, which is ironic since Markeiff is seven minutes older.
Funniest Moment: After Markeiff was called, an interviewer asked Marcus how he was going to feel about being separated from his brother. Iâ€™m sure this was a question he got a million times, so it was nice that he made a joke and commented he would send his brother flowers or fruit to keep in touch.
Hottie Alert: This is a toss up between the cute blonde number that Jan Vesely kissed and Jimmer Fredetteâ€™s brother; itâ€™s clear which kid got the looks and which got the talent.
Awkward Uncomfortable Moment When Itâ€™s Not Clear When Youâ€™ll Be Drafted: Kemba Walker looked a tad uncomfy as he slipped down to the 9th pick. The kid won the National Championship! Youâ€™d think he could go a tad higher.
Smartest: Iman Shumpert from Georgia Tech was smart not to attend the draft, as New York fans hate everyone that the Knicks draft. With the 17th pick, who do you think youâ€™re going to get? Shumpert was a great college guy, and I think heâ€™ll be fine in the NBA. Knicks fans need to relax, and Shumpert was wise to stay home.
Coolest Name: Bismack Biyombo from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nuff said.
Happiest Guy to Be Drafted: Jimmer Fredette seemed pretty stoked, as he should be. How many white guys from Utah really believe that theyâ€™ll play for the NBA, let alone be chosen in the top 10. I didnâ€™t need to see the signed agreement his brother wrote in 2007, but whatever.
Biggest Disappointment: As a Big Ten girl, it pains me that the first Big Ten player drafted was Purdueâ€™s JaJuan Johnson at 27 to the Nets. Jon Leuer (Wisconsin) was chosen by Milwaukee at 40, Darius Morris of Michigan to the Lakers at 41, Jon DieblerÂ (OSU) to the Trailblazers at 51, and lastly Eâ€™Twaun Moore (Purdue) to the Celtics at 55. Thatâ€™s zero in the top 25 and only four total; not a good showing for one of the supposedly strongest conferences in the league.
Saddest Moment: The saddest moment in the draft was when it ended, and I realized that not one player from the Illini would hear their name called. When I glanced at a mock draft in the morning, Mike Davis was listed as possibly 57th, but I guess it didnâ€™t pan out. No Demetri McCamey, no Mike Davis and no Jereme Richmond or Mike Tisdale (didnâ€™t really expect these two, but still). It didnâ€™t seem like a pie-in-the-sky dream, but I guess this year it was. In a draft that Jay Bilas reminded me over and over wasnâ€™t a good one, itâ€™s too bad that my guys couldnâ€™t sneak in somewhere. Good thing there are always summer workouts!
Jalen James of Hope Academy in Chicago has reportedly committed to play for Illinois in the class of 2013. The 6’4″ point guard was given an offer after the Illini team camp in Champaign on Wednesday, and ESPNChicago reports he accepted an hour and a half later.
He is the first to accept in the 2013 class.
“I really didn’t have a second or third favorite [at this point.] I was waiting for an offer from them. I committed because of the players they’re going to have, coach [Bruce] Weber, coach [Howard], and, most importantly, my family will be able to come to see me play and not have to travel too far.” – See the full article here.
James played with the Illinois Wolves club, who also boasts players such as Demetri McCamey, new senior transfer Sam Maniscalco and freshman Tracy Abrams.
I love that James accepted an hour and a half after being offered, because this is the kind of devoted player I want to see head to Champaign. For the past years I feel like there have been too many wishy washy guys who don’t feel pride when wearing the orange and blue. I only wish he’d arrive sooner, as a PG is what Illinois is in desperate need of.
Welcome to the Illini family, Jalen, we’ll see you in 2013…
For some, such as Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams, the NBA draft tomorrow is going to be one of the most exciting moments in their lives. They only nervous energy they will feel stems from the question as to who will go first and who will go second. They will wear their best suits and sit with their families at Madison Square Garden and await the moment when David Stern calls their name.
They’ll put on a Cleveland hat or a Timberwolves jersey and they’ll do a short interview where we learn that they hated spinach as a child. Moms will cry at the notion of the mansion that is in their future, and Jay Bilas will discuss whether the team made the right choice and someone will comment on their lime-green tie.
For others, such as former Illini players Jereme Richmond and Demetri McCamey, the night will go much differently. They won’t be in New York, and will most likely sit nervously at home wondering if their names will be called at all. According to the most recent mock draft, disappointment will be in their future as neither Richmond nor McCamey will be drafted at all – let alone the other newly graduated seniors Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale.
It is always a boost to the program to have a player make it to the NBA. For every Deron Williams superstar, there is a Dee Brown who is drafted initially and then bounces around before ending up playing overseas. No matter, Coach Bruce Weber is free to say that in 2005,Â three Illini were drafted â€“ Williams, Brown and Luther Head. This year, it looks like Weber will not be able to boast about any of his guys going pro. Not that he’s a boaster, but he is a proud coach.
If anyone deserves to be drafted, itâ€™s McCamey. Iâ€™m not being a â€œhaterâ€ as Richmond may say, but McCamey put in four years at Illinois and showed marked improvement from year to year. Unfortunately, that improvement ended his junior year, and he did not have the kind of senior send off that he had hoped for. Many blame him for the Illiniâ€™s lackluster performance overall this past season, and perhaps the pressure weighed too heavily and he was unable to perform. Word is heâ€™s lost even more weight and is working as hard as ever, which is swell, but perhaps if he had done that while still in school it couldâ€™ve improved his chances in the draft and Illinoisâ€™ chances overall. Regardless, I admire his efforts.
At the end of the season, McCameyâ€™s name popped up near the end of the mock drafts for a while, but in the last few weeks it has dropped off completely. That doesnâ€™t mean he wonâ€™t get drafted, but it never bodes well. Also, he could always play for a team during the summer, and if he works hard enough land a spot during the season.Â Despite my frustrations with McCamey over the last four years, I would like nothing more than for him to hear his name called tomorrow.
McCamey at Senior Day; Photo by Cary Frye
Now, Richmond is a different story. Iâ€™m sure heâ€™s a great kid, but I am indeed still bitter that he left Illinois after one year. There were disciplinary issues, rumors of transfers and not enough great games to make up for it. At the end of the season when he announced he would enter his name into the draft and soon after hired an agent, it was a bit of a kick in the face for Illini fans. I donâ€™t know the whole story, and Iâ€™m sure he has reasons for his actions, but itâ€™s hard not to feel betrayed.Â It feels like he doesnâ€™t deserve to be drafted, but that of course has never mattered when it comes to the NBA.
I can speculate as to why Richmond left Illinois, but that wouldnâ€™t be fair. And if he is really committed to living out his dream and landing a spot on an NBA roster, of course I wish the kid nothing but luck. I think that at least another year in college to grow, mature and develop wouldâ€™ve really helped his stock rise, but I cannot fault anyone for impatience.
About a week ago, rumors were swirling that Richmond had skipped workouts and stopped trying to get drafted altogether. Â Draft expert @TheHoopsReport then tweeted this: â€œI don’t think Jereme Richmond will even be drafted. Some negative info on him has leaked, which could be related to why he’s not working out.â€ No word as to what this â€œnegative infoâ€ was, but it comes as no surprise based on Richmondâ€™s past. With these reports, you can see why it would be even more frustrating for someone to take a chance on a guy that hasnâ€™t really shown he is worth the trouble he might bring.
As for Tisdale and Davis, I canâ€™t imagine either will hear their names called tomorrow. From the workout reports, Davis seems to be impressing, and his solid performances the last few seasons as an Illini demonstrate that he is a talented guy. However, he is still way too skinny, and he also has the tendency to appear lazy, even if he is not. Fingers crossed that Davis gets a summer tryout, and Tisdale gets a job overseas.
As of now, it looks like there will be no one from the Illini cheering tomorrow evening, but you never know what can happen. Iâ€™ll be thinking about McCamey and even Richmond tomorrow, and wishing that their dreams do indeed come true.
It happened once in 2008, and itâ€™s going to happen again on August 6: a reunion of Illini greats both old and new.
I was lucky enough to attend the Night of Legends event on Sept. 13, 2008, where the Assembly Hall was pretty packed with over 15,000 fans. It was also extremely hot since there is no AC available. No matter, it was a remarkable experience watching Luther Head, Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Kenny Battle, Kendall Gill, Steve Bardo and more stand on the court and watch as their jerseys were raised to the rafters.
Rod Cardinal â€“ coordinator of special projects for coach Bruce Weber and also the father of Brian Cardinal, a reserve forward of the NBA Champs the Mavericks â€“Â says that he has gathered about 30 former players that are willing to come by for the fun, including Williams who now plays for the New Jersey Nets. Cardinal is calling the event the â€œIllinois Basketball Family Gathering,â€ and the timing is scheduled to coincide with Williamsâ€™ Point of Hope charity event.
Other players that are scheduled to be present are Williams, Brown, Head, Gill, Brian Cook, Kiwane Garris, Frank Williams, Demetri McCamey, Cory Bradford, Kevin Turner, Jerry Hester, Robert Archibald, Sergio McClain, Brian Randle, Damir Krupalija, Trent Meacham, Mike Davis, Jarrod Gee, Lucas Johnson, Mike Tisdale, Chris Gandy, Jack Ingram, Marcus Griffin, Calvin Brock and Arias Davis, as well as former players and current UI basketball staff members Jerrance Howard, Sean Harrington and Chester Frazier.
At halftime of the alumni game, the UofI will honor its back-to-back Big Ten championship teams from the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons. A highlight video will play from the videoboard, a group photo will be taken, and players from those squads will address the crowd. All players present who have an Honored Jersey Â (from the Night of Legends event) hanging in Assembly Hall will be introduced during the game as well.
â€œWe are excited to welcome everyone back to campus for another Fighting Illini basketball reunion and alumni game,â€ said coach Bruce Weber. â€œItâ€™s important that our former players, managers, support staff members and their families remain involved with our program and continue to have opportunities to return to the U of I and visit with old friends and teammates and share memories.â€
Tickets are $25 each in level A and $15 apiece in levels B and C. I FUND members and season ticket holders will receive an order form by mail. The tickets will go on sale to the general public beginning July 11 online at FightingIllini.com, in person at the UI Athletics Ticket Office located at the Assembly Hall, or by phone at 1-866-ILLINI-1.
In addition, Deron Williams will hold a pair of events on Aug. 6 to benefit his Point of Hope Foundation. Through Point of Hope, Williams has pledged to fully endow a scholarship for an Illinois student-athlete. Williams will host a golf outing in the morning at Stone Creek and a post-game reception on campus at the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC). For more information regarding those events, visit pointofhopefoundation.org or email Jeff Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University of Illinois basketball season has officially come to a close with the 89th annual Illinois Basketball banquet, held last night at the Holiday Inn in Urbana, IL.Â The lovely evening was sponsored by the Champaign-Urbana Kiwanis Club and included dinner for everyone – except for me. It smelled delicious, by the way, but we media folk got one glass of water that had to last us the entire three hours.
Kevin Berardini started dinner off with a nice prayer, and during the meal highlight reels played on three large screens.Â After dinner, Coach Bruce Weber shared some team memories with the 600-plus guests and thanked the many contributors to the program, including members of the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, the Illini Rebounders, and the Orange Krush (Yay me!!).Â Weber also presented a check to the Eastern Illinois food bank, and spoke about his work making University of Illinois fifth in the nation for donations to the Coaches vs. Cancer Foundation.
As the night continued, Coach Sean Harrington introduced all of the Illini Basketball court and video managers. Coach Jerrance Howard introduced freshman Crandall Head and Meyers Leonard, who rocked a pair of black-rimmed glasses. It came as no surprise to anyone that freshman Jereme Richmond was missing from the end -of-the -year celebration. Coaches Jay Price and Wayne McClain introduced the sophomore class: Jean Selus, Brandon Paul, Kevin Berardini, Joe Bertrand, Tyler Griffey, and D.J. Richardson. According to funny man Coach McClain, D.J. showed up three times in the season, one of which was to the banquet.Â All of the players were very well dressed and looked a lot different than the usual sweaty, basketball short-wearing athletes Iâ€™m used to seeing on campus.
Individual awards were presented by Coach Weber.Â Voted on by his teammates, MVP honors went to Mike Davis.Â The Illini Rebounders presented the award for most rebounds to Mike Davis for the third year in a row.Â The Illinois Alumni Association presented Brandon Paul with the Ralf Woods Trophy for most made free throws. Â BP3 shot 48 for 57 from the line in conference play. Â Brandon also received the Matt Heldman â€œMattoâ€ Play Hard Award for efforts on the court. The Orange Krush 3-point award went to Demetri McCamey, who complained that the walk from his seat to the stage was too long.Â The Lou Henson Courage Award was presented to Mike Tisdale for most charges in the season.Â As voted on by coaches and teammates, Bill Cole took home the Kenny Battle Most Inspirational Player award.Â Crandall Head was presented with the Most Improved Player Award to round out the night.
Seniors Bill Cole, Mike Tisdale, Mike Davis, and Demetri McCamey ended the banquet with thank you speeches and I finally started to get emotional.Â Each player had some nice things to say about the program, fans, and coaches, and unlike senior night at Assembly Hall, they all remembered to thank their families and girlfriends.Â After a standing ovation, a touching highlight reel played and we all joined together to sing the University fight song.Â Overall, it was a great night, and Iâ€™m so glad I got to be there to give a final farewell to the seniors that dedicated four years of their lives to us.
2010-11 Fighting Illini Basketball Awards
Illini Rebounders Award: Â Mike Davis
Ralf Woods Free Throw Trophy: Â Brandon Paul
Orange Krush 3-Point Award: Â Demetri McCamey
Lou Henson Courage Award: Â Mike Tisdale
Matt Heldman “Matto” Award: Â Brandon Paul
Kenny Battle Most Inspirational Player: Â Bill Cole
Most Improved Player: Â Crandall Head
Most Valuable Player: Â Mike Davis
Kim Cerf is currently a sophomore at the University of Illinois and a member of the Orange Krush.
Basketball is over, and Iâ€™m going through withdrawal. I know what youâ€™re going to say: â€œThere is still plenty of great college basketball to come. There is some on the tube tonight even!â€ And while this is true and Iâ€™ve already picked out my spot to start watching the Sweet 16, there is a wave of depression that sets in once your team is done for the season.
I love college basketball, thatâ€™s all there is to it. Not just the tournament, but the entire season. Unlike the NBA, every game means something. These kids love basketball, and though some play in hopes of enjoying a NBA career one day, many know this isnâ€™t possible and simply continue for the love of the game. The guys play the entire season (rather than just the playoffs), and at the end, everyone hopes to head to the dance. If you make it, there is just one shot to move on to the next round; anything can happen at any time.
The only solace I can take when the weather starts to cool down in November is that Illini basketball is about to begin. The season can start fresh and new without worrying about what happened in the past. While the seniors will be sorely missed from year to year, itâ€™s exciting to welcome new freshmen and learn their names, faces and numbers. Who is going to start? Will anyone redshirt? Have there been marked improvements over the years? Will this year be different?
Though I was born and raised in Champaign (yes people are from there) and attended high school literally on the University of Illinois campus, I have to admit that I did not attend the UofI. Judge if youâ€™d like, but instead I matriculated at a small liberal arts college in St. Louis. While college basketball wasnâ€™t a big deal in my family, by growing up in Champaign the Illini surrounded my life at every turn. From the Illini Cleaners to Illini Mattress, everything revolved around the Orange and Blue. I remember the joy the city felt in 1989, only to have our dreams squashed by Michigan in the Final Four. The next day the local sports supply stores were selling Illini Championship T-shirts with huge lines down the front, because it didnâ€™t happen. Kendall Gill, Nick Anderson, Marcus Liberty and Stephen Bardo were names everyone knew.
Fast forward to the 2004-2005 season. Iâ€™m living in Los Angeles, and since this is before the Big Ten Network changed my life I had to find places to watch the games that were not on ESPN or CBS. I fell in love with college basketball all over again, watching Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Luther Head, Roger Powell Jr. and James Augustine power through the season virtually undefeated. Again, the ending isnâ€™t as happy as I would have liked, but it was still an honor to get that far. However, that season brought us one of the greatest Tournament games ever as Illinois came from behind to beat Arizona and head to the Final Four.
Here we are six years later, and the Illini have fallen off from their moments of glory, but I still watch them faithfully every year. I have a number of friends that donâ€™t understand why Iâ€™m unavailable twice a week because there is basketball to watch. I head to Champaign as often as possible, and lately Iâ€™ve been heading out to see the guys play on the road (Vegas and Georgia last year, New York this year, maybe Cancun next year?). Living in Chicago now, Iâ€™m (usually) granted two visits a year, one at the United Center and one at Northwestern, and itâ€™s nice to be able to see them play close to my home â€“ even if this year neither game went the way I had hoped.
The season was a bit disappointing, but it was still filled with excitement and some great moments. A home win at North Carolina (which I was present for) and an action-packed road game in Seattle against Gonzaga, a team I used to despise but is slowly growing on me, were high points. I will never get over the loss at Indiana, although the thrashing we gave the Hoosiers in Champaign helps a little bit. Each year is different, and each year I cherish in a different way.
I have been gearing up to write my season review for a week now, but it seems wrong to review the season when it isnâ€™t over for everyone. Also, Iâ€™m just not ready to say goodbye. Sure, I had some moments this season when various players who shall remain nameless made some stupid moves and brought grief into my life. Iâ€™ve done a fair amount of yelling at my TV and thrown my hands up in frustration countless times this season proclaiming to be “done.” Regardless, Iâ€™ve loved every moment and canâ€™t wait for more.
So here I am fully ensconced in post-season basketball ennui. I canâ€™t feel that sorry for myself, because Iâ€™m sure for those four Illini seniors the feeling is even worse. Unsure of what will come next, itâ€™s likely that none of them will get drafted. Demetri McCamey is a projected late second round pick, and he is the only one on the mock draft list as of now. Itâ€™s possible that Mike Davis will get a tryout or two over the summer, but itâ€™s not clear if he will actually land on a team, and could be joining Mike Tisdale and his 6,000-calorie diet somewhere in Europe. No matter where they land, I want to thank all four seniors for providing great story lines, and great games over the last four games. As for the rest of the team, I canâ€™t wait to see you next year.
With more basketball on tonight, Iâ€™ll fight the blahs and look forward to whatâ€™s coming next. On the bright side, the end of Illini basketball means that summer is around the corner and the Cubs opening day is also less than two weeks away. Seeing as how it is 30 degrees out today itâ€™s difficult to jump for joy, but I take comfort in the fact that there is always next year.
Stay tuned for when I can finally brush off the blues and give the season a proper review.
Born and raised in Champaign, Ill., Zipporah Porton has been bleeding Orange & Blue her whole life. She currently lives in the Roscoe Village hood of Chicago with her Illini-loving man. Their dog Luther is proof that they live and breathe Illini.