Eight years ago today was the final home appearance for the Illini basketball quintet of seniors Roger Powell, Luther Head, Jack Ingram, Nick Smith and Fred Nkemdi. After the pregame ceremonies, Illinois went on to win its 29th game in a row, defeating Purdue 84-50 in coach Gene Keady’s final appearance at the Assembly Hall. All five seniors played in that game. Head led the senior delegation with 11 points, six assists and five rebounds in 30 minutes. Powell had five points and three rebounds in 14 minutes. Ingram scored four points and corralled two rebounds in 18 minutes. In Smith’s 16 minutes, the 7-footer had four points, three of them coming on one of only four three-pointers he scored all season. Nkemdi played six minutes but didn’t score. Here’s how they wound up their UI careers:
— Head wound up in 19th place on Illinois’ all-time scoring list with 1,295 points in 128 games (10.1 ppg). He had 209 threes, a career total exceeded only by Cory Bradford, Dee Brown and Richard Keene. Head joined teammates Dee Brown and Deron Williams as first-team All-Big Ten selections.
— Powell earned honorable mention All-Big Ten kudos as a senior. He had a pair of 20-plus scoring efforts in NCAA tournament games, scoring a team-high 20 points against Louisville in the 2005 Final Four semifinals and 22 against Cincinnati in the 2004 tourney. Powell scored 1,178 points, finishing 26th on Illinois’ all-time list.
— Ingram transferred to Illinois from Tulsa, where he played for coach Bill Self. He played in all 39 games of the ’04-05 campaign, averaging 4.5 points and 2.7 rebounds. He scored 243 points as an Illini. He might be most remembered for deflecting a pass late in the NCAA game against Arizona that Williams turned into a game-tying three-pointer.
— Smith played in 38 of Illinois’ 39 games during the magical 2004-05 season, averaging 3.3 points and 2.1 rebounds. He scored a surprising 640 points in four seasons.
— Fan favorite Nkemdi scored 12 career points and grabbed nine career rebounds, but how many other players can say they played with a Final Four squad that totaled 63 wins in two letter-winning seasons?
Today: Dan Donovan, football (46)
Monday: Mike Small, golf coach (47)
Tuesday: Jessica Bayne, soccer (28)
Wednesday: Bob Trumpy, football (68)
Thursday: Dominic Altobelli, baseball (26)
Friday: Mel Romani, football (73)
Saturday: Bob Naponic, football (66)
— By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore and assistant athletic director at Miami (Ohio)
— Get Illini birthdays, trivia and historical tidbits daily on Twitter @IlliniLegends