Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Illini 2009 Class now rated number 2

ESPN has come out with an article and ranking of the 2009 classes, and no surprise to me, the Illini are ranked number 2 behind North Carolina, due to their verbals from Tyler Griffey, Brandon Paul, DJ Richardson and Joseph Bertrand. There are still a majority of the top players left uncommitted, but the Illini and Bruce Weber have a great early class commmitted for 2009.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Expectations for the Illini include Simpson

Rumblings around the Champaign-Urbana campus indicate Stan Simpson is eligible to play basketball this fall and is enrolling for the summer school session soon. The depleted Illini front line might need some help from Stan Simpson, that's for sure.

No word on where Brian Carlwell and Rodney Alexander might be headed, we'll just have to wait and see what happens this summer. Carlwell has been rumored to be headed to Lexington, and Rodney is probably looking around at this point.

I had read speculation that Calvin Brock might decide to not return to school, since he has already received his undergraduate degree. But we can expect to see Calvin return for his final year of eligibility this fall, and provide the Illini with valuable minutes with his excellent defense, rebounding and shooting.

Alex Legion is getting some valuable game experience in Poland this week, and I'll bet he's showing his shooting acumen and athleticism as well. He will be eligible to play for the Illini in December, from what I understand, and will probably become a fixture in the starting line-up.

My best guess at the Illini starting line-up once Legion is available: McCamey, Smith, Legion, Keller and Tisdale. Rotating in off the bench would be Frazier, Brock, Meacham, Jordan and Davis. Cole and Simpson will be looking to extend the rotation, or find a spot with shooting or defense. Am I forgetting anyone? I don't think so.

Alex Legion and AIA team score over 100 in Poland

Alex Legion must be having a great experience in Poland, as the Athletes in Action team went over the century mark last night in Poland to win 104=79. Full story is on the AIA site.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Early Previews of Big Ten Basketball 2008/2009

Devin of College Basketball Chronotope has already pulled together a preview of the upcoming Big Ten Season, and I have to agree with most of his writing. Basically, he has Purdue, Michigan State and Wisconsin at the top, with Illinois just behind. My only question at this early stage, could the Big 10 be so weak we only get three teams in the NCAA? I can't recall the last time this happened since the field was 64 or 65 teams.

Even earlier to the task, KJ of Spartans Weblog put out his predictions, which have Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan State at the top (sounds familiar). KJ has the Illini moving up from the bottom to 6th place in the conference, citing the uncertainty with the Illini front line. I agree this is a really hard Illini team to project, since the guards will be somewhat new (scoring ones, at least) and the front line is a huge question mark.

Athletes in Action come back with Legion's Shooting

The Athletes in Action team played Friday night and after falling behind due to pourous defense, came roaring back due to "razor sharp shooting" by Illinois' Alex Legion. The short game summary is on the AIA website.

We have been hearing about Alex Legion working on his game with Jamar Smith, and it appears he can be a force in European basketball games, at least. It will be interesting to see his game in Champaign when he becomes elibible in December 2008.

Illini Basketball will be back on top

For anyone who has not been paying attention, this much is clear: the Illini basketball program, led by Coach Bruce Weber, will be back and a force in the Big 10 conference and NCAAs. In an article by's Kedric Price, the comeback of the Illini is summarized as follows:

2008/2009: Team is likely to improve due to Jamar Smith, Alex Legion, Dominique Keller and Stan Simpson joining returning players from last season.

2009/2010: Four highly-rated recruits join the Illini. DJ Richardson, Brandon Paul, Tyler Griffey and Joseph Bertrand have all been rated in the top 100 players nationally in various rankings.

2010/2011: Two of the top 15 players in the country have verbally committed to the Illini, with Jereme Richmond rated 7th and Crandall Head at 12th.

2011/2012: TBD, In process.

I personally think the new challenge for Bruce Weber and his staff will be dealing with all of the talented players coming into the program, keeping the players focused on the team aspect of the game and playing defense. If he can accomplish that, he could easily have another team like the 2005 squad or the 1989 "Flying Illini."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Follow Alex Legion in Poland with AIA

Alex Legion is with a traveling team from Athletes in Action in Poland, scheduled to play three games: two against the National team and one against an all-star team. The director of the group, Mike Sigfrids is blogging while on the trip to keep us updated.

The roster and schedule for the AIA team are here.

The latest post from Mike is here.

I hope they can keep updating their blog, so we can follow the games in Poland.

Illini Fans Ranked #11 Last Season

According to statistics released by the NCAA for last season, the Illini fans ranked number 11 in the country for attendance of home games, with an average of 16,618 fans crowding into the Assembly Hall in Champaign.

I wish the Illini basketball squad was ranked #11 last year, but that was last season, and we need to look forward to 2008 and 2009.

Nice job Illini fans! Not everyone can support a team like the one we watched last season, but that's the mark of true fans, following your team during the tough years.

McCamey, Davis and Howard returning from China

Mark Tupper follows the Illini basketball team all year, and notes that McCamey, Davis and Howard are returning from their trip to China tomorrow. Apparently, McCamey had a really good trip playing basketball with the traveling team, and Davis did alright as well. It sounds like Jerrance Howard was the coach for the team, and they got beat repeatedly by the number three team from China (maybe they had some big guys from Northern China).

I hope they had a chance to see the big cities like Shanghai and Beijing, which are pictured here. Despite the earthquake aftershocks they experienced, it must have been a rewarding experience for all.

Alex Legion heads to Poland next. Good luck to Alex, hope he scores big time and comes back ready to play Big 10 basketball.

More on the China trip here, from the News-Gazette.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Interview with Tyler and Chris Griffey

Here's a nice interview with Tyler Griffey and his Dad, Chris that was done on Tyler is joining the Illini for the class of 2009, and is a highly-rated forward from the St. Louis area. Chris has posted here on Illini BBall Fans Blog, and is a frequent poster on the various websites. Tyler has his senior year starting this fall, and then off to Champaign. He will be a great addition to the program.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Jereme Richmond Highlights

Richmond's game looks pretty good too. Hope he joins the others in the fall of 2010.

Tyler Griffey Sophomore Highlights

Tyler Griffey looks like a highly-skilled big man for the Illini front line.

Joseph Bertrand Highlights

Joseph Bertrand has some serious moves to the hoop, and can score. He looks big in this video. Another one of the 2009 guards coming to Champaign.

Brandon Paul Highlights

Brandon Paul can take it to the hoop big time, shoot free throws, and get off the floor. Can't wait for 2009 to be here!

Crandall Head Highlights

Crandall Head is so smooth, plays above the rim and is so relaxed out there. He should really be something in the orange and blue.

DJ Richardson Highlights

This video shows the skills of DJ Richardson driving to the hoop in the Assembly Hall in Champaign. It will be great to see him in orange and blue.

Mark Tupper's thoughts on Jereme Richmond

Jereme Richmond has been in the news lately, and Mark Tupper, back from traveling, comments on the Richmond stories before going on vacation. Personally, I hope Richmond goes to school in Champaign and Tupper catches some big fish in Minnesota.

Oh, and in other articles, Richmond is planning to return to Waukegan to play hoops, even though he did not finish the season on the team. I'm not going to worry too much about Jereme, since he seems like a good kid and 2010 still seems like a long time away.

Brandon Paul getting ready for Champaign

Brandon Paul will be a senior at Warren this fall, and is continuing to improve his game before joining the Illini basketball team in the fall of 2009, according to this Sun-Times article. Dickey Simpkins has been one of Paul's coaches, and feels he can play in the NBA someday. Brandon used to watch the Illini in 2005 and likes the idea of the motion offense with three guards. I can't wait to see the 2009 class in action.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bruce Weber Recognizes Sites that cover Illinois Basketball

Bruce Weber is now helping with the marketing of my blog, by mentioning he is aware of websites that cover Illinois Basketball. I know, there's lots of blogs and message boards that cover Illini hoops. My favorite board is Illinois Loyalty, and I sometimes enjoy posting there. But I'm thinking Bruce must have someone reading my site, since we are one of the few blogs that focus entirely on Illini basketball. Here's some quotes from the article, and a link, of course.

“We have a very passionate fan base, and I know that they are active on a lot of the sites that cover Illinois basketball,” Weber said. “I tell our players not to pay attention to them. But we do have people that monitor those sites. And the reason we do is because there is a lot of misinformation out there.

“So when wild rumors and other misinformation show up on those sites, we are reacting to that and trying to get the correct information out. The good thing is it shows there’s a lot of interest in our program. I’d rather have fans that maybe care too much than fans that don’t care.”

Kentucky Wildcats thinking about transfers

Lots of buzz is happening within the Kentucky Wildcat fan community about a rumored transfer coming to Lexington this fall (to sit and wait to play in the fall of 2009). They are hoping he is big, and specifically some speculate the transfer is Brian Carlwell, who announced earlier that he will be transferring from Illinois.

Tracey Webster, formerly an assistant at Illinois, took a job working for Billy Gillespie at Kentucky, and may be playing a role to get Carlwell to Lexington. According to the rumors, the transfer should be announced in the next week or so.

I'm sure the Illini coaching staff is trying to help Carlwell find a good situation for finishing out his college career, since they already used his scholarship for the 2009 recruiting class. Also looking for a new school is Rodney Alexander, who despite being one of my personal favorites, did not fit in at Illinois. I expect we might have a third player looking to transfer, but this has not yet been announced.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Meet and Greet Bruce Weber, Illini Basketball Coach

Starting May 12th, Bruce Weber, Jerrance Howard and Ron Zook will be traveling around Illinois to meet with Illini fans. Take advantage of this opportunity to meet with the coaches in either Lisle, Bloomington, Springfield or Peoria. Details are here.

You must be one of the first 500 fans registering here.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Roger Powell to Speak in Peoria

Roger Powell Jr. will be appearing at a speaking engagement in Peoria, Illinois on May 24th before the Peoria Chiefs baseball game. Roger is a star player for the Siviglia Wear basketball team in Teramo, Italy. My expectation is that he will make a fine speech, so those in the area should go out and enjoy Roger and some baseball as well.

Local Champaign Hoopster Heads to Bloomington (Indiana)

Verdell Jones, a point guard who played for Champaign Central High School, not far from the University of Illinois, committed to Indiana University this week. Jones is rated a three star guard by the recruiting website. Local sources indicated that Jones never had an opportunity to play at Illinois, where Coach Bruce Weber has received a number of commitments from talented guards across the State. Instead, Jones was able to attract interest from Kentucky, Minnesota and recently Arizona prior to cancelling his campus visit there. The Indiana opportunity must have presented an opportunity to play right away, as the program has lost several scholarship athletes in recent days. And Coach Crean has coached some excellent guards in recent years. The end result? Verdell Jones will be able to come back home to Champaign and visit as an opponent from Indiana!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Tyler Griffey hitting the weights

Tyler Griffey's plans for the off-season this summer are detailed in this article in the PJStar. Key points:

-Tyler is not just focusing on the AAU circuit this summer.
-He has a personal trainer for daily workouts.
-Tyler is hitting the weights, and hopes to be 235 when he enrolls at U of I in 2009.
-Tyler is working on skill development at the Adidas instructional program.

Illini fans are going to enjoy Tyler Griffey, who I expect to be an impact player at Illinois.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A Packed Scholarship Grid Makes Some Wonder

Unlike Indiana basketball, the Illini have very few scholarships available for the fall of 2009 and 2010. In fact, according to this grid, they have exactly none until the fall of 2011.

So why are they offering talented Lenzelle Smith Jr., who begins college in the fall of 2010? Is he a back-up, in case someone doesn't sign? Could be. Or are they certain one of the player will leave early for the NBA? Someone like McCamey, Tisdale, Davis, or one of the talented 2009 freshmen? Probably not. Most likely, there is a scholarship spot open due to someone transferring from the team. We will have to keep our eyes open this month and next, to see if any announcements are made.

In 2011, scholarships are wide open again at Illinois, and that is the main focus these days for the Illini basketball coaching staff.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Illini Basketball Players excel in the Classroom

The Illini basketball team is being recognized by the NCAA for being in the top 10% of the NCAA for academic progress, and the only Big 10 men's basketball team receiving this recognition this year. Congratulations to the team and Bruce Weber for being true student-athletes.