Tuesday, June 28, 2005

NBA Draft

I don't know about the rest of you, but for me the NBA Draft has flown under the radar this year. That may be due to the fact that for the first time in years, my beloved Bulls are not in the draft lottery. In fact, they are not in the draft at all as their first and second round picks were traded to other teams in past deals. Thanks to the Bulls making the playoffs this year, they would have had a relatively low draft pick. They gave that up to get the #7 pick last year, which turned into Luol Deng. I would call that a good trade so kudos to GM John Paxson for pulling that off.

But enough about the Bulls. Our focus today is on where our beloved Illini players will go in tonight's draft. We have touched on this briefly over the past few weeks but things are constantly changing so here is the latest. As of this afternoon, it looks like Deron Williams will be going #3 to the Utah Jazz and will take aim at all of John Stockton's many records. It is possible Atlanta could take him at #2, but I don't think they will pass up Marvin Williams and his (the dreaded word) "potential."

While I would prefer to see Deron go to a team in the Eastern Conference so we could see him play more, I think Utah and Jerry Sloan could be a very good fit for him. He is a Sloan type of player. There is some debate as to whether Deron or Chris Paul should be the first point guard drafted (with Raymond Felton the 3rd PG) but after having watched them both play this year, I would take Deron hands down (granted, I have a little Illini bias but I think Deron will be the better pro. He may not be as big a scorer as Paul but he will make all of his teammates better, which I am not convinced Paul can do).

As for Luther, the mock draft in the Tribune has him going to the Houston Rockets at #24 as does Sports Illustrated's mock draft. However, some of the other mock drafts do not have him going in the first round at all so it looks like Houston may be his best chance to be a first round pick. As for Roger and Jack, it looks like the second round or being signed as free agents is the route they will go, which is not unexpected.

All in all, tonight could be a very good evening for these Illini players. In addition, the higher they go, the better it is for the program as one of the things potential recruits will look at when choosing a school is whether that school has been successful in helping its players to reach the NBA and succeed there. Illinitalk wishes the best of luck to Deron, Luther, Roger, and Jack and we hope that all of you end up with teams that will be a good fit for your talents. Go Illini!


Zook Becoming Head of Illinois Border Patrol

New Illinois football coach Ron Zook hasn't coached a game for the Illini yet but he is already locking down the state of Illinois when it comes to recruiting. Everyone knows the first step in turning recruiting around is getting the talent in your own state first and then branching out elsewhere and that's exactly what Zook is doing.

With the commitment of Chicago Vocational quarterback Isiah Williams, Zook sent a message to the rest of the Big 10 that you'd better be prepared to fight if you want to raid Illinois for talent anymore. Williams, a four-star recruit whose nickname is "Juice," is said to have a rocket launcher on his shoulder.

Williams' commitment is paying off as other commitments are rolling in. Marques Wilkins, a four-star wide receiver from Decatur MacArthur committed today. Mark Tupper has the latest here.

Joe Tiller (Purdue), Kirk Ferentz (Iowa) and others beware: The Zooker is patrolling the Illinois border!


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Brandon Rush Out of Draft

Reported late yesterday, Brandon Rush took his name out of the NBA draft. Obviously this has ramifications for the Illini as Rush had narrowed his college choices down to Illinois and Oklahoma before putting his name in the draft.

There seem to be some questions about whether Rush would qualify academically but if Weber lands him, it would be another huge get.

One thing to keep in mind, however: Weber may not make a major play to get Rush. If he chooses to go this route, I would hope that Illini fans would please trust the coach. It probably means he doesn't think Rush is coachable or that he may not qualify. Just something to keep in mind.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Illinois Punks UNC for Carlwell

The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting this morning that Illinois beat out North Carolina--as well as Michigan State and Florida State (Florida State?!?!?!?!?!)--in the recruitment of Proviso East standout Brian Carlwell.

This is big news for Illinois. Carlwell is regarded as a top 40 recruit and will provide more muscle inside, and coming on the heels of Dee's announcement that he's returning next season, even more recruiting momentum.

Ever since watching Emeka Okafor and Sean May dominate their respective Final Fours, I've always wondered if Illinois could land a top-rated big man and Bruce Weber could help him develop if it would be the missing piece to Illinois' championship puzzle. Obviously other things need to happen (like the recruitment of a great point guard like Sherron Collins) but Bruce Weber is well on his way to building an elite program at Illinois.


Monday, June 20, 2005

The Dee is Back

Dee Brown announced at a press conference this afternoon that he will return to Illinois for his senior season. Although the circumstances that led to this decision by Dee aren't the best, it just doesn't seem right for Dee to leave Illinois any other way than to a huge standing ovation on Senior Day next spring. Will there be a dry eye in the house?


Monday, June 13, 2005

Illinois Governor Blagojevich=Sports Carpetbagger

I was listening to Mike & Mike talk about the Cubs-Red Sox series on my way to work this morning. Yes, I am a Cubs fan and yes, this is an Illini sports blog but bear with me.

Greenie and Golic were having such an entertaining back and forth and then all of a sudden here comes their next guest: Illinois Governor Blagojevich. I couldn't believe my ears. He was yukking it up big time about the Cubbies.

I would have been only slightly disgusted had it been the first time he's tried to capitalize on the popularity of an Illinois sports team. However, it reminded me about something I wanted to mention during college hoops season and in the midst of all the excitement I forgot.

The governor tried to ride the Illinois basketball team's popularity this past season too. Just witness this link: CBS2. I mean, seriously, you could do an easy game of "which one of these things does not belong?" with that picture.

My beef is this: before the season, did the governor even know where Champaign is located?

It is truly disgusting when the top government executive in the state is spending more time analyzing balls and strikes and weaseling his way into photo ops with basketball players than governing.

In fact, at the end of his segment on Mike & Mike, Greenie or Golic (can't remember which) asked (after the governor hung up) when he has time to govern. Many citizens of Illinois are probably wondering the same thing.


Friday, June 10, 2005

Quick Update

Not much time to write today so below are some of the articles from today's papers. Be sure to check out the article from the Tribune that talks about who's status is rising and who's is falling at the NBA draft camp. Luther's is rising, which is great, but so is Brandon Rush's, one of our potential recruits who is still in high school and has narrowed his choices to Illinois, Oklahoma, or the NBA.

Dee update from the Tribune

Luther's rising stock

Dee update from the Sun-Times

A great article from the Daily Herald that covers both Dee and some more information regarding Brandon Rush.

That's all for now. Gotta run but I hope everyone has a great weekend!


Marlen Garcia=Bob Woodward Wannabe

Last week's revelation that Mark Felt was "Deep Throat" throughout the Watergate saga apparently has infected the brain of the Chicago Tribune's Marlen Garcia. Garcia apparently has Bob Woodward syndrome. For those not in the know, Woodward is the famous Washington Post reporter whose reporting, with the help of an extremely high-placed confidential source known as "Deep Throat," helped bring down the Nixon presidency. Garcia is the Chicago Tribune reporter whose beat includes Illinois basketball.

The positive of Watergate is that it exposed corruption in the government. The negative is that every reporter wants to be the next Bob Woodward, and in doing so many times go overboard. Sports reporting is not immune.

I understand good, strong, in-depth reporting and giving readers all sides of the story but sensationalizing the relationship between a college student and his basketball coach is over the line.

This story from yesterday's Tribune started it. (Actually it started with some stories earlier in the season but none were as blatant as this.)

Then Dee broke his foot and Garcia filed this story that ran in today's (Thursday) Tribune.

Granted, Dee Brown's comments merit reporting. However, Dee Brown is a young man who just happens to be a dynamite basketball player with a future that is not totally certain. His coach also happens to be honest to a fault. The combination makes for some interesting chemistry.

However, I think Garcia would have been better off reporting the way ESPN's Andy Katz did. Yesterday he had a story on ESPN's website that downplayed the "rift," much like he does in this story he filed today.

Bottom line: Dee Brown is a great basketball player. Bruce Weber is a great coach. Both are outstanding individuals. Watergate this isn't (unless Bruce Pearl was the subject of the story of course). Garcia needs to cool it.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Tough break for Dee (no pun intended) and for the Rev

By now many of you have probably heard that Dee Brown broke his foot yesterday at the NBA's pre-draft camp. Roger Powell was also injured and has a sprained right ankle. The Sun-Times has a good article today that not only covers these two injuries but also talks about the solid performance of Luther Head at the camp. My favorite quote of the day comes from an unnamed GM who after a great defensive effort by Luther said, "One thing about the Illinois guys, they defend." I love it!!! That's one of the reasons why Illinois is going to remain a very good to great team in the years ahead. Kudos to Coach Weber for emphasizing defense to his players.

So what do Roger's and Dee's injuries mean? Well, for Powell, depending on the severity of the sprain, it will hopefully just limit his ability to play in this particular camp. He should have other opportunities to work out and show NBA teams he is worthy of being drafted or, at the very least, getting a look as a free agent.

For Dee the implications are much greater. While we cannot assume anything until we hear it from Dee, it is very likely he will now be returning to Illinois for his senior year. It would be taking a huge risk to remain in the draft now that he can no longer participate in pre-draft camps or individual workouts. As Chief and I discussed, we hate to see it happen this way, but this is huge for Illinois. While for his sake, I wish Brown could have finished the process and then made his decision, I think in the long run this will be the best thing for him. He may be able to play himself into the first round for next year's draft and get a guaranteed contract, unlike if he went in the second round.

It will certainly be a positive for the Illini if they are able to have both Browna and Augustine back and then fill in with young talent that started to show some development last season. It may also swing a couple recruits our way knowing they would be playing with Dee for a season. Finally, it will be a positive for college basketball, as Dee has become the face of not only the Illini, but college basketball as a whole. Illinitalk wishes Dee the best as he deals with the disappointment of this injury and the process of getting his foot rehabbed.

Some other quick notes for today:

Former Illinois quarterback, Kurt Kittner, who led the Illini to the 2002 Sugar Bowl, is preparing to lead the Amsterdam Admirals in the NFL Europe Title Game. Kittner's performance in NFL Europe may give him a shot at being invited to the Chicago Bear's training camp, where he would be reunited with former Illini coach and new Bear's offensive coordinator, Ron Turner.

Illinitalk is a big fan of Decatur Herald-Review sports editor, Mark Tupper. In fact, his blog is linked to our site. It is always well-done and a great read. Recently, Tupper has been writing a book with Coach Bruce Weber entitled "Through My Eyes," which is an inside look at the greatest season in basketball history. The book goes on sale this coming Monday, June 13th, and would be a great Father's Day gift (hint, hint, to Oskee Mom Mom).

Finally, a tease for an upcoming post from Chief. Yesterday, I posted a link to the Trib's article on Dee Brown. The Trib also had an article today, which can be found here. The Chief has some major issues with these articles and is preparing a gem of a post. The only hint I can give you is that I believe the terms Watergate and Deep Throat will come up. Check back later today or tomorrow and enjoy!


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Hoops News

There have been several articles over the past week that were worth a read. The Trib did a feature on former Illini star, Nick Anderson, last week, an article on Kendall Gill's boxing ambition, and has had articles on Dee Brown's NBA pursuit Monday and today. Click on the following to read the articles:

Nick Anderson Feature Story

Kendall Gill's Boxing Pursuit

Dee Brown participates in pre-draft camp at the Moody Bible Institute

A Rift between Brown and Coach Weber?

And to be fair, here are the Sun-Times versions of the Gill article and Brown's efforts to make the NBA:

Kendall Gill in the ring

Dee Brown takes a shot at the NBA

Okay, it has been a while since I last posted so there has been a variety of news that has come out about the draft. Before I discuss Dee's situation, let's cover where the other Illini players stand. First, it appears Deron Williams could go as high as #3 or #4 in the draft. While this is not guaranteed, he has consistently been discussed as a top 4 draft pick in recent weeks and is competing with Chris Paul from Wake Forest to be the first point guard drafted. Utah has a very strong interest in landing one of these two guards. While I have nothing against Utah, it would be nice to see Deron somewhere closer by where we might get to see more of his games on TV. Regardless, this is great for him and certainly is a positive for the Illinois program to have a player projected to go this high in the draft.

Second, Luther Head is trying to play his way in the first round. I beleive that he, Roger Powell, and Dee are all working out at the NBA pre-draft camp at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago this week. Jack Ingram may also be in attendance but I have not heard that for sure. I think Luther has a shot at making it into the end of the first round if he performs well here and at individual team workouts. Again, this would be great for him as well as Illinois. I think Roger is pretty well locked into the second round at best and the same for Ingram. Hopefully, they will both be drafted but if not, they will have to compete for free agent contracts to get their shot.

Finally, this brings us to Dee. Originally, I was not too worried about Dee following through and going to the NBA this season rather than returning to Illinois. However, I am feeling much less certain about Dee's return with each passing day. If you clicked on the last article above, you will see that from his point of view, Dee wishes Coach Weber was being a little more supportive of his NBA pursuit. Having read all of the various newspaper articles over the past few weeks and also having seen Coach Weber be interviewed during the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley a couple weeks ago, I would agree that Coach Weber is not serving as a cheerleader for Dee but I don't think he is being unfair to him either. I think he is being Weber--honest and realistic in his assessment. We can argue about whether this is the right or wrong approach but Weber has always been pretty candid and open about his thoughts. Ultimately though, while I do understand that to some extent there is a conflict of interest, I think Coach Weber truly believes that it would be best for Dee if he were to come back to Illinois for his senior year.

From the article, Dee doesn't sound like his current frustration with Coach Weber would prevent him from going back to Illinois if that is what NBA scouts recommend. However, I just don't like the way this whole thing is progressing. We will see how this plays out--right now I just don't know.

On a side note, I really wish that players and coaches could discuss these issues privately versus airing them in the press.

P.S. Football news. Kisan Flakes, who was projected to be Illinois' backup quarterback this fall has been suspended from the team indefinitely after being arrested on drug related charges. Not a great way to start the summer but glad Coach Zook took swift action and hope he stay tough when it comes to disciplining his players (although I hope we don't have any more players that get themselves into this type of situation!!!).


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