UI-Mizzou notes: Family affair for the Griffeys
ST. LOUIS — Tyler Griffey is a veteran of the Braggin' Rights game.
The Illinois junior has been attending the event since the fifth grade — and that means his father, Chris Griffey, has been a regular, too.
"Tyler going to Illinois, that was very different from most of his high school friends," said Chris Griffey, who was a Mizzou fan before his son chose Illinois. "We called Lafayette (High School) 'Mizzou East.' I would say 60 to 70 percent of his high school went (to Missouri)."
Tyler Griffey had roughly 25 to 30 friends and family at Thursday's game, his dad said.
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The latest on the Meyers Leonard Watch: He's handling the attention well.
And he's getting some help. The fast-rising big man, who has become the center of the Illini basketball universe, said he "appreciates" the way the coaches have helped him handle the increased attention thrown his way.
"Coach (BRUCE) Weber, he just says, 'Keep your head on straight. Keep being a good college basketball player. The rest will come,' " Leonard said of the advice he's receiving.
And the attention — from NBA speculation to opposing scouting reports — figures to increase as he continues through his sophomore season.
"I've only had a handful of good games here. I know that. I just have to keep working at it," Leonard said prior to Thursday's game. "At the same time, if we win, that increases my stock and increases the chances I'll be able to play in the NBA at some point.
"If you win, people notice. It all comes together. You have to be a winner first."
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The Jereme Richmond saga took another turn Thursday.
Richmond, who is awaiting trial on battery and weapons charges, has been placed on home detention, according to a report from The Associated Press. The 19-year-old is required to be at the family's Waukegan home from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Richmond was arrested in August after choosing to forgo his sophomore season at Illinois and enter the NBA draft. He went undrafted. No trial date has been set.
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Among those spotted in the crowd (and there were many others): Final Four volleyball coach Kevin Hambly, UI athletic director Mike Thomas, football coach Tim Beckman and UI recruit Malcolm Hill. Former Illini Kiwane Garris, a Braggin' Rights veteran, was brought into the locker room before tipoff to speak about the importance of the rivalry.
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The last time Illinois beat fast-paced Missouri at the Scottrade Center, the Illini used a simple formula.
Don't turn it over. Take smart shots. Dictate tempo.
Illinois did those things in 2008 when the Illini routed the Tigers 75-59.
"It's a game of stops and tempo (against Missouri)," Chester Frazier said from Germany prior to Thursday's game. "You can't get caught up in running a lot, but you can run on them. You have to execute and make them guard."
Those Illini also had the advantage of putting three lead guards on the floor — Frazier, Demetri McCamey and Trent Meacham — to combat the Tigers' pressure defense.
"We worked as a unit," Frazier said. "They weren't good at guarding motion after you used clock. You do not want to get in a track meet with these guys."
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With four seniors in its starting lineup, Missouri was projected to be one of the better teams in the Big 12 — if not the country.
It was an enviable position for a first-year head coach. And the Tigers adapted quickly to the change when Mike Anderson left for the Arkansas job.
"We love him (Frank Haith). He's gritty. He's blue collar. He came up the hard way," Missouri senior Kim English said. "We love him. He's definitely a player's coach. We trust him. I would run through a brick wall for him, or at least try."