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Posts Tagged ‘University of Illinois Fighting Illini’

Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

This past weekend, the University of Illinois Fighting Illini got some measure of redemption from their week one DISASTER in St. Louis. The Illini responded from their 37-9 thrashing at the hands of Missouri to rout FCS opponent Illinois St. 45-17 in Champaign. Granted it was against a lower tier team predicted to finish near the bottom of their vastly inferior conference, but the Illini did without the services of arguably their three if not best, most important, players: QB Juice Williams, WR Arrelious Benn, and LB Martez Wilson. Williams, a Chicago native who’s been tutored by another Chicago product and star quarterback, Donovan McNabb contributed just one series before getting hurt. His injury is not supposed to be extremely serious and his return is key, for the Illini to have a legitimate leader.

Williams spoke about what he learned from working with McNabb. “Keep your head…a majority of quarterbacks know that when things start going on around them, people start talking, things start to tank. It’s just the quarterback mentality to let everything go and just stay focused and go from there,” Williams stated.

His top-flight receiver in a highly heralded corps is Arrelious “Rejus” Benn, a projected top ten pick in the NFL Draft. But his stock is falling because Rejus has been a total non-factor so far. The Illini receivers have been extremely hyped, and if Benn isn’t 100% healthy then other players like Jeff Cumberland, Jarred Fayson, and Tight End Michael Hoohoomanawananuii (have fun with trying to pronounce that) will need to step up big time. illinois

Illini Head Coach Ron Zook also needs to realize who his starting tailback is. It should be Daniel Dufrene, with Jason Ford as a capable back-up, not the other way around. They’ve battled some injuries as well this young season, so they fit right in with the rest of the team.

On the other side of the ball, it comes down to another well-recruited Chicago product, Martez Wilson, who moves over to Middle Linebacker, and needs to be the “quarterback” of the defense.

“The last two, actually the last three years, our Mike linebacker has led the Big Ten in tackles,” Zook said. “I don’t want to put the pressure on him that he’s not doing a good job if he doesn’t lead the Big Ten in tackles, but he’s a guy that a lot of things revolve around him, with our calls and so forth, and it’s going to be important that he has the kind of year that we think he can.” Wilson was also hurt and missed the last game. But Illinois won in impressive fashion, despite all the key missing pieces, which is a good sign. It’s also a good thing they have this week off- to get ready and healthy for mighty Ohio St. on September 26th.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at The Sports Bank, Washington Times, Walter Football.com

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team If you’ve ever seen University of Illinois Men’s basketball Head Coach Bruce Weber on television, you might notice what a happy-go-lucky guy he appears to be. In person, he’s just the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. One might even call him “cuddly.” That’s why I was shocked to learn that someone might actually treat him like a potentially dangerous criminal or terrorist.

There were numerous complaints about Detroit being the 2009 Final Four’s host city. Prepare to add another one to the list. During the final weekend of March Madness, the coaches stayed across the border in Windsor, Ontario. This led to international intrigue and authorities singling out Weber, a man who recently signed an extension (with a 50% pay raise) to coach at Illinois until 2015.weber

“Coach Keady’s wife passed away, and Matt Painter and I were his assistants; so with his wife’s illness, we had to run the practices. We had to go back and forth to Windsor. A couple of times it took two hours to get through the tunnel from Canada back to Detroit. You’re talking just three miles, but it took forever. And one day we got stopped and pulled over, and they had to check out our car. We laughed and it took a while, but then one guy came out and said: ‘Well, I’m a Michigan fan, that’s why we pulled you over, and we can make a commercial out of it,’ and we laughed.” Weber said this during the recent National Association of Basketball Coaches’ “Court of Honor” Gala in Chicago.

So there’s yet another reason (sort of) to hate Michigan Wolverines fans: a real life version of the Jordan brand advertisement that we all saw during March Madness.

However, this was not the only time the authorities decided to mess with Bruce.

“And then the next day we got pulled over, again. This time I was by myself, and I said to the guys, ‘What is going on?’ And they said, ‘Well you got a rental car, and you’re going back and forth.’ Because we have practices and meetings. It was a little bit of a hassle at the time, but I guess it’s good they’re trying to protect our country.”

It’s good to hear Weber maintain his jolly demeanor; even as he encountered some of the most annoying situations possible.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

In order to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, a team must go 6-0. Out of the six rounds within which a team may be eliminated, the University of Illinois historically has had the most issues with the second round.

Since 1995, the Illini have qualified for the tournament every year but three. In those 11 March Madness appearances, they were ousted in the second game on six occasions -– more than half the time. If seedings hold this year, it will occur yet again.

Illinois is seeded 5th in the South Region, and many experts project them to get past 12th seeded Western Kentucky in the first round, but lose to 4th seeded Gonzaga in the second. You might know the Zags as that team who in recent years have made a lot of noise knocking off high seeds during the first couple rounds, but can’t seem to duplicate that same success once they get seeded near the top of the bracket themselves.

Click here to read the rest of this post on nbcchicago.com.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC5 Street Team Before budding Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose came to the NBA, he owned Chicago prep courts during his career at Simeon. Along the way, he befriended St. Joseph product and current Illinois sophomore Demetri McCamey,  who leads the #19 Illini in scoring. McCamey a.k.a. “Cames” is also fifth in the Big Ten in assists at 5.0 apg. In Big Ten games only, McCamey leads the Big Ten in assists (6.0 apg) and assist/turnover ratio (4.0). Earlier this season, Illini Head Coach Bruce Weber gave McCamey a Sports Illustrated article about the work habits and development of Rose, the 2008 #1 overall NBA Draft pick. demetri

“It talked about how he matured and some of the things he does before games and I took it to heart. It helped,” McCamey said. Cames mentioned how happy he was to see his friend Rose and how hard he wants to work being a “student of the game” to try and reach the league just like the Bulls’ point guard.

“That’s what all the great ones do, that’s how you get better- what Derrick said in the interview. The coaches gave him cards of what defense they play. They’re doing it in the pros and you gotta do it in college {in order} to get to the pros, so you just gotta keep working,” McCamey said.

Cames still has a LONG way to go to reach the NBA “Rose” garden: his shot selection is sometimes suspect, his work ethic needs improvement and his defense can often be non-existent. However, he’s also the Illini player with the most athleticism and star potential. bulls_rose_300

“If you study him over the course of time, he has very good games and a tendency not to be real consistent, this goes back way to high school and AAU and that’s where he’s got to mature. He has the big one and then average, average. He needs to be more consistent if we’re going to be a very good team because he can do things that other people can’t do,” Coach Weber said.

If Demetri matures into a consistent player, the Illini could make a deep tournament run in March and Derrick Rose could possibly see another Windy City friend in the NBA.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the NBC Street Team, the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank Chicago’s United Center hosted three basketball games on Saturday: University of Illinois men’s defeating Georgia 76-42, UI women losing 71-53 to Bradley and the Bulls beating the Washington Wizards 117-110. Before budding Bulls bulwark Derrick Rose starred in the venue’s main event, sophomore Illini point guard Demetri McCamey, a friend of Rose, led Illinois to a blow out victory over a terrible Georgia Bulldogs team. It was the second time this season UGA got routed by a local team: they also lost to Loyola by 21. McCamey scored 9 of Illinois’s first 11 points including a dribble-drive to the hoop set up by a sick move.mccamey

“That was just something Deron (Williams, former Illini and current Utah Jazz point guard) taught me this summer, to get them on your help and when you feel them try to reach, spin right off. Tisdale did a good job of selling and I came right in for a lay-up,” McCamey said in explaining the move to me. He led all scorers with 19, and the Illini got 29 points off 27 Georgia turnovers. Illinois went on a 22-0 run in the final seven minutes to turn a comfortable lead into utter demolishing. “Our kids always enjoy coming up here because it’s a special atmosphere and a chance to make a mark in Chicago and get a little bit of extra publicity, maybe more than usual,” Illini coach Bruce Weber said post-game. The Illini took advantage of Georgia’s weak defense to obtain and drain plenty of open looks; especially in the second half when Illinois shot 69% from the filed, 60% from behind the arc.

Illini players were honored to be in the house that Michael Jordan built. -His Airness attended and saw his son Jeff play 7 minutes- However, it’s a current Bull, Derrick Rose that McCamey talked about modeling his game on. “He’s a wonderful player. I played against him all the way since 7th grade, he knows me, I know him and I know I’ll be in the same boat and playing with passion if I just listen to everybody, because they’re only trying to help,” McCamey said.

For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

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