UI''s Notree: ''I''ll be back''

UI''s Notree: ''I''ll be back''

   CHAMPAIGN  A huffy Bryant Notree went into a Friday morning meeting with Lon Kruger fully intent on ending his University of Illinois basketball career right then and there.

   Just a couple hours later, the junior forward was all smiles, happy to report that he''d agreed to a new two-year deal to stay an Illini and that things between him and the coach were all hunky-dory.

   What happened?

   "We resolved our problem," Notree said Friday afternoon. "I was confused about a couple of things and Coach Kruger explained them to me."

   Notree''s grades, which he admits are below what''s acceptable under his current academic probation, were the root of Friday''s meeting, which was attended by Kruger, Notree and the player''s father, Clarence Notree.

   Kruger on Tuesday had told Notree that, if he makes it academically, he would need to redshirt his senior season and get his grades in order.

   That, or get out, the option Notree preferred before Friday''s meeting.

   A calmer Notree said afterward that he''d agreed to Kruger''s redshirt request and was sorry for all the bad things he''d said.

   "I was angry because I didn''t know what was going on, I reacted spontaneously and it wasn''t fair to the coaches and the university," said Notree, a bit of a trapeze artist in the mood swing department.

   "I feel like it''s a great situation. Now I get to work on my academics, concentrate on getting my degree and also work on the things I need to work on to get to the next level."

   In the interim, Illinois may land another power forward to take the place of Notree, who averaged 7.9 points and 3.7 rebounds last season.

   Next weekend, Illinois will host Leighton Nash, a 6-foot-7 sophomore from Southeastern Community College in Burlington, Iowa.

   If all goes well, and Illinois offers a scholarship, Southeastern coach Joe O''Brien believes Nash will commit to the UI. The late signing period begins Wednesday and runs five weeks.

   "Leighton''s very strongly leaning in that direction," O''Brien said Friday night. "As long as there''s an offer, and I think there will be, I think he''ll come."

   Kruger and assistant Robert McCullum traveled to Burlington on Wednesday to watch Nash work out. They followed that up with a visit to Nash''s home in Waterloo, Iowa, which is about three hours away.

   Nash, a high-scoring forward who earlier visited Eastern Michigan, canceled a trip to Louisiana Tech, scheduled for this weekend. O''Brien said Nash received serious interest from Minnesota, Northwestern, Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Alabama, "someone from every major conference in the country."

   Another tall prospect, 6-11 Jeff Carey of Camdenton (Mo.) High, could decide as soon as this weekend where he''ll sign, said his father, Ray Bob.

   Illinois and St. Louis are in the lead, with Kansas making a late push. The Jayhawks haven''t yet offered Carey a scholarship.

   "Basically, it''s down to Illinois and St. Louis," Ray Bob said Friday. "We''re not going to wait forever on Kansas."