Top Illini pros: then & now
Twentieth-ranked Kevin Anderson has established himself as the best pro tennis player — now or ever — to come out of the University of Illinois. We asked staff writer Jeff Huth to pick the top current and all-time Illini pros in some other sports.
Now: Corey Liuget
Third-year defensive end had breakout season in 2012 for the Chargers: seven sacks, team’s Defensive Player of Year award.
All-time: Dick Butkus
Feared for his ferocious hits, linebacker was eight-time All-Pro pick with the Bears en route to Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Now: Deron Williams
Three-time All-Star point guard and two-time Olympian looking for first NBA title with going-for-broke Brooklyn Nets.
All-time: Derek Harper
Prototype point guard excelled at both ends of court, retiring in 1999 with 11th-most steals and 17th-most assists in NBA history.
Now: Tanner Roark
Lone Illini currently in MLB, right-hander off to strong start in Washington Nationals’ bullpen after recent call-up.
All-time: Lou Boudreau
Player-manager at age 25 of the Indians, eight-time All-Star and 1948 AL MVP was elected to Baseball Hall of Fame in 1970.
Now: Steve Stricker
Still has game at age 46, standing 13th in world rankings and recording five top-10 finishes in 10 tournaments during highly selective 2013 schedule.
All-time: Steve Stricker
Envied by peers for his putting acumen, Stricker also has enviable career resume (12 PGA Tour wins, 13 runner-up finishes, $37.6 million in earnings).
Men’s track and field
Now: Andrew Riley
Four-time NCAA champion and 12-time All-American coming off appearance in finals of 110-meter hurdles at IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
All-time: Craig Virgin
Limiting this to the “pro era” excludes all-time Illini greats like Bob Richards and Herb McKenley. Three-time Olympic qualifier Virgin merits nod as a two-time world champion in cross-country.
Women’s track and field
Now: Gia Lewis-Smallwood
Perseverance paying off for 34-year-old Champaign native, who made first Olympic team in 2012 and placed fifth this month in the World Championships.
All-time: Perdita Felicien
Tough choice, with three-time Olympian Tonja Buford-Bailey a worthy contender. Felicien is first and only Illini female to win gold in a World Championships individual event.
Now: Ella Masar
One of three former Illini playing in the National Women’s Soccer League, the forward has three goals and two assists in 19 matches for the Chicago Red Stars.
All-time: Ella Masar
Since concluding her award-winning UI career in 2007, the Urbana native has become a fixture on the pro scene, with stops in France, Norway and two U.S. leagues.