Illini teammates give Wilson boost

URBANA Brian Wilson is the fiery Illini junior who closed out the 4-2 conquest of Florida for the indoor tennis championship by rallying from a 5-2 deficit in the third set. ´He''s been our hottest player in the last two months,´ UI coach Craig Tiley said. ´He took people apart in the Big Ten (outdoor) tournament.´ So if Wilson wasn''t quite as sharp when rain forced the NCAA regional indoors Saturday at the Atkins Tennis Center, his teammates were ready to pick him up. The Illini throttled Butler''s Bulldogs 4-0 so swiftly that Wilson didn''t get to finish either of his matches: In doubles, Wilson and freshman Rajeev Ram were barely ahead 7-6 before it was abandoned; in singles, he rallied to win the first set 7-5 before trailing 1-4 when the team victory celebration began. ´It''s been a rough week for Brian,´ Tiley said. And highly unusual. Just when final exams were on every student''s mind, Wilson learned his closest boyhood friend and former basketball teammate, Brandon Laviskant, died of apparent suicide in San Diego. ´He''s one of the only guys from the high school that I''ve kept in touch with,´ Wilson said. ´I talked to him two weeks ago, and it''s tough to understand. His family had high academic standards, and he was under a lot of pressure. He may have felt his parents were on the verge of kicking him out. On top of that, I had a final exam Friday night, and I only got about six hours of sleep last night.´ And don''t overlook the pairing. Indianapolis product Kevin Gill, a former summer doubles partner with Ram, carried a 20-4 record at No. 1 singles for Butler. Gill produced a series of magical shots against Wilson. Had the match gone to a third set, it would have been a barking bloodbath. Amer Delic, ranked third in the nation, will move back into No. 1 singles today with Wilson, ranked 12th, dropping to No. 2 in the second-round NCAA match against Clemson. Delic was withheld for precautionary reasons Saturday after performing brilliantly alongside Michael Calkins in doubles. Thus begins the last-lap quest for undefeated indoor and outdoor campaigns. ´It''s a new season,´ said Tiley, fully aware that anything short of the NCAA title will be a disappointment. Easy to explain Things to understand in the Michigan case:  The NCAA infraction committee''s approach to sanctions has softened dramatically in the last 10 years, a fact that was apparent long before the Michigan basketball case came to light. Also, the ouster of the Wolverines'' basketball coaches and athletic directors further eased the sanctions.  Reducing Michigan''s scholarship numbers from 13 to 12 is minor. It doesn''t hurt nearly as much as limiting Illinois to two scholarships each for consecutive years when the roster already was thin.  Much as Michigan administration likes to point to cooperation, the fact is that an internal investigation was completed without turning up anything. It took a subpoena-wielding federal investigation into gambling and money laundering to bring to light more than $600,000 in ´loans´ to Wolverines players by a booster who received preferential treatment.  Michigan has every right to appeal a second-year ban of postseason play, which is the most serious penalty insofar as current players are concerned. Because of the delay, the Big Ten must wait to determine if Michigan will be permitted to play in the Big Ten tournament again. Basketball tidbits  Fast-moving UI basketball coach Bruce Weber flew to Las Vegas for a Sunday clinic and will stop in Springfield for a speaking engagement on his way back to campus. How busy is he? He went to bed the other night and spent 45 minutes just listing the 37 calls on his cell answering machine.  Pulling affirmative action strings have held up naming Purdue''s Jay Price to Weber''s staff. Why the hangup? The whole idea is to give minorities a chance, and you would think Weber has complied because he already named Wayne McClain and Chris Lowery, both black, to his staff.  ´Being honest´ isn''t always the most beneficial approach in a job search, Weber said: ´When I was a finalist with Barry Collier for the Butler job, they asked me if Butler could beat Indiana and Purdue. I said, ''Perhaps in a special year when Butler had some outstanding seniors.'' They didn''t like that answer. Collier got the job.´ Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached via e-mail at ltate@news-gazette.com.

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