Sunday Morning: “What Did I Tell You about Playing Illini Basket Hoops?”

If you don’t know what this title is referring to, please watch this hilarious South Park episode.

It’s my gift to you, along with a recap of the week’s news in the world of Illinois Fighting Illini basketball.

While two topics, Big Ten expansion and Tom Izzo possibly to the Cavs, dominated the headlines this week, here’s what you need to know about Illini basketball, including November’s Jimmy V Classic, recruiting targets and former Assembly Hall greats.

Let’s start with the inevitable.

Hey, did you hear that Nebraska has been added to the Big Ten? If not, where have you been? Anyways, Coach Weber and the Zooker offered their thoughts on the topic during Illini Night at a Kane County Cougars game on Tuesday. I would offer my commentary, but the topic has been beaten to death. All I’ll say is bigger does not always necessarily mean better, though this is not meant as a shot at Nebraska but rather an indictment of greed and undermining tradition.

If your knowledge of Cornhusker basketball is like mine (limited to Eric Piatkowski and his couple of seasons with the Bulls), the News Gazette’s Paul Klee provided a Nebraska basketball primer for Illinois fans (spoiler alert: Lou Henson’s first win at Illinois came against Nebraska). Another blogger explained what he thinks Big Ten expansion means for the Illini, while the Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy answered questions about what it does not necessarily mean for Nebraska basketball.

● Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo is seriously considering leaving his East Lansing Empire for the Cleveland Cavaliers of all places. I wrote earlier in the week that Izzo wouldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) make this move, but it could very well happen, with Izzo reportedly tired of the slimy side of recruiting, looking for a new challenge and having met with his players twice. Apparently, his players think Izzo is leaving.

Weber is close friends with Izzo and has spoken with the Michigan State coach in recent weeks. At the end of the day, Weber thought Izzo will stay, and we can only hope this is the case (an announcement could come today and no later than Monday).

If Izzo does leave, State and Big Ten fans should be heartbroken but not bitter. If there ever was a coach who deserved the shot, it’s Izzo.

● Now if Izzo does leave Michigan State, I think the Spartans should make a bold hire from not Izzo’s assistant coaching tree (which includes Tom Crean, Brian Gregory, Stan Heath, Jim Boylan, Doug Wocjik and many more) but rather the NBA. I’m talking roughly 90 miles north of Chicago, in Milwaukee, where a former Spartan named Scott Skiles has turned around the Bucks (like he did with the Bulls and Suns).

Skiles would be an incredible hire, a fiery coach who would keep Izzo’s toughness but have the confidence to be his own man. While Skiles was certainly a wild man during his State playing days in the eighties, he would be fun to watch in college. Inevitably, it’s only a matter of time until the Bucks’ players grow tired of what Skiles demands. Why not give his alma mater a try if Izzo leaves?

And why hire the Pump-n-grind brothers when looking for a college coach when I can do it at for a much smaller fee?

● Opening round pairings for November’s Jimmy  V Classic were announced early last week, with Illinois scheduled to host home games against UC-Irvine on November 8th and Toledo on November 12th. The Illini will then travel to Madison Square Garden for two games, with the opponents to be determined. Possible opponents include Pittsburgh, Texas and Maryland.

● Wondering how Illini redshirt freshman Joseph Bertrand has been handling himself in Poland while learning the handles of the point guard position? See what his coach Kent Williams (who played for Weber at Southern Illinois) had to say about Bertrand, who I’m hoping will be able to spell senior point guard Demetri McCamey this year.

● Good luck to incoming Illini freshman Jereme Richmond and 2011 recruit Tracy Abrams as they compete for a spot on the Under-18 National Team in San Antonio this week. The tryouts will take place tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday. Meyers Leonard was also invited to the U18 trials but ultimately held back due to a foot injury. Abrams and fellow Illini 2010 recruit Nnanna Egwu have also been invited to the NBPA Top-100 Camp.

● Speaking of 2011 Illini recruits, Orr’s Michael Henry scored 45 points in a recent AAU game. I forgot to get to this last weekend, but Klee recently spoke to Henry about where he sees himself in the Illinois basketball program. For more on Henry’s AAU exploits, along with other Illini targets (like Mike Shaw) on the Mac Irvin Fire, check out this recent forum post from the Illini Board.

● Also on the recruiting front: with Henry heading to Champaign in 2011-2012, Whitney Young senior forward Sam Thompson has reportedly not heard anything from the Illini in weeks (which is not that surprising with Illinois targeting big men Anthony Davis from Chicago’s Perspectives and Shaw from De La Salle, and holding out for Chasson Randle of Rock Island).

Former Thornton Fractional North forward Kyle Cain chose Arizona State over Illinois while Simeon’s soon-to-be sophomore Jabari Parker visited the Illini campus last weekend.

Freshman Larry Austin of Springfield Lanphier (the high school of former Illini Rich McBride and former Arizona Wildcat Andre Iguodala) also made an unofficial visit to U-of-I and the Ubben Basketball Complex this past Wednesday.

Bill Cole celebrated his 21st yesterday. Here’s hoping Cole enjoyed the festivities, possibly on Green Street if back in town for the summer.

● Speaking of Illini birthdays, former Illinois power forward Damir Krupalija turns 31 on Tuesday. It only seems like yesterday (it was actually nine years ago) when I was walking with my head down near the Armory and accidentally bumped into Krupalija with a New York Yankees hat on backwards. One of my all-time favorite Illini, Krupalija has enjoyed a long playing career overseas. When I think of Krupalija playing at Illinois, I summon my inner Conan O’Brien, in the year 2000, when Damir was busting up Arizona in the title game of the Maui Invitational. Here’s some video.

● Last but certainly not least, Klee recently provided season wrap ups for former Illini still playing overseas. Catch up on where and how James Augustine, Dee Brown, Frankie Williams and Trent Meacham have been playing.

Coming later today, another Illini Tale of the Tape from last season: Western Michigan vs. Illinois.

Until then.

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Tags: Andre Iguodala Anthony Davis Arizona Basketball Arizona State Basketball Arizona State Sun Devils Arizona Wildcats Basket Hoops Big Ten Expansion Bill Cole Brian Gregory Brian Randle Bruce Weber Chasson Randle Chicago Bulls Cleveland Cavaliers Damir Krupalija Dee Brown Demetri McCamey Doug Wocjik Frankie Williams Illini Board Illini Night Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball Jabari Parker James Augustine Jereme Richmond Jim Boylan Jimmy V Classic Joseph Bertrand Kane County Cougars Kent Williams Kyle Cain Larry Austin Lou Henson Mac Irvin Fire Meyers Leonard Michigan State Basketball Mike Shaw Milwaukee Bucks Mychael Henry Nebraska Basketball Nebraska Cornhuskers Nnanna Egwu Phoenix Suns Rich McBride Ron Zook Sam Thompson Scott Skiles South Park Southern Illinois Basketball Springfield Lanphier Stan Heath Tom Crean Tom Izzo Tracy Abrams Trent Meacham Ubben Basketball Complex Whitney Young Basketball

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