Tate: Foreign flair suits UI's spring offerings

Tate: Foreign flair suits UI's spring offerings

First, let's work on our pronunciations.

Start with Chayanid Prapassarangkul ... Swing Liu ... Pailin Ruttanasupagid. Then try Noe Khlif, Pengxuan Jiang and Aleks Vukic, or how about Giovanni Tadiotto and Edoardo Lipparelli.

These are Illini athletes in spring sports. And this much you can guess: They weren't raised around here. Except for San Diego's Ruttanasupagid, they weren't even raised on this continent.

Her fellow golfers, Prapassarangkul and Liu, hail from Thailand and China, respectively. Male golfers Tadiotto and Lipparelli arrived from Belgium and Italy, respectively.

"It seems like we've had more (from Belgium) because of Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry," said UI men's coach Mike Small. "Actually, we're behind in the international golf market. From a global standpoint, we want to attract as many as possible who fit into our culture.

"Professionally, the women are far ahead in terms of golfers from Asia. They've become dominant on the tour."

 

Dollars and cents

No wonder chief DIA fundraiser Howard Milton is campaigning to upgrade I-Fund donations. Long-distance recruiting burns dollars of tuition money.

With the year's anticipated contributions expected to reach $7.3 to $7.5 million, they're well short of their goal of matching annual scholarship costs of $12 million.

And the overload of out-of-state recruits makes it doubly difficult for two reasons: (1) Tuition and fees for in-staters come in between $16,000 and 21,000, while non-residents are between $32,000 and $37,000, with foreign students even higher; and (2) non-residents almost never apply for in-state status because it is a complex procedure and the athletic department is paying anyway for the roughly 350 athletes receiving some level of aid.

 

Varying by sport

How extensive is DIA out-of-state enrollment?

In terms of squad makeups, it varies. There are no international athletes in baseball and softball.

Dan Hartleb has 23 Illinoisans on a 34-man roster, even as he slips into Wisconsin (the Badgers dropped baseball) for pitchers Ty Weber, Ryan Schmitt and Cyrillo Watson and center fielder Doran Turchin. Tyra Perry added a few transfers, but still shows 13 Illinoisans out of 24 softballers.

Men's track has 37 of 44 from the home state, including star hurdler David Kendziera of Prospect. And the women show 31 of 39, though the foremost performer on either track squad is Pedrya Seymour from Nassau, Bahamas. In the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, she placed sixth for her country in the 100-meter hurdles.

Small's ninth-ranked golf team, a perennial national contender, features one in-stater, Nick Hardy, on the roster.

Both tennis programs go international, the women displaying two from Ontario — Jade Hilton and the UI's No. 1 player, Louise Kwong — plus Columbia's Daniela Pedraza Novak. Aussie Aleks Vukic leads the men, with France's Khlif and China's Jiang rounding out the squad.

 

Bleeding into other areas?

Point is, the university has a distinct international flavor with 5,680 undergraduates and graduates from China alone, and it carries over strongly into these spring sports.

We'll be following Seymour's hurdling exploits this spring. And where would the men's tennis team be without Vukic — wow, is he good! — and Khlif, or the female golfers without all those names I can't pronounce?

Here's a thought (not to be taken seriously). If the state's young basketball stars are snubbing Illinois, perhaps Brad Underwood should widen his horizons. It's working for Dana Altman at Oregon. He brought the Ducks to the Final Four with Canadian stars Dylan Ennis, Dillon Brooks and Chris Boucher (injured late), plus tall backups from Israel and London.

The cost of going to Europe, for example, wouldn't be overwhelming compared to the multi-year expenditures wasted for recruiting a couple of downstate stars who signed but then rejected the UI.

I have no such suggestion for Lovie Smith, other than to check the NFL's free agents and Ohio State's castoffs.

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.

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Moonpie wrote on April 16, 2017 at 9:04 am

Ah, Ancient Tate. He can't help but cast a spotlight on all those pesky foreign names. Whatever happed to the days when sports, by God ,were played by strapping, crew-cut fellows with the good sense to be named Smith and Jones -- and Red Grange?

And then the Legendary Scribe reminds us of the latest traitors: "...the multi-year expenditures wasted for recruiting a couple of downstate stars who signed but then rejected the UI.

What the heck -- they weren't named Smith and Jones.