Friday, February 29, 2008

Rumored JUCO recruit for Illini

There are now rumors on the web that the Illini are taking a hard look at Dominique Keller, who will be a Junior this fall. He is 6-7, 235 and from Port Arthur, Texas, playing at Lee College and averaging 25 points and 9 boards this season. There is debate about whether he shoots more inside or outside, but after this season's scoring woes, we could use someone this size who can score. The only real negative is that he shoots around 50% from the free throw line.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bruce Pearl feels up Erin Andrews

I heard about this incident and thought I would post it, since it's basketball related, and Erin is a favorite of the Illini Basketball fans. Also, if IU hires Pearl, they will have another controversial coach.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Jereme Richmond's Next High School

There is more news out about Jereme Richmond, the Illini's highly-rated recruit from the class of 2010. The Tribune story has very little new, other than confirming the earlier story.

Here's a really local perspective on the situation from the Lake County newspaper, that seems to indicate the coach is a problem. It is amazing that with a player of Richmond's caliber, the team has a .500 record.

And the Sun-Times article takes us through the story, speculating the most likely schools for Richmond next season are New Trier, Glenbrook North (where Bruce Weber's brother is coach) and Evanston. I think all three schools sound much better than Waukegan, and if Jereme can get enough credit hours to graduate early, maybe we can add him to the Class of 2009.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Extreme Patience is Needed For Illini Fans

This next 15 months will require some extreme patience by Illini basketball fans. We have been spoiled in a way, making the NCAA tourney every year since 1999. And now we are hit with a really down year, and a team that has no chance of any post-season play. The optimists among us are expecting a return to the NCAA tourney next season, and I just don't see it happening. In fact, I think it's much healther to keep expectation down, way down.

A disaster scenario for Illinois basketball could unfold over the next 12 months in Champaign. If there are high expectations for a turnaround in the basketball program next season, there needs to be a way for Weber to deliver improved results on the court. And right now, Weber has to rest his hopes on improvement on the shoulders of Jamar Smith, a junior returning from a year layoff, and Stan Simpson, a promising freshman from Simeon. And midseason, highly-touted transfer Alex Legion joins the team for the Big 10 season. The disaster happens if the fans see another poor season of results on the court, and the media continues to pile on Coach Weber, fully knowing he has an outstanding recruiting class scheduled to arrive in the fall of 2009. This class is likely a top ten class, with Brandon Paul, DJ Richardson, Tyler Griffey and Joseph Bertrand verbally committed.

We have already seen the media take a whip to Weber this season, with Chicago columnists not even mentioning Weber's recent recruiting breakthroughs in articles criticizing the Illini. Add to that unmet expectations of the fans, and Weber could run into trouble next season. But the worst thing for Illinois would be to make a change in the coaching spot, with such promising recruits lined up. So let's keep the expectations low for next season, and wait for the new recruits to arrive. This will require extreme patience.

Illinois vs. Michigan Classic Semi-final Game 1989

I don't normally watch the ESPN or Big 10 "classic" games on TV, but this weekend I watched the 1989 Illini battle the Michigan Wolverines coached by Steve Fisher. Probably the main reason for watching is that it's been tough to watch Illini basketball this season, so why not watch a really good Illini team. (I also have the 2005 team's game against Arizona in reserve.) This game was so long ago, my best recollection before reviewing it again was the outstanding shooting by Glen Rice (28 points to lead Michigan). But other things I noticed were:

1. Henson actually had Kenny Battle lead a full court press as part of the standard defensive package for this team. It even worked a few times in this final four game, leading to easy baskets. I never thought of Henson as an exciting basketball coach, but this made for some very interesting basketball.

2. This 1989 team started four guys who were guards or wing players: Bardo, Gill, Battle and Anderson. People considered Battle a frontcourt player because of his hops, and Anderson played as an undersized forward. But Anderson played 2 in the NBA, and Battle was more of a guard than a forward. The lone front line guy was Lowell Hamilton, who was listed at 6-7. So maybe that's what we will see in 2009 for the Illini, as the talented freshmen arrive on campus, a talented four guard offense.

3. Every starter for this team could score, even though they were not considered a good outside shooting team. Much of their success was in hitting the boards with their jumping ability. Even guys off the bench had scoring ability, like Larry Smith and Marcus Liberty. Compare that to this year's team, which has a bunch of defensive specialists like Chester Frazier and Brian Randle.

4. Kenny Battle had a really nice shooting touch in the lane. He was not a great outside shooter, but he had a great turnaround jumper on the blocks, and had some really nice shots in close with incredible touch. Battle was the leading scorer for the game with 29 points.

5. Michigan had a huge size advantage in the match-up with Illinois, and in the end it took a toll on the Illini. Loy Vaught was huge, as well as Sean Higgins, Mark Hughes and Terry Mills.

It's still amazing we lost this game and the National Championship that year.

Michigan Recap

This Illini team really knows how to lose. It has become a formula, keeping it close in the first half, starting out OK in the second half, then going flat on offense in the last 10 minutes of the game. The Illini actually went over 11 minutes without scoring a field goal in this game. Once again, Weber showed that he likes to keep Shaun Pruitt in the game at the end so he can be fouled and work on his free throws as Illini fans cover their eyes.

Coach Weber promised we would see more of Tisdale and Alexander with Randle out, and neither one was very impressive. For significant minutes, Weber went with a four guard line-up, and Michigan was able to hit the boards and take the game away. Michigan almost got the Illini back in the game, when Brock was fouled on a three point shot near the end. As usual, the free throw was missed.

Almost nothing worked on offense in this game for the Illini, and I'm not sure what can be done to bring life back to this team. It looks like they are done for the year. There's not enough talent and psychologically, they are down. All in all, it was just an ugly game for Illini fans to watch.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Illinois faces Michigan in Ann Arbor Rematch

The Illini will see if they can either salvage another win this season, or just get ready for next season, by playing the Michigan Wolverines today in Ann Arbor. It's Jalen Rose day today, and the former Michigan star will be speaking to the crowd at halftime, according to pregame coverage.

For the Illini, we should see more of Mike Davis and Alexander, which could help prepare them for next season. If Weber is not impressed with their defense, he could go with a smaller line-up during the game, essentially playing Pruitt and four guards. Before the season began, there was talk of experienting with Pruitt and Tisdale on the floor at the same time, but we have seen little of that mythical line-up.

I don't expect much of the Illini at this point, and will be surprised if we can bounce back with a win.

Weber pushing McCamey to be like Deron Williams

In this article by Mark Tupper, it has become apparent that Bruce Weber has very high expectations of his freshman point guard, Demetri McCamey. Weber is pushing him to make the commitment to raise his overall game, to be coachable, and reach his full potential. It's obvious that player and coach have had their differences this season, but if they can work together as a coach and player should, McCamey could develop into a special basketball player.

Brian Randle likely out for rest of season

Brian Randle, Illini's senior forward is likely out for the rest of the year with a separated shoulder and possible damage to his AC joint. The Illini have four games remaining and the Big 10 tourney. Randle may need surgery to repair the AC joint. Forwards Rodney Alexander and Mike Davis are expected to get more playing time the rest of the season, which should help them prepare for next season.

It's sad to see yet another injury for Brian Randle, who has had his college career plagued by injuries, from his broken hand, to groin surgery, to shoulder problems. Brian does have his undergraduate degree already and is working on his masters degree, and could have a career in European basketball before it's over. Brian Randle is one of the best defenders I have ever seen in college basketball.

Jereme Richmond leaves Waukegan Hoops Team

There is a new report out today on that Jereme Richmond had an argument with his high school coach and is no longer on the Waukegan basketball team, as the team heads into the Class 4A tournament. Jereme Richmond is one of the top players in the country for the class of 2010, and the top-ranked player in the State of Illinois for his class. It will be interesting to see what comes out about this story and which program he plays for the next two years.

Sampson's Gone, Took $750,000 to Leave

Well, the saga of Kelvin Sampson is now over for IU and Illinois. Kelvin agreed to resign for the amount of $750,000 and releasing IU from further liability under Sampson's employment contract. This was apparently a concern after OSU lost its court battle with it's former Coach Jim O'Brien, paying out millions despite causing issues for the basketball program. Reports say that an anonymous donor contributed $550,000 of the settlement amount, which seems strange to me. Why does a major university need a donor to come in to close a settlement with an employee? Bizarre.

Dan Dakich is the new coach, some players are threatening to boycott the Northwestern game today, and life goes on for Eric Gordon and the IU basketball team. At least Illini fans won't have to worry about its coach not shaking hands with opposing coaches any longer.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dead Man Talking, Or Transcripts from a Serial Caller

Patrick Hruby of has uncovered some unbelievable transcripts of Kelvin Sampson's actual phone calls to Ebanks, a top Indiana basketball recruit. Read them here.

Now, before I get hundreds of obscene comments from Hoosier fans, I want to point out a few things to my readers:

1. I know these are not the actual transcripts of the conversations with Ebanks.
2. This is a humorous column from Patrick Hruby.
3. Yes, I know the drawing of Sampson is not accurate.
4. You are correct in assessing this story is not about Illini basketball.

Wait til next Season

As a Cubs fan, I'm used to saying this optimistically, "wait til next year." But being realistic for a minute, the Illini might have a tough year next season. As a matter of fact, Illini fans should expect this and bet on it, unless they want to be disappointed. Why am I so pessimistic?

Next season the Illini lose Shaun Pruitt, their leading scorer and Brian Randle, their best defender. These two seniors have had their ups and downs this year, but typically have played solid defense and rebounded well. It's hard to imagine our front line being better next season without these two players. People are expecting Tisdale to start as well as Alexander or Davis.

The guard situation should be better, with Jamar Smith returning to the line-up, and Alex Legion joining in the second half of the season, when he is eligible after his transfer. McCamey, Smith and Legion could be an exciting trio to watch playing for the Illini. But let's keep in mind we could easily be watching a line-up of Frazier, Meacham and Brock at guard next year, and that group is offensively challenged.

But it's not certain they will be better overall, because we are basically a similar team to this year, with more experience on our freshmen class from this past fall. Here's my quick summary of expectations of next year on a comparative basis:

Shooting- Improved
Defense- Weaker
Rebounding- Weaker
FT Shooting- Stronger
Turnovers- ?

Overall, I think it's as likely that we are better as we are worse than the current season. Let's hope I'm wrong.

Loss to Penn State, Loss to Wisconsin

It's getting tough to recap the games lately, and when I record them with Tivo I find I don't always watch them right away, especially when I know the outcome. This past week the Illini added losses to Penn State and Wisconsin. The Penn State game was a shame to lose, with such a poor shot being taken by Pruitt at the end of the game.

We lost tonight against Wisconsin, and I still need to watch this one--looks somewhat painful to watch. Randle is injured again and might be out for the season. Pruitt scored some points in the first half and McCamey came on in the second half, but two guys scoring for the team doesn't cut it and certainly is not a winning combination.

It could be fortunate when this season is over.

Deron Williams Mentors Demetri McCamey

According to this article in the St. Louis Today, Deron Williams is talking with Demetri McCamey about what it takes to develop an overall game as point guard. In the interview, Coach Weber continues to note the high potential of McCamey and describes what he needs to do to improve. McCamey has started practicing his shooting late at night, taking 500 shots at these sessions.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Brian Carlwell will transfer after this semester

Today the Illini basketball program announced that Brian Carlwell will leave U of I after the spring semester and transfer to another school to be named. Brian was injured much of the time at Illinois, and wants a fresh start somewhere else. Best of luck to Brian Carlwell next season! Article

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Greg Couch on Kelvin Sampson

Greg Couch of the Sun-Times is known for his high standards of journalism as he covers college basketball...........NOT.

Even so, Greg takes his readers through the history of the Sampson era at Indiana and concludes by saying Sampson and Greenspan must go, so Indiana can remove the Stain on Hoosiers Name.

Greg also is fairly sure Eric Gordon was not involved in the improprieties alleged by the NCAA, but later accuses Sampson of stealing Gordon and being the "King of a slimy business."

Today's News on Kelvin Sampson and Indiana University

Today's news and other commentary was filled with stories about Kelvin Sampson and Roger Clemens. Since Roger played baseball, I will summarize the stories about Coach Sampson.

Pat Forde of ESPN explains that Indiana has several options on what to do:
1. Fire Sampson Now
2. A Pre-emptive Post Season Ban
3. Do nothing and fight the power

Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports seems to think Indiana should fire Sampson now, because: a) it's a chance to admit how wrong it was to hire him, b) or you become a joke, c)or you alienate a sizeable portion of your fan base, d) or you take a public relations beating, or e) you cannot possibly believe he is capable of change.

Bob Kravitz of the Indy Star thinks "you get rid of slime." And his exact recommendation to IU is:

Here’s what should happen: Sampson gets fired. Greenspan gets fired. Assistant coach Jeff Meyer gets fired. Assistant coach Dan Dakich, who arrived on the scene this season, has the Bob Knight seal of approval and hasn’t been around long enough to have become covered in sleaze. Make him the interim head coach, with the emphasis on interim. IU doesn’t need another Mike Davis mess.

Something tells me Sampson will be fired. Can they fire him easily? Just read his contract.

Coach Sampson Deserves his Day in Court

Tonight I have a guest blogger, a friend (let's call him Hoosier Sam) who happens to be a huge IU basketball fan, commenting on the Kelvin Sampson situation. Here's his unbiased commentary.

The fallout in the media from the allegations of violations by the NCAA is amazing. What happened to the American tradition of due process, anyway? I'm not sure these NCAA rules are even constitutionally viable. Everyone uses a cell phone these days, and some people insist on using them with those annoying earbuds as they walk around looking like they are talking to themselves. How can the NCAA expect anyone go give up their cell phone privileges when it's become almost a part of everyday existence? Like all defendants, Coach Sampson deserves his day in court, when he can explain himself to those who think he did something wrong.

And all of this talk about repeat violations being a problem with the NCAA is even more troubling. I'm not an attorney, but I've seen enough legal shows and movies to know that you can't be tried twice for the same crime. That's double jeapardy, people. So once he was found guilty of being a cell phone fanatic due to his massive calling days at Oklahoma, he can't be charged again, can he?

And even if he could be charged again, maybe since he moved across state lines, you can't bring up past crimes when you prosecute someone, without prejudicing the jury. So why does the media and the NCAA keep worrying about the issues down in Oklahoma? That was another university and another basketball program, and really has nothing to do with the "alleged" issues at Indiana.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that Coach Sampson is innocent until proven guilty, and this is America, so everyone should just leave him alone and let those kids play basketball.

This whole controvery was probably created by those Illinois fans anyway, just trying to get under Coach Sampson's skin.

NCAA Allegations against IU Released by NCAA

This article in summarizes everything that came out today.

If you want to read the exact document for yourself, here's a link.

This looks like bad news for Coach Sampson and the IU basketball program.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Minnesota Recap

The Illini looked like a different team tonight in their 84-60 win over Minnesota. Box Score

They played solid defense, had no problems shooting or scoring, and Weber used a longer rotation of players in the game, with 15 minutes for Tisdale and Davis. McCamey is learning the point guard role, evidenced by his 11 assists, and Meacham was hot from three point range, hitting all 5 of his shots. The team hit an amazing 59% from the field on the way to their high scoring game of the season. Free throws were also impressive at 71% for the game. A total of 9 players played 10 minutes or more, which was the secret to the team's early success in Maui.

If we see this team play Penn State in the next game, we have a nice chance for another road victory.

Major Violations at Indiana University

According to, IU will make public major violation allegations against the University's basketball program tomorrow. Indiana received the letter from the NCAA last Friday, and the NCAA is expected to make a ruling on the infractions sometime this summer, after the basketball season is over. More on this tomorrow.

Minnesota Preview

The Illini are at Minnesota on Tuesday night to play the Golden Gophers and Tubby Smith. The Gophers seem to be a program on the rise, and the Illini have long winning streak against the Gophers on the line, 17 games to be exact. That sounds hard to believe we have taken that many from them, but I read it on Illinois Loyalty, so it must be true. Coach Weber is planning to play the freshmen more minutes to get ready for next year, so we should see more of Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis this game. And Demetri McCamey is coming off a career best game against Indiana last week.

This seems to be a much-improved Minnesota team compared to past seasons. The Gophers have lost to the top four teams in the conference (MSU, Ind., OSU and Wisc.) but played well enough to win against the other teams. Granted, it's a down year for the conference, but this is much improvement for the Minnesota program. The Illini winning streak is in jeapardy against the Gophers tonight.

Gopher Nation notes that the Illini "are playing better and this will be a very good test for us (Minnesota)." Apparently, Minnesota has lost all of its games against top 100 RPI team this season, and has won against all teams with a RPI of 101 or greater, so Gopher Nation feels this game should belong to Minnesota. It's become so hard to predict what the Illini will do each game, it's hard to argue with that reasoning.

Bob Knight and Illinois

Rick Morrissey must have lost his good sense with his column in the Chicago Tribune titled "Illinois fans can consider Bob Knight." This is about as close to a joke as anything I have read in a sports column, and I guess Morrissey is just looking for readers and selling more papers.

He describes Coach Weber as follows: "He might be able to get the best out of his players, but he can't get the best players to come to Champaign."

Then he proposes the following: "With so much dissatisfaction surrounding Weber the last couple of years, would you hire the now free and still loutish Bob Knight, given the chance?"

Then he basically dismisses the idea at the end: If nothing else, it's fodder for a cold February day. What would you do if one of the best coaches of all time expressed interest? You'd be silly if you didn't consider it."

Well, Mr. Morrissey, you are being silly by devoting an article in the Chicago Tribune to such an idea. While Bob Knight might show up at another NCAA program, don't expect him to be in Champaign any time soon. Bob Knight has been a great coach over the years, but we have our own excellent coach in Bruce Weber. And Weber can get the best players to come to Champaign. If you just paid attention to anything going on with Illini basketball, you would know the recruiting has completely changed in the last year, with four top recruits committed for the fall of 2009, and two top recruits committed for the fall of 2010. Have you ever read about Jereme Richmond or Crandall Head? The Illini will be back, and they will be led by their excellent basketball coach, Bruce Weber. And Ron Guenther is not silly enough to be fooled by your column, and Illini fans are against your idea (just check the poll on the Tribune website.)

Finally, the theory which makes more sense is that Bob Knight is headed back to Bloomington, Indiana. The NCAA investigation of Coach Sampson continues, and rumors persist that Sampson and the Athletic Director of Indiana will be dismissed. That opens up the chance for IU to rehire Bob Knight and repair a mistake made years ago when he was fired and replaced by Mike Davis.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Indiana Game in Champaign

I have avoided posting my thoughts thus far on the Indiana game, since I am still thinking about what happened, both the controversial sideshow with the Gordons and the amazing collapse on the free throw line by Mr. Pruitt. There are so many interesting articles on this game, I will gather links to them shortly. And the Indiana fans that post here with obscene remarks should realize they aren't making themselves look any better than the Illini fans at the game on Thursday night.

I have been so busy following basketball, I didn't even know that my niece Shannon was getting engaged at the beautiful Phoenician Resort in Arizona (photos).

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Indiana Game in Champaign

Tomorrow night is the game of the season for the Illini, with Kelvin Sampson and Eric Gordon coming into the Assembly Hall to visit Illinois and its basketball fans. The reception should be worth watching on ESPN's national coverage, even though Illini basketball has been tough to watch this year. Hopefully, this game will be different for the Illini.

The Hoosier Report seems to think the Illini will be ready to take on the Hoosiers tomorrow night, and notes that Illinois' defense is usually tough on IU.

And Kelvin Sampson is apparently looking forward to being in Champaign, saying on his radio show (per Hoosier Scoop), "it might be a little bit of a hostile environment."

In evaluating the Big Ten teams this year, Devin at College Basketball Chronotope has the Illini classified as a lower level working class team, equivalent to someone working at Walmart, and calls this season "looking less like a rebuilding year and more like a waste." Devin, I have to agree with you there. But we hope the game tomorrow makes this painful season somehow worthwhile. And there's always the Big 10 Tourney.

Eric Gordon has his left wrist wrapped due to a sprained wrist, but was able to score 29 points against Northwestern the other night. He should be ready to go against Weber's Illini. Look for Calvin Brock and Brian Randle to take turns guarding Gordon tomorrow, since it worked well in Bloomington.

Illini Basketball Updates

Here are some quick updates on Illini basketball prior to the Indiana game tomorrow night:

-Mike Tisdale is gaining weight, reaching 230 pounds in a recent weigh-in. It is unusual for basketball players to gain weight during the season, but eating lots of calories and watching his teammates from the bench has worked well for Mike this year.

-Bill Cole had a MRI yesterday for a possible stress fracture in his leg. No word yet on his condition, but he could be out for the rest of the season.

-Rich Semrau was injured in practice this week. He sprained his medial collateral ligament and will be out for 2-3 weeks.

-The Illini are thinking they might qualify for the new CBI post season tourney or make a run in the Big 10 tourney to reach the NCAAs. It's still early, but they really need to get back to playing .500 basketball for the year to have much of a chance. More details in this article.

-There are rumors about one of the Illini big men considering a transfer after the season is over. Not sure if this is true, but it could make sense given the incoming recruits like Simpson and the number of bigs on the roster.