Friday, April 27, 2007

Jordan, Pruitt, Smith, and upcoming events

As a little icing on the cake to Coach Bruce Weber's recent good news on the recruiting front, Jeffrey Jordan has announced his plans to attend the University of Illinois and join the basketball team as a preferred walk-on. Kudos to Coach Weber and his staff on adding Jordan to the 2007 class. While most people believe he will not be a major contributor his first couple of years, the thought is that he will be able to help the team down the road. In addition to what he will bring to the team, it is this blogger's belief that any time you can associate your program with Michael Jordan, it is a good thing. Apparently John Supinie, who must like our blog so much that he decided to use our name for his own blog, agrees with me. Jeffrey Jordan may be able to assist in encouraging other players to join the Illini, including his brother Marcus who is one of the top sophomore players in the state. Congratulations Jeffrey on your decision and we look forward to seeing you in orange and blue!!!

On a different note, Shaun Pruitt has declared himself eligible for the NBA draft. Mark Tupper provides some good perspective on this decison. Like Tupper, we fully expect Pruitt to be back with the Illini this fall. The best thing he can do is come back, work his tail off to have a monster senior season, and then go into the draft next year.

If anyone would like an update on Jamar Smith's legal situation, his case has been continued to May 24th. Click here for the story.

There are also some upcoming events all of you may be interested in so be sure to check out the details of the 2007 Fighting Illini Meet 'N' Greet Tour. Coach Zook will be attending all six of the tour stops. Below are the details in brief but click this link for more information or click here to register.


University of Illinois football coach Ron Zook has signed on for all six stops of the 2007 Fighting Illini Meet 'N' Greet Tour announced by the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics. This marks the first time in five years that Illinois has engaged in a tour of this nature. Coach Zook will be joined by coaches from various Illinois sports at each stop.The events are free of charge, but fans must reserve their admission at or via this direct link:

The first 500 people to sign up for each event will be granted admission. Guests age 18 and over are welcome. 2007 Fighting Illini Meet 'N' Greet Tour Locations:
May 10 Chicago (US Cellular Field-Stadium Club) 7 PM
May 18 Springfield (Illini Country Club) 7 PM
May 21 Peoria (Packard Plaza) 7 PM
May 22 Decatur (Decatur Conference Center & Hotel) 7 PM
May 23 Danville (Turtle Run Golf Club) 7 PM
May 24 Bloomington/Normal (Bloomington Country Club) 7 PM

Last but not least, if you live in the Peoria area and would like to meet Coach Weber, he will be at an upcoming Peoria Chiefs game. Details are below:

Coach Weber Event at Peoria Chiefs Game

Meet 'n' Greet Illinois men's basketball coach Bruce Weber at the Peoria Chiefs game at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 25. Coach Weber will sign autographs for fans in attendance at the Chiefs game against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. No reservation required - just buy a ticket to the game. It's Illini Night at O'Brien Field featuring Bruce Weber!

Have a good weekend everyone and GO ILLINI!!!

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

U of I -- The Place To Be

That's what state champion wrestler Erique Robertson decided last January. He graduated from high school early and skipped his senior wrestling season for Illini football. As one of the three members of the 2007 recruiting class to start school early, Robertson has made a switch from DB to RB. My favorite Robertson quote from the Trib:

"Coach Zook asked if it would be OK if they moved me to offense," Robertson says. "He left it up to me. I played both in high school, so it wasn't a big adjustment. I prefer hitting, but it's good to score touchdowns."

Scoring will be critical, as wins will be used to measure the football team this year. But Benn, Robertson and Flowers, who have all gotten plenty of attention this spring, seem to believe they made the right choice by heading to Champaign.

So who else will decide Illinois is the place to be? Speculation has pegged Robin Pingeton, the women's basketball coach down the road at Illinios State, as a solid replacement for Theresa Grentz. And the Tribune has Illinois at the top of Jeffrey Jordan's list, although that may be hometown bias, when compared to what the NY Times says on Jordan.

Note to Jeffrey: As the football freshmen say, Illinois is a great place to be. Just a couple hours from your hometown, regular opportunities to visit the United Center, a coaching staff committed to developing players...

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Preferred Walk-On

One other basketball note of interest. Jeff Jordan, son of MJ himself, played a pickup game with the Illini earlier this week. He is reportedly "seriously considering" an offer of joining the team as a preferred walk-on, and he's already been accepted at Illinois. Jeff's other options include walking on at Northwestern. Penn State and Loyola have also been mentioned. Rated a 3-star recruit, he would be an intriguing addition to the Illini roster. Plus, MJ would be more than welcome court-side by the Krush, and he would look much better in orange than Carolina blue.

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In the News...

Several items of interest today:

1) Lindsey Willhite of the Daily Herald provides a nice update on the current state of Illini basketball (and don't worry--for once it is postive news)

2) I cannot wait to see Arrelious “Rejus” Benn play this fall. He is going to be a great football player for the Illini and every article like this makes me more and more excited to see him suit up this fall.

3) Coach Weber explains why the Illini recruited and signed junior college player Rodney Alexander.

4) How long does IU Coach Kelvin Sampson's NCAA mandated recruiting phone call ban last? Not sure if it has already ended or when it concludes (if he is even obeying the ban), but this latest NCAA decision to eliminate text messages to recruits can't be good for him if the ban is ongoing. It is, however, in this writer's opinion good for the recruits who get bombarded with text messages from coaches with no limitations. UPDATE: I just found this commentary by Greg Couch of the Chicago Sun-Times. He answers my question about Sampson plus had comments from Illini Football Coach Ron Zook (who is a text messaging master) on why he disagrees with the decision.

5) Question for our readers. Do any of you know if the new Big Ten Network will be carried on satellite by the Dish Network? It appears to me that at the present time it is not looking likely as Dish Network is not mentioned in this article or this article from today's papers. Since I have Dish Network, this would be a very disappointing develop and I would have to assess whether I should make a change. If anyone else out there is in the same boat, I encourage you to call Dish Network at 1-888-284-7116 and ask them to add the Big Ten Network to their channel line-up.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Basketball News

Three quick basketball items that may be of interest to our readers today:

1) In addition to signing junior college forward Rodney Alexander to a letter of intent yesterday, Illinois had additional news in the way of current power forward C.J. Jackson. C.J. is going to suit up for football practice and could make a switch to that sport (which he starred in during high school) or become a two sport athlete. This decision could potentially free up a 3rd scholarship for the 2008 Class.

With the signing of Alexander, Illinois only has two scholarships for the 2008 class at this time. Although it would be nice to have three to work with, as an Illini fan I am pleased with how the 2007 class has ended up. While there were disappointments along the way, Illinois still ended up with what I think will turn out to be five good to very good players with a nice blend of guards and big men. It should be fun to watch all of the young guys blend with our returning players and grow as a team.

2) The Big Ten is going back to an 18 game league schedule. This schedule change means there willl likely be two fewer non-conference games but that each team will play all but two of the league teams twice. You can argue whether this is good or bad but I would rather watch two Big Ten teams go at it than a Big Ten team pound a cupcake. While teams won't be able to pad their victory total anymore, I think this is a good thing in the long run for the conference and for teams trying to make the NCAA tournament.

3) The schedule change won't effect the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, however, and Illinois will play at Maryland this coming season. Let's hope that the Illini can pull off a victory and that the Big Ten Conference can finally win the overall challenge for a change.

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Theresa Grentz

Illinois women's basketball coach, Theresa Grentz, has announced she is resigning, after spending 12 years at the university. While this decision surprised some people, the past few years have been a little more challenging for the women's basketball program and Grentz felt it was time to move on to pursue other opportunities.

I had a chance to meet Coach Grentz on a couple of occasions while I was in school and she was always a very classy lady. She has expereinced much success throughout her career and did a good job of building the program while she was here. We wish her the best of luck on her new endeavors and hope that AD Ron Guenther can find a replacement who will continue to build the program.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Rodney Alexander Completes the Class

The News-Gazette's Paul Klee lifts the curtain on the Illini's final basketball scholarship for next year. Let's hope this kid can shoot like they say he can. I'm all for bringing in a JUCO transfer who has a litle more experience under his belt and to balance out the scholarship load. Hopefully Alexander can learn Bruce's offense quickly and make an immediate contribution. We definately need guys who can score.

Having not seen Alexander play and thus not knowing how much he's progressed since high school, it's good to see that major programs like Oklahoma, Tennessee and Indiana all were interested in his services. I think Klee even mentions Kentucky in his blog entry. Good signs.



Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Work in Progress

That's my take on the 2007 Illini football team. Their spring practice scrimmage in Chicago offered Illini fans a taste of real football weather and the team's future. There are reasons for cautious optimism next fall, but this is still a young team, and it showed.

After fumbling the opening kickoff, Regis Benn made some nice catches and showed that he can run the ball. He will be exciting to watch. Juice had both solid and shaky moments. Rashard Mendenhall made a reasonable case for handling much of the ground yardage, with some encouraging runs. The defense had some solid hits and stops, but they also allowed big plays. There's plenty of time for improvement, and I'm confident that we do have a program on the rise -- it will just take a bit of time.

Chicago area fans, friends and family enjoyed the chance to analyze the team, and the comments I overheard expressed hope. (Although I didn't need to overhear a scouting report on LSU -- I was trying to focus on the Illini.) With the recruiting class Zook has arriving in Champaign next fall, the Illini should be able to take a step past competitive to putting a few more marks in the win column.

Go Illini!



Thursday, April 12, 2007

More on Q-Wat

This new blog entry from the News-Gazette's Paul Klee has some good info on Quinton Watkins' recruitment. I particularly enjoyed this quote from Coach Weber:

"He committed (to USC) pretty early," Weber said. "I remember him at (a summer) camp, looking at the list and saying, 'He's a good player, that guy's a good player.' But you ask where he's going, and they say, 'Well, he's already committed.' So you don't move forward.

Begin debate on whether this is Weber just being honest or taking a shot at our friends from that school to the east.

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Football Rule Changes

Alma Mater-

Definately agree with you on this one. It's hard to imagine the NCAA actually made the right decision and it's even harder yet to imagine that something they did actually benefited the University of Illinois (see her post below for more details).

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Let's Play!

That's the consensus from the NCAA. With an average of 14 less plays per college football game, last year's controversial clock rules shortened the games, but the NCAA has decided they want to let the kids play, too. Today they went back to the "good ol' days" of 2005, when the clock stopped on a change of possession and didn't start on kickoffs until the receiving team touched the ball.

As a college football fan, I believe (for once) the NCAA made the right decision. There's no question the 2006 rules changed the game. However, as an Illini fan, I wonder if the shorter games may have helped our young team hang in there and stay competitive in nearly every game last season. Maybe, just maybe, one of the NCAA's dictatorial efforts actually benefited our team. Never mind -- that's beyond even my imagination.

I fully expect that with a bit more experience under Coach Zook and the confidence they should have built last season, the 2007 Fighting Illini will be fun to watch, and I'm glad they will have those 14 plays back.

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Jamar Smith Will Still be a Student at U of I

Me thinks Jamar will be on the floor next season for the Illini. Not sure I agree with it but this report out of Champaign seems to indicate that things are moving that direction.



Q-Wat From Compton Signs

Shooting guard Quinton Watkins signed his National Letter of Intent to play ball at the U of I yesterday. We can now breathe a sign of relief as we actually have a shooting guard signed. Let's hope he's as good at getting to the rack and shooting the rock as this press release from U of I says.

Props to Weber and staff for getting one of the best guards on the West Coast, an area that historically hasn't proven very fruitful for the Illini on the recruiting front.

I also like this litle nugget about the background of his high school:

Quinton also benefited from playing at Dominguez under a highly successful coach in Coach Otis who has produced a number of outstanding players that have gone on to college and the NBA, including names like Tayshaun Prince and Tyson Chandler."



Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Indians Play Home Game in Milwaukee

This isn't an Illini-related post but I found this story extremely interesting. Cleveland's spring snow forced the Indians to play their home series against the Angles in Milwaukee. Here is my favorite excerpt:

Yet at the same time, it was a night for the fan. Luxury suites were closed. The front rows weren't filled with suits and ties, but rather college kids and families who otherwise wouldn't get a chance to get an up close view of America's pastime. Tuesday night, toddlers ran up and down Miller Park's aisles. Families took their kids to their first game. And everyone seemed to smile.



Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Four Eyes in the Receiving Corps

John Supinie has the skinny today on what the Illinois coaching staff is doing to try and eliminate dropped passes this year, including ordering eye exams for the receiving corps. It paid off as one player learned that he was blind in one eye. Not kidding:

Walk-on wide receiver Will Judson learned he was nearly blind in one eye. Players were scolded if they didn't wear their contacts to pass-catching workouts.

Also, he's got a blurb about Q-Wat. Let's hope no one steals him before Monday:

SIGNING DAY: Shooting guard Quinton Watkins of Dominguez High School in Compton, Calif., isn't expected to sign a letter of intent with Illinois on Wednesday, the first the day of the spring signing period. But Watkins is still considered a solid verbal who will sign Monday in a ceremony at Dominguez, which is out of school this week on Easter break.

And finally, what will ever become of the final basketball scholarship:

With its last available scholarship, Illinois remains a finalist for Rodney Alexander, a 6-foot-7, 225-pound sophomore forward from Redlands Community College in Oklahoma. Alexander made an official visit to Illinois in March. The native of Benton Harbor, Mich., will visit Tennessee this week after canceling a trip to Indiana.

Senior guard Tyler Abbott of Phoenix, who was granted his release from New Mexico following a coaching change, may visit Illinois after earlier reports he was leaning toward Washington State.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Guest Blog: A Young Illini

Here at Illinitalk, we discriminate primarily on the basis of team loyalty, college affiliation and opinion. We do not discriminate based on age, race, faith, etc. We also strive to be truly comprehensive and unique.

With that in mind, we are pleased to bring you a guest blog from one of our faithful readers:

Hi! I'm 'Little Alma Mater' and I'm 11 years old. I know Alma Mater very well she has taught (brainwashed) me almost all I know about college sports and the Illini. Because of her when I was asked if I would rather go to the U of I or Disney World, I simply said, "Are you crazy? The U of I of course. It's one of the best vacation spots ever!"

Speaking of college sports, the NCAA men's basketball tournament just came to a close. How sad. My brackets weren't too pretty but they entertained me (and I think life goes on). My mom's brackets did really well however. (She guessed.) It was kind of hard to live with her for a while.

I don't know how the other fifth graders' brackets did (by 'other' I mean a few of the boys). I'm the only girl at school who really likes collage basketball. It stinks. There are also some annoying Hawkeye fans I have to deal with.

Now back to my brackets. Wisconsin's loss hurt bad, I had them going to the Final 4. Ohio State won it all in my brackets, but at least they made it as far as they did. They were the only Final 4 team I had left. I also had the Illini wining their first game. Be loyal people! Shame on those of you who didn't pick them over VT.

Anyway, at least I didn't start over at the Sweet 16 like AM said I do.

If you like a suspenseful tournament this year was great. 4 OTs in only 8 games one night! I didn't know how many close games I could take. That same night North Carolina beat Michigan St. by 14 (unfortunately, you have to go with the Big Ten). Mom said it was really a blowout even though it wasn't an awful game, because of all the OTs.

Overall I thought the Illini did fairly well this year considering the circumstances. It would have been nice not to have all those injuries, or the Jamar Smith deal. I'm sure loosing the Chief didn't help our players either. They're a pretty young team though and have lots of room to improve. I can't wait to watch them again next season!

(Please note that this post represents a reader opinion, only, and is not the official Illinitalk position on any issues, particularly my character. Personally, I plead the fifth on any accusations contained above.)

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Welcome to the Big Ten

Dear Coaches Smith, Lickliter, and Beilein,

Welcome to the Big Ten Basketball Coaching Fraternity. You will find a dedicated fan base, heated rivalries and hostile arenas, much like you have seen in the Big East and SEC. (Todd, it's a bit different than the Horizon League, but given your 2006-07 schedule, you should be able to handle it.)

While your ADs and fans expect big-name recruits and NCAA tournament berths, the rest of the conference expects you to represent the heart of the Midwest with integrity. Please. Your programs have been under the shadow of sanctions (or an ugly bird) in recent years, and you are expected to banish them.

As an Illini fan, I hope you enjoy your first trip to Assembly Hall, and that you help us maintain our dominating home-court record. Oh, and if you change your mind about your new jobs, you won't be alone...

Alma Mater

Illini fans: For those in Champaign who want just a bit more college basketball, check out the Ultimate Basketball Challenge, a fundraiser for the Illini wheelchair basketball teams and Coaches vs. Cancer, April 11, 7 p.m., at Huff Hall.

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Gasoline Alley

Congrats to Alma Mater for Best Random Post of the Day so far. Please tell me Amen Corner was mentioned during one of the cheesy Masters promo's during March Madness. Otherwise I'm going to seriously wonder about her chosen vocation and why she isn't sitting in the anchor chair for the Worldwide Leader.

Chief's Random Post of the Day: The term "Gasoline Alley" at The Brickyard probably first came into use sometime in the 1920s and may have even taken its name from a cartoon strip of the same name that debuted in August 1919.

Back at ya.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Just In Case You Were Wondering...

Amen Corner consists of holes 11, 12 and 13 at the Augusta National Golf Club. The nickname was bestowed by a sportswriter in 1958, and comes from a jazz song directed by a Chicago clarinetist. See what you can learn by watching too much basketball?


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Are You Ready for Some Football?

This is why I'm excited about football.



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