Some Sunday Morning Mandatory Illinois Basketball Reading

Some of my fondest memories attending the U-of-I revolve around the down time between classes, specifically getting exposed to different types of music – both new and old — and listening to classic albums such as The Velvet Underground’s first release (with Nico).

If you have never heard this album, its first song – the dreamlike Sunday Morning – is sure to hook you in.

In honor of Sunday morning (a perfect time to read the newspaper, recap the week and look forward to what’s ahead), here is some mandatory reading on the Illini basketball program and a preview of things to come.

Perhaps this will be a weekly thing.

Maybe it won’t.

Anyways, enjoy for the time being.

● In today’s News Gazette, Illini beat writer Paul Klee provides an in-depth profile of incoming freshman center Meyers Leonard of Robinson High School. Klee’s article details Leonard’s challenging but successful upbringing following the death of his father at the age of 6 and highlights the highly-touted big man’s love for not only his hometown of Robinson but water parks and the Illini. Considering the buzz surrounding Leonard (who could pro following two collegiate seasons), this well-crafted, touching article is worth your time well beyond the obvious reasons of Leonard’s individual talent and potential impact on the Illini basketball program.

● In today’s Chicago Sun-Times, Taylor Bell highlights the Illini’s 2010 recruiting class of Leonard, 2010 Illinois Mr. Basketball Jereme Richmond and Luther Head’s younger brother Crandall.
According to Van Coleman of Hoopsmasters.com, Illinois has the 11th best incoming freshman class, the same verdict reached by Scout.com.

Bell summarizes Coleman’s opinion that Head, who was ranked highly during his sophomore season but dropped due to missing his entire senior season with an ACL injury, is the “Charlie Kelly” wild card of the group, a player who could boost where this class is viewed in the future depending on how he returns.

Also of interest to the Illini (besides Ohio State’s overall third ranking and Michigan State also being in the Top 10) is border-war rival Missouri, which was ranked fourth overall by Coleman (one spot ahead of North Carolina). For more on incoming Big Ten basketball recruits, take the assist from Prep Hoops Assist.

Coleman also comments in Bell’s article on the 2011 class, saying that if Illinois can grab Perspectives Anthony Davis (a top-10 recruit that was offered by Syracuse after one look), the expectations of success will mirror the Illini-mania that followed the 2005 team. We’ll see on that statement.

● Speaking of the 2011 recruiting class, long- time Illini recruit Chasson Randle of Rock Island is scheduled to visit Kansas and Duke this summer, seemingly making it unlikely that he will choose Illinois, especially once he gets a dose of Duke’s immaculate campus.

However, at the end of the day, I would expect Randle to end up in Lawrence, Kansas as was the case with Homewood-Flossmoor’s Julian Wright in 2004. Just a gut feeling.

● Illini sophomore Tyler Griffey quickly became an Illini favorite of mine during his freshman year, as he quickly showed that he knows how to play the game and was willing to take and make shots when open.
In time, I see this kid as either the perfect fourth/fifth starter or a better Jack Ingram on a Final Four-caliber team.

Consider me late to the party here, but apparently, the fundamentally sound Griffey also has his own blog, Chew Softly, offering the Missouri native’s thoughts on everything mundane from finding something to do with the free time that is summer to going to the dentist to returning home as a big-time college athlete having to share a room with his younger brother.

Griffey’s blog is actually quite funny (with a nice dig at former Thornwood star, Illini recruit and Chicago Bull Eddy Curry) and grammatically sound for the online space (which comes as a general shock given the breakdown of the English language via texting, tweeting or poking). I knew there was a reason I like this kid.

● Apparently, Bruce Weber continues to be a barometer for Indiana hoops (Eric Gordon), which recently offered a “preferred walk-on” spot (apparently not a term solely created by the Illini for Jeff Jordan) to Westfield, Indiana’s Jeff Howard.

Apparently, Howard impressed Weber last summer while playing at the U-of-I, with the Illini ball coach asking about the kid’s plans, according to an Indianapolis Star story.

Now Indiana has stolen another player from the Illini (just joking).

● If you’re an Illini fan, the Big Ten Network has got you covered during Memorial Day week, with a delicious schedule of unforgettable Illinois basketball and football games.

On Monday, you can relieve when Frank Williams sunk Ohio State with a game-winning three at the Assembly Hall in the 1999-2000 season (airing at 5 central time, running two hours), come back at 8 to watch a 1989 football game between Indiana and Illinois, and then lie in bed at 10 p.m. watching the Illini hoopsters upset Indiana in 1987 (which I believe was the Hoosiers’ last loss that season before winning the NCAA title on Keith Smart’s shot against Syracuse).

On Tuesday, LSU sophomore Shaquille O’Neal travels to the Assembly Hall during a 1990 tilt (at 5 p.m.) while the Illini Legends game from 2008 (a memorable experience bringing together members of the 1989, 2001 and 2005 Illini teams) is aired again at 10 p.m. Sandwiched between those showings is the Illini football team’s 2007 upset of Ohio State (Zook’s greatest moment at U-of-I).

On Wednesday, the then-undefeated and soon-to-be-number-one Flying Illini rally against Georgia Tech at the Hall in 1989 (at 2 p.m. central) and then come back an hour later (5 p.m.) to shock Jay Edwards, quiet Bobby Knight and send the Illini nation into euphoria with Nick Anderson’s improbable buzzer beater. Switching to the gridiron, sophomore Kurt Kittner takes down Tom Brady and Michigan at the Big House during a 1999 replay (begins at 8 central).

On Thursday, Memorial Stadium fanatics can catch up on BTN’s “The Journey” program following Illinois football the year after the Rose Bowl (the marathon begins at high noon and ends at 7). An hour later, the Illini take on East Carolina in a 1991 football game pitting quarterback Jason Verduzco against eventual NFL journeyman QB Jeff Blake.

On Friday, the 2004-2005 Illini whip #1 Wake Forest in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge at 5 p.m. central, and the 1990 football team battles with then powerhouse Colorado at 8 o’clock.

A lot of these games will be re-aired at various points during the week, so be sure to check out the complete Big Ten Network schedule.

● This week on WritingIllini.com, I’ll finally get the time to offer my commentary on a culture change within the basketball program, detail any other worthwhile/breaking hoops news, and possibly begin two special sections: game recaps analyzing all Illinois basketball games that I recorded last year (roughly 25 games) and a summer school section tracking what returning Illini ballers need to work on this summer to take their games to higher levels in 2010-11.

Until tomorrow.

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: ACC/Big 10 Challenge Anthony Davis Big House Big Ten Network Bobby Knight Bruce Weber Chasson Randle Chew Softly Chicago Sun Times Colorado Football Crandall Head Duke Basketball Eddy Curry Eric Gordon Final Four Flying Illini Frank Williams Illini Basketball Illini Basketball Program Illini Legends Illinois Football Illinois Mr. Basketball Indiana Basketball Jack Ingram Jay Edwards Jeff Howard Jeff Jordan Jereme Richmond Kansas Basketball Keith Smart Kurt Kittner Luther Head Memorial Stadium Meyers Leonard News Gazette Nick Anderson Paul Klee Ron Zook Rose Bowl Shaquille O'Neal Taylor Bell The Journey Tom Brady Tyler Griffey Van Coleman