Fond farewells for UI seniors

Time flies ... and these guys have had some fun, especially this season as Illinois has positioned itself for a return to the NCAA tournament. On Saturday, Illini fans will say goodbye to five seniors. We let them do the talking.

KEVIN BERARDINI

The best moment of my Illinois career was ... the NCAA tournament win against UNLV. That was special, and I was able to play in that game. We had gone through some adversity that season, and we were able to pull it together that night and have something special.

When John Groce gets mad at me ... he has one of the most powerful glares that I’ve ever seen, and you don’t want to be on the receiving end of one of those.
Next March, I am going to be ... I’m not certain what the next challenge is going to be, but I’m excited for whatever’s in store.

News-Gazette headline I’d like to read about myself ... I would like to be remembered as someone that cared about his teammates and that I gave everything for them to help us grow and reach our goals as a team.

Other than basketball, I’m really good at ... I am really interested in becoming a lobbyist and mobilizing people. That’s something I’ve always been kind of good at, bringing people together to find their interests and help them achieve what they want.

TYLER GRIFFEY
The best moment of my Illinois career was ... Hopefully that lies ahead of me. As of right now, the Indiana game comes to mind, hitting that layup. The Michigan State game freshman year stands out, the “GameDay” game with the crowd storming the court. I started that game; that was a cool environment, a cool experience.

When John Groce gets mad at me ... he’s pretty intense. He’s got a lot of energy. He always tells us not to pay attention to the volume or the curse words or the adjectives, just pay attention to the message.

Next March, I am going to be ... I owe it to myself to try to pursue playing overseas, but I’m definitely not going to force the issue. It’s got to be the right offer, the right country. I’m not going to go to Eastern Russia or something like that, nowhere hostile. Eventually, I’d like to own my own personal training business. One of my mentors, Brian Fitzmaurice, my trainer back in St. Louis, has a good thing going on. I could see myself doing something like that. My mom really wants me to go to grad school and get my physical therapy degree. I don’t know if I like that, but she offered to pay for it, so we’ll see.

News-Gazette headline I’d like to read about myself ... “STUNNING” was a good one. I’d want to just see a picture with me smiling. I don’t care what it says, as long as I’m happy. I’m really proud of my four years here, battled through adversity, struggles and it’s not over yet. We’re going to try to keep this going as long as possible.

Other than basketball, I’m really good at ... pingpong, FIFA on the Xbox; I play a lot of video games. Second semester senior year, I have no classes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday so I spend those days in front of the TV.

SAM McLAURIN
The best moment of my Illinois career was ... definitely beating Indiana. Knocking off the No. 1 team in the country, you don’t get to do that many times.

When John Groce gets mad at me ... he lets you know; you will definitely know. He doesn’t really yell at you, but he lets you know that he’s unhappy.

Next March, I am going to be ... I’ll be playing basketball somewhere, doing what I love to do.

News-Gazette headline I’d like to read about myself ... McLaurin, Illini win again

Other than basketball, I’m really good at ... video games. I’ve got that Maui (video game) title under my belt.

BRANDON PAUL
The best moment of my Illinois career was ... So far, when we won the Maui Invitational. We talk now, when it comes to these games, we want to play like we played out there. That’s when we played our best basketball. Being able to win the MVP award for that was just the icing on the cake.

When John Groce gets mad at me ... he explains why he’s upset and helps me understand why I can do better at whatever it is he was mad at me for.

Next March, I am going to be ... I will be playing in the league and competing at a high level trying to do whatever it is to help my team be successful.

News-Gazette headline I’d like to read about myself ... I helped Illinois become a better program and helped this year’s 2012-13 team compete at a high level.

Other than basketball, I’m really good at ... entertaining people. I like to joke around and prank people. I think, when it comes down to it, I’m a pretty good actor.

D.J. RICHARDSON
The best moment of my Illinois career was ... all of it, everything. I love it, on and off the court. Just playing in the Big Ten, that’s the highlight of my career. It’s fun, a lot of competitive teams. You have to be prepared every night to play because you can get beat by anybody. It’s a real good league, the coaches are great and meeting them and the other players at media day is always fun. When the Orange Krush rushes the floor, those are memorable times. They’ve been great to us. The Clemson game, coming down from 23 points is something I’ll remember. That was a crazy experience. The Michigan State game freshman year, the Coaches vs. Cancer game against Indiana when Demetri (McCamey) hit the buzzer-beater, the Indiana game this year, all of it. There are so many memories, I can talk about that all day. It’s something we do a lot, just talk about memories.

When John Groce gets mad at me ... He doesn’t get mad at me a lot. He just explains to me; he doesn’t yell much at me. He just talks to me. He’ll text me or call me, and we talk about it then.

Next March, I am going to be ... Hopefully playing pro ball somewhere, that’s my goal, that’s what I want to do.

News-Gazette headline I’d like to read about myself ... Something about me being successful, playing ball after college.

Other than basketball, I’m really good at ... playing “Call of Duty.” Dressing. I think I have a good casual style; I like to color coordinate my clothes.

Comments

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beekay wrote on March 01, 2013 at 8:03 am

As quickly as I am to applaud exceptional performance of players, I have also been critical when performance was poor.  But I recognized that even though there are those sub par lazy basketball performances at times, these are athletes that spend a ridiculous amount of their time immersed in basketball so people like me can be entertained.  We block out a couple of hours every third or fourth day to watch a game that they spend many more hours just to prepare for.  There are plenty of moments involved with this senior class that I will not miss...but I am very appreciative of the sacrifices that they have made.  To my recollection, they have kept themselves out of trouble off the court.  I hope the little bell in their heads goes off to keep them focused on extending this basketball experience as long as possible as they head toward the post season.  Not just because it would entertain me, but moreso because they will remember this as the best experience of their lives.  I was a good athlete once, and though I am not an elderly man I am certainly in the depreciation stage.  The body does eventually deteriorate, so it's good to have something to look back on and be proud of.  I hope we are focused and can win convincingly against Nebraska, and that we can then gear up for some of our finest basketball since Maui.  I can't help but think of Heldman, Hester, Gee, Turner, and Brian Johnson.  Seniors who did everything they could without a superstar or a real point guard.  I guarantee you that they (with the exception of the late Heldman) remember those days as the finest days of their lives.

ui1969 wrote on March 01, 2013 at 8:03 am

DJ Richardson is a hoot. He is what college basketball is about. All the best to him and all the Illini Srs. They have been thru a lot and have been a fine credit to the University. We live and die with you guys but it isn't really life or death.