Monday, April 30, 2007

Michael Dunigan 2008 Prospect

High on the Illini's list of 2008 recruiting prospects is a 6'9" power forward named Michael Dunigan. He is a four star high school player who plays for Farragut High School in Chicago, and it probably the most talented big man in Illinois from his class. The Illini hope to get him, but have plenty of competition from top programs.

Iman Shumpert Rumors

Here's a link to a recruiting profile on Iman Shumpert of Oak Park, class of 2008 recruit on everyone's list. There are rumors that Iman might commit to the Illini soon, and his stock is rising quickly due to great performance in the AAU leagues for Full Package.

Iman is a 6'4" combo guard who is an outstanding outside shooter. He gets some favorable mention in the Rivals article, apparently they needed to use a box and one defense to slow him down in AAU ball.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Deron Williams has huge game against Houston

After Deron Williams has a breakout game against Houston yesterday, he is recognized in this article in the Houston Chronicle.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Jeff Jordan appears headed to Champaign

The Chicago Tribune article seems to indicate that Jeff Jordan is headed to Champaign to be a walk-on basketball player at Illinois. We had already heard that his application had been accepted, and now the word is that he will start school this summer. Announcement expected soon.

Further confirmation on a recruiting website Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye

There is lots of speculation about the impact of Jordan on Illinois' basketball program, which to me is rather silly. It is obviously a positive event for Illinois to have the son of the greatest basketball player ever to attend Illinois. Further, anyone who watched Michael as a college player and a pro knows that Michael kept improving until he was in his late 20's or early 30's. Finally, Jeff Jordan is rated a three star guard, and we have had very successful guys at Illinois that were rated three stars and lower in high school. And Weber is not even using up a scholarship for young Mr. Jordan. Awesome news, period!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Shaun Pruitt and the NBA

Shaun Pruitt has aspirations of playing in the NBA, and will try to get some exposure and invitations to tryouts this off season. It's a smart move by Pruitt, to get some feedback from NBA people on what improvement is needed. In case he is in a hurry to get the feedback regardless of the source, I thought I would try to help him out.

-Good upper body strength
-Solid rebounder
-Effort around the hoop is impressive, following missed shots
-Defense shows promise

Areas for Improvement:
-Jumping ability suspect
-Has trouble finishing at the hoop
-Does not pass from the low block
-Poor shooting touch
-Poor percentage at free throw line
-Could struggle to get shots off in NBA

Overall, Shaun is a fierce competitor on the court, and has improved in some areas. He does need to improve his shooting touch, jumping ability and refine his offensive game so he can put up big numbers in college, let alone the NBA. He drags down his shooting percentage by frequently taking four shots at layups to get one basket. Seems like he should work on the aspects of his game this summer, and start taking some foreign languages, like Italian, German, etc. to prepare for Europe.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

DeAndre Liggins

There are early reports that DeAndre Liggins is expected to announce he is attending Illinois in the class of 2008. If true, this would be a huge recruit for the Illini and Coach Weber. Sources are Loren Tate and one of the recruiting websites (Rivals/Scout).

Liggins is a 6'5" or 6'6" guard or small forward from Chicago Washington who is in the top 100 players in the country and has rankings that are moving up based on his play. He could be the start of an excellent 2008 class, which might include 3 scholarships, will have to see.

Link to Photo

Friday, April 20, 2007

Jeff Jordan Update

The Chicago Tribune had an optimistic update article on Jeff Jordan today. Seems he might be down to either the Illini or Valpo, and a decision is likely early next week.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

2008 Recruiting Prospects

The Illini coaching staff are looking at some great recruits for 2008. According to the recruiting experts on Illinois Loyalty, the top prospects are:

Michael Dunigan-no offer yet
Scott Suggs-has offer
DeAndre Liggins-has offer
Verdell Jones-no offer yet
Iman Shumpert-no offer
Darius Miller-no offer
Matt Humphrey-no offer

With the possibility of CJ Jackson moving to football this year and opening a third scholarship for the 2008 class, an offer would presumably go to Michael Dunigan. We would have an excellent 2008 class if we could get Dunigan, Suggs and either Liggins or Jones.

The Jordan Buzz around Illinois

The buzz recently around Illini basketball is about a possible walk-on player named Jeff Jordan, who played basketball at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois. This could be an interesting development, since Jeff Jordan sounds like a talented basketball player, and has a well-known father named Michael. Having lived in the Chicago area most of my life, I am one of those people who firmly believes Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever, period. For those of you who want more background on Jeff Jordan, here are some links.

USA Today Article

Chicago Tribune Article

Sporting News Article Article

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Alexander signs, Jackson practicing football, Randle's surgery

As expected, Rodney Alexander signs on to join the Illini this fall. That is great news, and Coach Weber compares him one of my favorite Illini players of all time, Roger Powell.

CJ Jackson is practicing with the Illini football team, apparently he thinks he can get more playing time with football (compared to last basketball season) with 22 starting positions, plus special teams, etc. If Weber does not think he will get playing time in basketball in the next year, this could be a classic win-win situation. The third scholarship could be incredibly useful for the 2008 class, with some outstanding players being looked at by Weber and his staff.

Everyone on the various boards loves to give Brian Randle a hard time about last season, but if you are injured, it's tough to play most sports, especially basketball. Let's hope he can get healthy again, for his sake, and to a lesser extent the Illini basketball team. I think having an improving Calvin Brock on the roster along with Rodney Alexander, the Illini could be OK next year at the small forward position without Brian Randle playing at all.

All the talk recently seems to be about Alexander, Watkins and McCamey. Bill Cole and Mike Tisdale are two promising big men, and they seem to be left out of many discussions I read on the web. There is speculation that Tisdale may go the redshirt route his freshman year, which may happen. As for Bill Cole, my sources claim Cole is ready to play Big 10 basketball from a physical standpoint this fall.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Rodney Alexander expected to sign today with Illini

Reliable sources such as the Illinois Loyalty site and the News Gazette are reporting that Rodney Alexander is signing with Illinois today, and that the formal announcement should be today as well. Hate to jinx it, but thought I should post this with the links, for those interested Illini fans.

Alexander is compared to Roger Powell by one scout, which is exciting to me. He might be closer to 6'5" than 6'7", but that should be enough to play the small forward or wing in the motion offense. He is billed as a strong player inside and skilled shooter who is athletic, something the Illini really need for this fall.

My guess is Alexander chose Illinois over Tennessee and IU because he is looking to play, and with Brian Randle's second surgery this past week (and a history of foul problems), Alexander is probably looking to play 20-30 minutes per game this season and 30+ minutes per game next season, with good exposure in the Big 10 conference. Plus, Weber does a great job getting players ready for the NBA.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Where will Rodney Go???

We need to watch for an announcement on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest. Rodney Alexander, JUCO forward from Redlands is expected to make a decision on where he goes this fall. Leading schools are apparently Illinois and St. Louis, but other schools being considered have been IU, Tennesseee, Nebraska, Oklahoma and others.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Rodney Alexander Update

The Knoxville News Sentinel has reported that Rodney Alexander did not visit Knoxville Tennessee, home of University of Tennessee this weekend as planned previously. While I am not sure what to make of this news, it does sound promising for the Illini, unless the trip has just been rescheduled. Other contenters are St. Louis, Indiana and University of Nebraska, which is really a football school.

Maybe he is leaning to Illinois now, since Brian Randle just had to have surgery again to try to correct his groin situation.

Apparently, a decision by Rodney Alexander is expected by Tuesday or Wednesday. If he goes with Illinois, the 2007 class could be in the top 15 or 20 nationally.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rumors are out about CJ Jackson transferring

There are rumors on Illinois Loyalty about CJ Jackson possibly announcing a transfer soon. Does anyone think this is true or is it just a rumor?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Quinton Watkins signed by Illinois for 2007 Class

Today the Chicago Tribune confirmed, as expected, Quinton Watkins officially signed to accept a basketball scholarship at Illinois this fall. Quinton has been covered for quite some time here after making his verbal commitment to the Illini. His stock has moved up during his senior year, and he can score. Article

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Updates on Illini Recruiting

Quinton Watkins is expected to sign with Illinois tomorrow, with the formal signing event next week. For those who say Weber can't recruit, this is a major deal, getting Quinton Watkins after his outstanding senior year and move up the recruiting charts of top seniors.

For the fifth spot available, we are in the running for Rodney Alexander, the JUCO forward, and Ty Abbott, the guard from Phoenix. Either one would make the class a solid one for Illinois. There is competition for both of these guys, so hope we land one of them to complete the 2007 class.

Bruce Weber's Track Record at Illinois

Mark Tupper has some great facts on Bruce Weber at Illinois, in his blog today:

And even though Weber bashers will bash away regardless, a couple of statistics offered up at the banquet indicate he must be doing something right. Illinois is one of only 10 schools in the country to have reached the NCAA Tournament every year since 2000. Illinois has now won at least 23 games for eight seasons in a row and 10 of the last 11 seasons. During Weber’s four-year tenure, Illinois has won 112 games and only Duke and Florida have equaled that number of victories.

And, going into this season, Weber is 8-for-8 in seniors graduating. With current seniors Carter, McBride and Marcus Arnold all on track to get their degrees, that would make it 11-for-11.

Weber bashers, take THAT!

Maui Invitational, Preview of New Illini Players

Now that basketball is over, for the season at least, I can look forward to next season and the Maui Invitational. Maui will be lots of fun, and this is a great preview for me of the new Illini basketball team. Teams in the tourney are:

Arizona State
Oklahoma State
Chaminade (host)

This great event takes place during the week of Thanksgiving, hope to see you there.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Kentucky Grabs Billy Gillespie as New Coach

As I predicted in a post on March 22, Kentucky has announced Billy Gillespie as their new coach. He is an awesome coach for them to take, having experience as an assistant coach with the Fighting Illini, prior to turning around two programs in Texas as the head coach, UTEP and Texas A&M.

Billy is the hottest coach in the NCAA, and can be expected to have Kentucky in the final four in the next 2-3 years, and another championship before he is done. Billy, good luck at Kentucky!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Ty Abbott Rumors

There are some rumors circulating that the Illini might have a verbal soon from Ty Abbott, nothing confirmed yet though. Signing day is coming up soon, and the Illini are competing for the Phoenix area star with Washington State and Vanderbilt.

Article about All Arizona Team

Rivals Comments

Scout Comments

ESPN Summary

Signing day starts on April 11, 2007

Amen Corner and the 12th Green

OK, last photo for awhile and we can get back to basketball. I wanted to post one shot of the Augusta National course, and what's better than a shot of Amen Corner and the 12th green.

Phil Mickelson at the Par 3 Course

I did catch a glimpse of Phil walking around the Par 3 course, with his two daughters in tow. Not sure who won the tourney yesterday, but it was a nice day on the course.

Fred Couples Providing Autographs at Par 3 Course

Fred Couples was entertaining as usual at the practice round, and also participated in the Par 3 contest, and took some time to sign autographs for a few of his fans on the way to the 8th tee.

Masters Practice Round in Augusta Georgia

Vijay Singh was out practicing for the Masters yesterday, and I caught him admiring his tee shot here.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Buy those Chief Logo Shirts Now!

Buy your Chief Logo Shirts as soon as possible, since the manufacturers will need to stop producing them by June 15th, 2007, or at the latest, December 31st, 2007 (for those back-orders). Link

The funniest quote of the story is this: The school will continue using the "Illini" and "Fighting Illini" names.

The reason it's funny, is that Illini means the same thing as Illinois. Did anyone think they would change the name of the State to be more politically correct? Can you imagine the cost of this? Reprinting maps, license plates, etc.

Hope we don't have any Chief Logo haters out there, or do we???

Final Piece to the Puzzle (2007 Class)

Well, it looks like the Illini are trying to sign a major recruit with the one remaining open scholarship available for this fall. Speculation surrounds three leading candidates:

Jenirro Bush, a 6'6" point guard looking for a new school after he was originally headed to Arkansas to play for Stan Heath.

Ty Abbott, a shooting guard that was headed to New Mexico, and has changed his mind since their coaching situation changed.

Rodney Alexander, a JUCO small forward that played at Redlands in Oklahoma, rated the top small forward JUCO prospect in the country from last season.

I'm sure there are other options, including leaving the spot open, but Weber probably wants another player with the uncertainty of whether Jamar Smith will be allowed to return to the team next season.

Rodney Alexander is another potential 2007 recruit

Word is out that Rodney Alexander visited Champaign in late March and can be considered a potential Illini recruit as a small forward. He is projected to be the top small forward in JUCO ball from this past season, playing at Redlands, Oklahoma. We should hear something about one of these recruits in the next couple of weeks. Bruce Weber has said he is trying to sign a second player, in addition to Q Watkins when the next signing period starts this month. Photo here

Riverton Hawks - White and Nerdy? - I Think Not!

Mike Tisdale of Riverton, throwing down some shots to give Illini fans a preview of this fall's team.

Weber Accepts Job at Arkansas

If you have heard the rumors, they are confirmed today on Illinois Loyalty. Coach Weber was contacted by the AD at Arkansas, and has accepted the job and is moving to Arkansas. Link

Now, many of those people who have been complaining about Coach Weber not being able to recruit the top players from the Chicago Public League can go jump in a lake, since they have obviously chased away the best coach the Illini have ever had! april fools!

Championship Game on Monday Night

I am heading to Atlanta on Monday morning, but I will be watching the final game on TV this year. (My trip is focused on visiting a golf course in Augusta Georgia.)

Well, after watching the final four games last night, or semi-final games, I have to say that it looks like Florida should repeat as National Champions. Florida is just loaded with talent, looks like they have more than even Ohio State. Florida should give Oden fits with two of three physical guys taking turns on the front line for them.

While it would be nice to see the Big 10 team as Champion, I will pick Florida with the score, 71-65.

The other question is what will Billy Donovan do after this game, stay at Florida or go to Kentucky to rebuild their program like his old coach Rick Pitino? (I am guessing he might go to Kentucky.)