UI 57, IPFW 55: Notebook
CHAMPAIGN — Get to an Illinois game early enough and chances are you’ll get a glimpse into the future.
Aaron Cosby and Ahmad Starks are relegated to being cheerleaders once the ball is tipped, but prior to home games, the transfer guard duo goes through a rigorous workout on the State Farm Center floor with assistant coach Jamall Walker. On Friday before the win against IPFW, the two returned to their workout regimen after a couple of days off for Thanksgiving.
“They had a couple of days off and they actually looked pretty good. They’ve got a little extra pep in their step,” Walker said.
The workouts will happen before every game played at home this season. The third transfer, Darius Paul, goes through his workout earlier in the day at the Ubben Basketball Complex with assistant coach Dustin Ford.
“They’ve been good. They’re hard workers, they’re dedicated, they want to get better. You see their drastic improvement, not only in overall skill, but just the work ethic that needs to be exhibited and the culture we have in our program. That’s the main thing we’re trying to teach them, not only the things we do, but how we go about doing things,” Walker said. “They work hard in practice so you never have to say anything to them about pushing themselves. They know next year they’re going to be a huge part of what we do, so they’ve got to know the system and continue to get better.”
The trio was forced to watch from afar Tuesday as the Illini took to the road for the first time this season, playing at UNLV. Because of the NCAA transfer rules, Starks, Cosby and Paul are not permitted to travel with the team.
In those instances, they hang back in Champaign and go through tailored workouts with assistant strength and conditioning coach Jimmy Russomano.
“Those three guys work really hard, so you don’t have to worry too much about them,” Walker said.
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Daniel Borup still gets a thrill every time he sings the national anthem at UI basketball games. The Urbana University High product is a mechanical engineering grad student at Stanford now, but during his Thanksgiving break, the former Orange Krush member returned to the State Farm Center court to perform before Illinois’ game against IPFW.
He sang prior to the upset of No. 1 Indiana last season, and a photo of Tyler Griffey’s game-winning layup features a leaping Borup in the background as the ball was falling through the hoop at the buzzer.
“I have multiple pictures of that hanging up in my room,” Borup said Friday. “It kind of all runs together. Sometimes I forget I sang at the beginning. It was a fun time. I just remember seeing Griffey get loose because I had a great angle on it. I saw his white jersey right there, and it was exciting.”
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Late in Friday’s game, IPFW big man Steve Forbes was whistled for an offensive foul when officials said he hooked his defender to draw position.
It was the second offensive foul for the 6-foot-9, 280-pound junior in the final minute, giving him five for the game and fouling him out with 25 seconds remaining in a tight game. Forbes finished with 11 points and five rebounds.
IPFW coach Tony Jasick was careful in his criticism of the call following the loss.
“I don’t know if I’m allowed to comment on that,” he said. “I don’t make a ton of money.”