Thanks to the Big Ten Network declaring the past 7 days “Illinois Week,” it’s recently been quite a nostalgic ride here at Writing Illini, as I’ve revisited (via live blogging) some of the greatest Illini basketball games ever to take place, courtesy of The Big Ten’s Greatest Games.
Back to the present, it was a quieter week in Illinois basketball land, with the Jordan camp ceasing any more Twitter criticism (as far as I know) and most Illini hoopsters still not back in Champaign at the moment.
With that said, here’s a look at what’s been going down with Illinois basketball, in case you’ve been in your own world since Memorial Day Weekend.
● As one blog nominated Mike Tisdale as the player most likely to lead the Illini next year, the senior center from Riverton, Illinois continues to work on his game on the Illinois campus, specifically against his older brother who is two years older and apparently more than a foot shorter. Talk about getting the short end of the stick in the Tisdale gene pool.
● The praise for incoming center Meyers Leonard continues, with the Peoria Journal Star featuring several stories on the big man, including one detailing his challenging upbringing in Robinson following his father’s death and another comparing his body to that of Dwight Howard’s (we’ll see about that). Leonard and the other Illini freshman (Jereme Richmond and Crandall Head) are expected to be on the U-of-I campus June 9th for freshman orientation.
● In his weekly chat with Illini fans, the News Gazette’s Paul Klee details an interesting quote from sophomore forward Tyler Griffey, who offers his opinion on how Illinois’ returning players stack up with some of the Duke Blue Devils that just won a national championship a couple of months ago. As for Griffey’s own blog, Chew Softly, he was relatively quiet this week, with the exception of inviting you to join his World Cup Pick ‘em challenge. I’ll pass as soccer has never interested me in the least bit. Other topics of interest in the weekly chat include Joseph Bertrand’s progress at point guard in Poland, fan speculation about where UCONN’s (and Marshall product) Darius Smith will transfer, and similar intrigue about Kyle Cain, the former T.F. North Star who was released in May from his National Letter of Intent with Rhode Island.
● Former Illini Stan Simpson will play at John A. Logan Community College next season, with his former Simeon high school teammate Josh Anderson, who is the son of former Illini Nick Anderson. This tidbit came from a Klee’s corner that also talked about Bill Cole’s minutes next season with Richmond in the fold, provided an update on former Illini Jamar Smith (who is working out in Detroit while preparing for a hopeful pro career) and examined new NCAA legislation that means the end of Illinois’ satellite high school basketball showcase at Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute. Never fear Illinois fans as the Illini will likely shift the high school shootout (a great scouting opportunity) to campus, possibly on June 24th, according to Assistant Wayne McClain.
● Richmond and future Illini guard Tracy Abrams will be attending the U18 national team tryouts in San Antonio on June 14-16. According to Klee, it is unlikely that Leonard will participate as the Illini monitor a stress fracture in his left foot. Leonard is expected to be eased into Illinois summer basketball workouts as the team returns to campus. The FIBA Americas Under 18 Championship will occur June 26-30 in San Antonio, in case you happen to be on the River Walk.
● Speaking of Abrams, he has been looking good in AAU ball (for whatever that’s worth), with the Mount Carmel senior being named to the all-tournament team at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions this spring, based on the reporting of IlliniHQ.com recruiting blogger Jeremy Werner. According to Abrams’ Illinois Wolves’ head coach Mike Mullins (the father of former SIU lefty guard Brian Mullins), Tracy has been playing like his old self (prior to a sprained ankle) while leading a team that features Illinois recruit Nnanna Egwu and U-of-I target Chasson Randle in scoring. As for St. Ignatius’ Egwu, he is now weighing in at 230 pounds, after gaining 15 pounds in the spring.
● According to an Oregon State blogger, Whitney Young’s Sam Thompson has been impressing while playing in the Nike EYBL series. Thompson has been targeted by Illinois in the class of 2011, but the Illini’s interest has reportedly waned with the recent commitment of Orr’s Mychael Henry. Klee is supposed to detail a recent conversation that he had with Henry in the News Gazette in a couple of days, and I’ll get you the information on that when it comes to light.
● For some reason, the Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein was on the links with Bill Self and former NBA Head Coach Sam Mitchell. I know Greenstein frequently does these golfing interviews, but this is a strange grouping to say the least. Anyways, nothing too crucial comes out of this interview, but for those Illini fans who still haven’t gotten over Self, here you go. If you could care less and would rather get a summary, Self basically says good things about the people at the University of Illinois and expresses his happiness that his time at Illinois allowed him to make more recruiting contacts in Chicago. Self also praises the toughness of Chicago players, saying that you can’t find it anywhere else. Man, this guy is always recruiting someone.
Speaking of Self, Deron Williams once told me that he committed to Illinois without ever visiting the campus. I swear to God on this one. Williams told me this during the first semester of sophomore season, when we were both taking a KINES class on the Psychology of Sport.
Well, that’s it for now.
Topics: Bill Cole, Bill Self, Bob Gibbons, Bob Gibbons Tournament Of Champions, Bruce Weber, Chasson Randle, Chew Softly, Crandall Head, Darius Smith, Deron Williams, Illini Basketball, Illinois Basketball, Illinois Wolves, Jamar Smith, Jereme Richmond, Joseph Bertrand, Josh Anderson, Kansas Basketball, Kyle Cain, Meyers Leonard, Mike Mullins, Mike Tisdale, Mychael Henry, Nick Anderson, Nnanna Egwu, Paul Klee, Robinson, Sam Mitchell, Sam Thompson, Stan Simpson, Tracy Abrams, Tyler Griffey, Wayne McClain