Year in Review: Best and worst
A look back at the best and worst of the Illini's 2009-10 school year:
TOP MALE ATHLETE
1. Scott Langley, golf. First Illini in the sport to win an NCAA individual title.
2. Andrew Riley, track & field. Jamaican hurdler doing his country proud.
3. Paul Ruggeri, gymnastics. Junior won 20 individual titles this season, including two at Big Ten meet.
4. Demetri McCamey, basketball. Young team would have been lost without junior assists machine.
4. John Dergo, wrestling. Senior All-American capped career with Big Ten title, fifth place at NCAA meet.
6. Chad Wiest, gymnastics. Redshirt junior earned second All-America honor, won team's Most Outstanding and Most Improved awards.
7. Casey McMurray, baseball. Junior left fielder led team in batting average, home runs and RBI.
8. Arrelious Benn, football. NFL-bound junior led Illini in receiving yards for third straight year.
9. Dennis Nevolo, tennis. Sophomore earned spot in NCAA singles and doubles championships.
10. Chris DeForest. golf. Junior won three titles in a four-tournament span in spring.
TOP FEMALE ATHLETE
1. Angela Bizzarri, cross-country/track & field. Can't wait to see her in London in 2012.
2. Laura DeBruler, volleyball. Junior first-team All-American needs 94 kills to become UI career leader.
3. Jenna Smith, basketball. Center finished career as all-time UI leader in points, rebounds and blocks.
4. Meredith Hackett, softball. Sophomore All-American first baseman led team in batting average, home runs and RBI.
5. Allison Buckley, gymnastics. First-team All-American just second Illini to reach NCAA individual event finals.
6. Lacey Simpson, basketball. Finished career in UI's all-time top four in steals, blocks, assists and rebounds.
7. Danielle Zymkowitz, softball. Hit over .400 for second straight year, shattered UI single-season steals record.
8. Aja Evans, track & field. UNLV transfer more versatile than duct tape.
9. Megan Fudge, tennis. Four-time All-Big Ten pick finished career third in all-time UI singles wins (97).
10. Sarah Schmidt, gymnastics. NCAA all-around qualifier won floor exercise title in all six Big Ten dual meets.
TOP AREA ATHLETES
1. Mikel Leshoure, football. Sophomore running back from Centennial ranked sixth in Big Ten in rushing.
2. Kylie McCulley, volleyball. Clinton native and two-time N-G All-Area Player of Year finished career with 1,051 kills.
3. Alyssa Petruzzello, swimming. As freshman, Centennial product became UI's all-time 10th-fastest individual in 100-yard butterfly.
4. Malcolm Taylor, track & field. Urbana University High product was member of Illini's top 1,600-meter relay unit as freshman.
5. Zach Becker, football. St. Joseph-Ogden grad emerged from spring drills as No. 1 tight end on depth chart.
1. D.J. Richardson, men's basketball. Big Ten Freshman of Year made 35 starts, most ever by a UI freshman.
2. Karisma Penn, women's basketball. Big Ten All-Freshman Team pick ranked fourth on all-time UI freshman charts in points, rebounds.
3. Yoshi Mori, men's gymnastics. Big Ten Co-Freshman of Year won five event titles and finished in top three 12 times.
4. Terry Hawthorne, football. Cornerback's combined passes broken up/defended ranked third on team.
5. Lauren Wismer, diving. Before sidelined by injury, broke school records in one-, three-meter diving.
6. Kevin Johnson, baseball. Right-hander unanimous choice for Big Ten's All-Freshman Team.
7. Pepper Gay, softball. Team's No. 2 pitcher won 16 of 17 decisions.
8. Shayla Mutz, soccer. Big Ten All-Freshman pick ranked fifth on Illini in points, put 46 percent of shots on goal.
9. Rachael White, women's tennis. Played more than 60 percent of dual-meet singles matches at Nos. 1 or 2, beat three ranked foes.
10. Erin Johnson, volleyball. All-Big Ten Freshman Team pick started every match at middle blocker for Sweet 16 team.
11. Bai Kabba, men's track. All-Big Ten second-teamer helped 400 relay reach nationals.
1. Men's basketball recruiting. Wait no longer – Jereme Richmond's finally here.
2. Ron Zook brings in new coordinators after 3-9 season.
3. Would men's basketball sneak into NCAA tournament? (answer was no).
4. Would Arrelious Benn enter NFL draft? (answer was yes).
5. Destiny Williams, Illini's first women's basketball McDonald's All-American, played one game before leaving.
6. Juice Williams. Record-breaking senior QB lost, regained starting job.
7. Josh Brent. Defensive lineman's legal, academic issues.
8. Big Ten again explores possible expansion.
9. Demetri McCamey explores early entry into NBA draft.
10. Recruit Meyers Leonard's monster dunk a YouTube must-see.
DESERVED MORE PUB
1. Scott Langley, men's golf. Lucky his NCAA title even made the front page.
2. Jon Asamoah, football. Senior guard wasn't overlooked by Big Ten (Medal of Honor) or pros (third-round pick of Chiefs).
3. Men's golf title run. Small's guys won 13 tournaments during last two seasons, 16 in past three.
4. Luke Stannard, men's gymnastics. Third Illini to win Nissen-Emery Award as nation's top senior male collegiate gymnast.
5. Hope Howell, softball. Four-time All-Big Ten pick finished career hitting .342, fourth highest in program history.
6. Hillary Haen, volleyball. Junior setter ranked 16th in nation, second in the Big Ten in assists (11.42 per set)
7. Jordan Blanton, wrestling. Sophomore All-American placed fifth at NCAAs at 174 pounds.
8. Women's golf team in classroom. Renee Slone's squad was lone UI program to rank in top 10 percent in its sport in NCAA Academic Progress Rates. (Northwestern had 10).
9. Mike Turk, men's track & field. Struggling program made substantial improvement under interim head coach.
10. Hailey Koschmann, women's golf. Sophomore's stroke average (75.84) ranked No. 4 on program's all-time single-season list.
1. Vic Koenning, football. If his defenders play like he talks, Illinois is in a bowl game.
2. Danielle Zymkowitz, softball. Questions optional when interviewing the All-Big Ten pick.
3. Tyler Griffey, men's basketball. Thoughtful 19-year-old destined for ESPN if kinesiology studies don't pan out.
4. Lacey Simpson, women's basketball. Always cooperative and often candid, the fifth-year senior was a go-to player for the media.
5. Nathan Scheelhaase, football. Learned his nouns and verbs from smooth-talking father Nate Creer.
BEST MOMENTS (Men's basketball edition)
1. ESPN GameDay. Mike Davis' dunk put an exclamation point on flawless day of national exposure.
2. Freshmen flashes. Richardson's Freshman of Year award, Paul's early scoring, Griffey's steady promise.
3. Indiana buzzer-beater. McCamey's floater prevented embarrassment of loss to dreadful Hoosiers.
4. McCamey's 16 assists. Even in loss at Purdue, school record was memorable for savvy junior.
5. Clemson comeback. School-record 23-point comeback put up-and-down season in a nutshell.
BEST MOMENTS (All sports edition)
1. Scott Langley wins the NCAA title one day, makes the U.S. Open the next. Coming soon: Ryder Cup captain.
2. Angela Bizzarri crosses finish line as NCAA cross-country and 3,000-meter indoor track champion.
3. Grange statue goes up at west entrance to Memorial Stadium.
4. Michigan receiver goes down courtesy of Terry Hawthorne's game-changing tackle from behind in school's first home win against the Wolverines since 1983.
5. Men's gymnastics team overtakes Michigan in final rotation at Big Ten Championships to win second straight conference title.
6. Megan Fudge's winning point in third-set tiebreaker ends a 5 1/2-hour-plus marathon dual meet against Ohio State, giving women's tennis team an exhilarating – and exhausting – come-from-behind 4-3 victory.
7. Karisma Penn's layup at buzzer gives women's basketball team 53-52 win against Wisconsin.
8. Meredith Hackett jumps on first pitch from Iowa's Amanda Zust for a three-run walkoff home run in a 6-4 softball victory at Eichelberger Field. The Illini trailed 4-1 entering the bottom of the sixth.
9. Big Ten softball Coach of Year Terri Sullivan, during the season, becoming a mother for first time.
10. Hailey Koschmann shoots 3-under 69 in final round to win Indiana Invitational and become first UI women's golfer since 1995 with multiple victories in same season.
11. Tyler Williamson makes still rings finals at the NCAA Championships after a ring broke during his first routine.
12. Craig Lutes pulls pitch from Northwestern closer Paul Snieder over right field wall at Illinois Field for walkoff solo home run in ninth inning, giving Illini a 4-3 baseball victory.
13. Sophomore Hunter Mickow crosses finish line first in 10,000 meters to become 63rd Illini to win a Drake Relays individual event.
WORST MOMENTS (Football edition)
1. First quarter of first game. Arrelious Benn – and any confidence the team gained during offseason – disappeared quickly. Benn got hurt and Illinois never recovered in deflating loss to Missouri.
2. Hoosier hazing. Back-to-back losses at Indiana and Purdue had fans turning to basketball and the AD uncomfortably answering about Ron Zook's future.
3. Where is everybody? Not at the Fresno State game on Dec. 5. The announced crowd of 48,538 was three times the actual attendance. Those that did make it saw a doozy.
4. Zook stays, assistants go. Four of them were fired. Two others left on their own.
5. New trophy, same result. For the first time, Illinois and Northwestern played for the Land of Lincoln Trophy. The loss eliminated Illinois from bowl consideration for the second consecutive year since the Rose Bowl season.
WORST MOMENTS (All sports edition)
1. Selection Sunday in men's basketball. Bruce Weber's guys learn they're not in the field of 65.
2. Superstar recruit Destiny Williams leaves the women's basketball program barely into her first year.
3. Streak of eight straight NCAA Sweet 16 appearances ends for men's tennis team in second-round home defeat.
4. A 13th-ranked women's gymnastics team with title aspirations in Big Ten Championships free-falls to sixth.
5. In a game men's basketball desperately needs in chase for NCAA bid, Minnesota leaves Assembly Hall with 62-60 victory.
6. With BTN cameras on hand at Huff, volleyball team falls behind 8-1 in first set and 9-2 in second in three-set loss to Penn State.
7. Jolette Law benched her three seniors to start the game, and the final result was a 16-point home blowout loss against a mediocre Michigan team.
8. Two-plus innings into series opener against Michigan, baseball team trails 15-0 (it ended 17-1).
9. Despite a stellar record, NCAA denies Illinois softball team a home tournament series. You can't blame the Chief on this one.
10. Illinois wrestling qualifies just three for the NCAA meet, the fewest in 17 years.
1. Jenna Smith leaves as UI's No. 1 basketball scorer, rebounder – male or female.
2. Retired women's track and field coach Gary Winckler and two-time world hurdles champion Perdita Felicien inducted into the Drake Relays Hall of Fame.
3. Gymnasts Paul Ruggeri and Tyler Mizoguchi named to U.S. Senior National Team for first time in their careers.
4. Quarterback Juice Williams finishes career as UI's all-time leader in career total offense (10,594 yards).
5. Megan Fudge second player in UI women's tennis history to earn All-Big Ten honors each of her four years.
6. Danielle Zymkowitz, Willie Argo break school single-season stolen base records in softball, baseball, respectively.
7. Defensive whiz Lacey Simpson ends women's basketball career No. 2 in Big Ten in steals (368).
8. Janet Rayfield wins 100th soccer match at Illinois in 5-0 rout of Michigan State on Oct. 30
9. Junior second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz becomes softball program's career leader in batting average (.372).
10. Sophomore Britni Fisher becomes first Illini diver in more than 10 years to score team points at Big Ten Championships.
BEST FORMER ILLINI
1. Deron Williams, basketball. Is there anything he can't do? Played in first All-Star Game in hometown Dallas.
2. Pierre Thomas, football. Scored a touchdown for the Super Bowl-winning New Orleans Saints.
3. Steve Stricker, golf. You'll find his name among leaders in world rankings, PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings.
4. Craig Tiley, tennis. NCAA champion coach already a Hall of Famer. Is he the next Illinois AD?
5. Jonathan Kuck, speed-skating. On break from school, he won a silver medal at the Vancouver Games.
6. Greg McMahon, football. Can't wait to show off his Super Bowl ring at Ott's.
7. Perdita Felicien, track & field. At 29, two-time Olympian showing she still has it by finishing second in 60-meter hurdles at 2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships.
8. Ella Masar, soccer. Former All-American from Urbana made her playing debut with the U.S. Women´s Senior National Team in October.
9. Wes Haagensen, gymnastics. U.S. Senior National Team member was third in all-around at 2009 Visa Championships.
10. Moe Gardner, football. All-American defensive lineman nominated for College Football Hall of Fame.
TOP RECRUITS (Men's basketball/football edition)
1. Jereme Richmond. When it wasn't cool to commit to Illinois (Eric Gordon, anyone?), J-Rich made it cool again.
2. Meyers Leonard. Expect Mike Tisdale to make a leap thanks to daily battles with fellow 7-footer.
3. Chandler Whitmer. With Jacob Charest gone, he's one sprained ankle away from being the starter.
4. Mycheal Henry. Hard to believe, but Chicago Orr standout actually rated higher than Richmond/Leonard.
5. Earnest Thomas. Defensive back from Michigan figures to get on the field early.
6. Nnanna Egwu. Illinois trumped Purdue in heated recruiting battle for still-developing big man.
7. Crandall Head. Wild card in Weber's 2010 class coming off serious knee injury sustained in AAU season.
8. Miles Osei. Two-time News-Gazette All-Stater starts his career as the No. 3 quarterback.
9. Ryan Lankford. Receiver is one of the top prep sprinters in the country.
10. Jerrance Howard Jr. Sources tell us the toddler is a strong lean.
TOP RECRUITS (All-sports edition)
1. C.J. Maestas, men's gymnastics. U.S. Junior National Team member won two events as 2010 Pacific Rim Championships in Australia.
2. Jennifer Bonilla, volleyball. Prepvolleyball.com named Reseda, Calif., native the No. 2 high school libero of the 2000 decade.
3. Vanessa DiBernardo, soccer. Midfielder from Aurora Waubonsie Valley the 2010 Gatorade state Player of Year.
4. Amber See, women's gymnastics. Minnetonka, Minn., native won two event titles, finished fourth in all-around at 2010 Junior Olympic National Championships.
5. Brandon Noe, men's track & field. St. Thomas More senior's discus throw of 203-7 was second longest in IHSA history.
6. Jamie Clark, wrestling. Product of coach Jim Heffernan's alma mater (Cleveland St. Edward) ranked No. 8 nationally at 130 pounds.
7. Anna Dorn, volleyball. Middle blocker from Munster, Ind., subject of cover-story article ESPN Rise magazine.
8. Amanda Duvendack, women's track & field. Metamora middle-distance ace arrives with back-to-back Class 2A 800-meter state titles.
9. Allison Falkin, women's tennis. Five-star recruit from Georgia ranked No. 27 in Class of 2010 as of May 19.
10. Jenna Mychko, softball. Hard-hitting Huntley catcher suffered bleeding in brain when she took two foul balls to head in mid-May.
11. Alexis Burke, women's basketball. Georgia scoring sensation will need to be an offensive factor for Illini next season.
12. Thomas Pieters, men's golf. Top-ranked junior in Belgium.
1. School-record volleyball crowd of 7,632 flocked to Assembly Hall on Illini Madness night to watched Kevin Hambly's team beat Minnesota in straight sets.
2. Michigan State men's basketball. Krush distributed cans of Red Bull to keep student section hyped.
3. Soccerfest vs. Minnesota. Illini drew second-largest home crowd ever.
4. Men's and women's basketball NIT doubleheader. Women won in OT against Marquette and lauded the crowd afterward.
5. Bleacher Bum BBQ baseball game vs. Northwestern.
1. Dec. 9, women's basketball vs. Marquette. Three factors – 8 p.m. tipoff on a weeknight, the Big Ten Network's presence and brutal weather – conspired to produce an intimate gathering of 733.
2. Illinois-Fresno State. See above.
3. What was it about Illini-Bradley baseball matchups? After drawing 205 for game in Peoria, teams attracted an Illinois Field season low of 380 for rematch.
4. Illinois spring game. Not a lot of crowd shots on the Big Ten Network coverage.
5. While it was a school-record volleyball crowd, the basketball portion of Illini Madness was less than desirable. Move it back to Huff now.
1. The men's basketball team storms back from a 23-point deficit to stun No. 18 Clemson 76-74 on the Tigers' court.
2. Home men's basketball win against Michigan State. Who can forget Brian Barnhart's classic call at the end.
3. Women's basketball team rallies from 17 points down in second half to win by 15 at Wake Forest.
4. Men's basketball win at Wisconsin. We think Demetri McCamey started thinking about the NBA sometime during the second half.
5. Baseball team scores three runs in top of ninth to knock off No. 12 Coastal Carolina 11-10 on Chanticleers' home field.
6. In a tense matchup of Top 20 softball teams, Illinois edges Ohio State 3-2 when Ashley Conrad belts a 1-2 pitch for walkoff home run to lead off seventh inning.
7. Men's basketball loss to Ohio State at Big Ten tournament. If not for Evan Turner, Illini would have been in the real dance.
8. Another walkoff home run – by Jessica Davis – vs. No. 18 Florida State after Illini softball rallies from 3-0 deficit.
9. In its first win against a I-A opponent, football team outscored Michigan 31-0 in the second half.
10. Playing for the first time at the Assembly Hall, volleyball team took it to former coach Mike Hebert in a 3-0 sweep.
1. Martez Wilson, football. Preseason All-Big Ten linebacker suffered season-ending neck injury in opener.
2. Ashley Edinger, volleyball. Season-ending knee injury left Illini without career digs leader for final nine regular season matches and NCAA tournament.
3. Joseph Bertrand, men's basketball. An extra year might help the Sterling product in the long run.
4. Melissa Fernandez, women's gymnastics. When 2009 first-team All-American suffered meet-ending leg injury in vault, team went into tailspin at Big Ten Championships.
5. Matt Dittman, baseball. Junior first baseman was punishing ball (22 for 44) when wrist injury ended season after 14 games.
6. B.J. Futrell, wrestling. The 2009 NCAA qualifier was 6-1 when lingering shoulder injury required season-ending surgery.
7. Lauren Wismer, diving. Standout has been battling injuries for years.
8. Jessica Davis, softball. Broken fibula sidelined the promising shortstop.
9. Amber Moore, women's basketball. The team's best perimeter shooter scored eight points in 22 minutes of her only game before injuring her knee.
10. Paul Petrino, football. Offensive coordinator suffered a torn ACL during spring drills. Really.
PLAYS OF THE YEAR
1. Cornerback Terry Hawthorne makes touchdown-saving, momentum-changing tackle at 1-yard line against Michigan in 38-13 football victory.
2. Chris DeForest eagles No. 13 in final round of Big Ten Championships, propelling Illini to narrow win,
3. Indiana fans still wondering why their top defender wasn't guarding McCamey prior to buzzer-beater.
4. Meyers Leonard's towering dunk on the way to Class 2A state title.
5. Junior forward Jordan Hilbrands comes off bench to score both the Illini goals in 2-1 soccer victory against No. 18 Colorado.
COACHES OF THE YEAR
1. Terri Sullivan. softball. Big Ten Coach of Year guided NCAA tournament team to 45 victories, best-ever winning percentage (.849).
2. Justin Spring, men's gymnastics. First-year head coach produced repeat Big Ten champion, fourth place at NCAA meet.
3. Mike Small, men's golf. Two straight Big Ten Championships titles meant second straight Big Ten Coach of Year honor.
4. Kevin Hambly, volleyball. Illini reached NCAA Sweet 16, earned final No. 10 ranking under first-year head coach.
5. Tonja Buford-Bailey, women's track and field. Her Illini were ranked in Top 25 for much of outdoor season.
1. Abe Souza, men's tennis. Junior, who entered season with career record of 39-26, went 35-6 to tie for seventh in all-time UI single-season wins.
2. Jordan Hilbrands, soccer. Junior forward led Illini in goals (6) and points (13) after entering year with two and five, respectively.
3. Marek Czerwinski, men's tennis. Qualified for NCAA doubles in final go-around.
4. Craig Lutes, baseball. A .244 career hitter entering season, senior outfielder/first baseman hit 305.
5. Mikel Leshoure, football. Centennial product set himself up for a big junior season.
6. Monica Perry, softball. A year after yielding 42 home runs, reduced long balls to 10.
7. Kersten Magrum, women's basketball. A nonfactor until late January, she hit double figures five times in her last 13 games.
8. Tyler Mizoguchi, men's gymnastics. In sophomore year, earned spot on U.S. Men's Senior National Team, became All-American in all-around.
9. Krystin Miller, soccer. Junior defender started all 19 matches, scored first two goals of career after previously appearing in six matches (no starts).
10. Bill Cole, men's basketball. Surprise Matto Award winner put him into starting lineup for 22 games.
QUOTES OF THE YEAR
1. "There will be some changes, but there won't be a change on the top. There's a great deal of frustration, obviously, with the program at the moment. That's all I've got to say." – Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther on Ron Zook's future.
2. "The university was awesome, she loved it and did very well, but the basketball ..." Angie Brohiri, Destiny Williams' mother, after her transfer.
3. "I've worn some of Shawn's shirts and they look like a nightgown on me." – a very pregnant Illinois softball coach Terri Sullivan.
4. "I just kind of sat there in awe." – Bruce Weber on Meyers Leonard's towering dunk in super-sectional
5. "I'm at a loss for words for how our (mental) state is. Everybody's tired of losing." – Jenna Smith after a 13-point home loss against Indiana.
HEADLINES YOU MIGHT READ IN 2010-11
1. Langley wins Masters
2. Leshoure named starting quarterback
3. Cavaliers woo Jerrance Howard
4. Hogan joins Orange Krush
5. Henson finishes fourth in Illinois Marathon
6. Self skips 2001 team reunion
7. Parade on Sunday for volleyball champs
8. Sullivan expecting triplets
9. Rice, Drake torch Hawkeyes
10. Illini top seed in Big 42 tournament
HEADLINES YOU WON'T READ IN 2010-11
1. Zook: Too many QBs on roster
2. Tate, "Craig from Monticello" do lunch
3. Big Ten Network increases women's coverage
4. Blago named honorary captain
5. Go Illini Card good for "Unofficial"
6. This week on the BTN: "The Journey: Category I"
7. No room to tailgate
8. Ex-Chiefs introduced at halftime
9. Assembly Hall naming rights to BP
10. Delany: Expansion a hoax