Top of the morning, Jan. 4, 2014

Top of the morning, Jan. 4, 2014

Something to get you going today, courtesy executive editor Jim Rossow.

Mark Shapland was a walk-on for the Flyin' Illini, He didn't score a point and played only 31 minutes in the Final Four season. Yet this weekend he'll be treated like a starting guard by former teammates and coaches at team's 25-year reunion. "For me and the other walk-ons, we were very fortunate to be in the right place and right time," Shapland said. "It was a great ride! All the players and coaches could not have been nicer, and continue to be today."

We asked Shapland, a Monticello product and a high-ranking executive at Becknell Industrial in Lyons, to shed more light on the popular bunch being honored today at State Farm Center.

1. Best Lou Henson story.

There are many, mostly revolving around the stories he would tell to get a point across and all involving Lou's distinctive voice and high pitch at times! Almost all the stories start with Lou saying "Heeyyyy..." or "Now (insert player name)..." (i.e. after a behind-the-back pass by Larry Smith: "Hey! Now Larry, that's not how we do it here, come stand by me)." Lou never cursed to get his point across, but always managed to get his point across. A couple of the more memorable stories:

— One was at the Northwestern game in Evanston. The game was closer than it should have been and the crowd was particularly obnoxious, yelling "state school" and "you'll work for us someday" and actually throwing coins at our huddle, which prompted Lou to end the time out with a very energetic plea to "get out there and kick their BUTTS!". That is as angry and close to cursing as Lou got and caught everyone by surprise.

— Another one was Lou telling Ervin (Small) how slow he was and challenging him to a race — and actually racing Ervin — quite a picture watching that pair running down the Assembly Hall court!

2. Who was the one coach you didn't want to mess with?

Coach (Dick) Nagy — no doubt. He was the staff enforcer. A fairly imposing physical figure with a voice that could raise to impressive decibels — and did on many occasions! But couldn't be nicer before and after practice.

3. When the '89 team goes out to eat, who's most likely to pick up the tab?

For as many long arms as there are on this team, I think it might sit while we keep ordering drinks. Certainly would have sat on the table back in the day. Today, there are a few guys that have done pretty well.

4. Who picked out the pregame music? And who were you guys listening to?

I'm not sure I remember who picked it but I do know it wasn't me or any other Orange Team member. And that it wasn't INXS or U2 playing.

5. How short were your shorts?

My high school pictures showed shorts that would get me banned from most places today — or at least carry a PG-13 rating. The Flyin' Illini started the baggy short trend (not the Fab Five). Not as long as today's versions, but moved the needle from short-shorts to long for sure. The Orange Team's shorts were so big and long, we had to safety pin them before each game. If we were in another blowout and I got in the game, (I) wanted those shorts to stay up!

6. Who wins if they played: the '89 Illini or '05 Illini?

Loved the 2005 team but gotta go with '89! Too many interchangeable parts and I like the mismatches for the 89 team. The 2005 team did not have a dominant post game to have to defend, and who on the 2005 team checks Nick Anderson? The '05 team guards are tough to match, but the length of the '89 guards would defend them well, and I think the inside game goes to Kenny, Lowell and Nick.

7. What happens when Illinois finally wins it all?

Chaos. Very happy chaos. Really thought it would happen in 2005, and the setting with all the orange in St. Louis was impressive. Seeing how many Illini follow this team across the country really shows the level of commitment Illini fans have. I think special teams like the 1989 and 2005 teams — and the special players and coaches on those teams — is a big driver of that fan support. Personalities like Kenny, Kendall, Steve, Dee, Deron and Coach Henson — and the strong character and love of the Illini behind those personalities — makes it even easier to be a fan. Really like Coach Groce and believe with the Illini tradition and his enthusiasm, energy and coaching ability, it is just a matter of time until it happens.

Scheduled to be on hand for today's reunion:


Rod Cardinal

Jack Edgar

Dr. Robert Gurtler

Mike Hatfield

Dick Barnes

Kent Brown

Andy Dixon

Dorothy Damewood

Paul Bunting

Bill Rader

Jim Turpin

Ed Bond


Gary Brunner

John Allen

Ryan Baker

Lynn Carroll

Andrew Haring

Mark Wessel


Dick Nagy

Jimmy Collins

Mark Coomes


Lou Henson with Mary Henson


Tyler Cottingham

Pat Kennedy

Matt Schnaderbeck

Tom Sloan

Travis Smith

E.J. Manzke

Brian O'Connell

Mark Shapland

Rodney Jones

Andy Kaufmann

P.J. Bowman

Marcus Liberty

Ervin Small

Larry Smith

Stephen Bardo

Kenny Battle

Lowell Hamilton

Kendall Gill

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