ST. LOUIS – The Gateway City long has been fertile recruiting ground in many sports. But not often has Illinois'' women''s basketball team been able to pull some of the best talent from the area.
If the UI staff gets its way, that will change. Erin McCarthy, a 6-foot-5 junior from St. Louis'' St. Joseph''s Academy, gave Illinois an oral commitment last week, and the Illini avidly are pursuing her teammate, 6-3 Rachel Pierson.
Illinois students returned from their semester break this week, so they''ve already seen their grades.
Most ex-Illini in the NFL also have received their feedback from teams as their seasons ended during the past month. But two former Illinois football players will make the trip to Houston for the Super Bowl to cap off a memorable year for Illinois alums in the pros.
MADISON, Wis. – Aussie Kirk Penney, leading Wisconsin scorer the last two seasons, is playing in Spain. The team''s second-best player, Alando Tucker, is weighing a medical redshirt, and starting guard Freddie Owens is wearing a protective boot.
And it doesn''t seem to matter. Coach Bo Ryan just keeps plugging the holes.
CHICAGO – It''s 2 1/2 hours before tip-off, and Frank Williams walks the hallway of the United Center on his way to the New York Knicks'' locker room.
He stops to sign an autograph for an eager fan, trying to keep hold of the basketball shoes he is carrying at the same time. Alone, he makes his way into the visitor''s locker room in a building where he enjoyed some of his best college basketball moments playing for Illinois.
It took a camera to decide the outcome, but Illinois'' men''s 1,600-meter relay team came away victorious Saturday.
The Illini edged Northern Iowa at the line in the Elite Invitational at Madison, Wis. Both teams were clocked in 3 minutes, 15.15 seconds, but a photo revealed Illinois was the winner. Adrian Walker, Trammel Smith, Zach Glavash and Nathan Vadeboncouer ran for Illinois.
MADISON, Wis. – There are quick and easy fixes Illinois can make before it loses sight of the NCAA tournament.
Like, when the referee asks for the basketball, hand it to him. Rolling it toward the cheerleaders, like Nick Smith did in a not entirely surprising fit of immaturity Saturday, should be saved for second-graders who don''t know any better.
MADISON, Wis. – Opportunity knocked. Illinois got knocked around.
Saturday''s game at Wisconsin was supposed to be the Illini''s best shot to make a statement, to announce their return to form and to climb back into the Big Ten race.
MADISON, Wis. – Bruce Weber has seen Nick Smith''s temper flare up before, and he''s let it slide.
On Saturday, he took a stand and gave Smith a seat.
CHAMPAIGN – Illinois'' Jon Beutjer will return for a sixth season, but he''s not guaranteed to be the starting quarterback this time around.
Beutjer was granted a sixth season Friday by the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee. He applied for an extension after missing the final five games of the 2003 season with a herniated disk in his back.