CHAMPAIGN – Illinois raised its 2004 championship banner Sunday.
And in their exhibition finale, the Illini didn''t do anything to lower lofty expectations.
In between bites of steak and ribs at a crowded Texas Roadhouse on Sunday night, Illinois soccer players kept hearing "congratulations" and "good luck" from customers shuffling by their tables.
It was much easier on the ears than what the Illini heard a few hours earlier at Texas A&M''s soccer field.
GEORGETOWN – In high school, Aaron Martin has developed a well-earned reputation as a do-it-all player for his baseball team.
When he arrives at Illinois next fall, the Georgetown-Ridge Farm senior is projected as a pitcher. Clearly, however, Martin is ready and willing to pitch in elsewhere if the call ever comes from Illini coach Itch Jones.
I wasnt the Big Tens best shooter or rebounder, and I never led Illinois to the conference championship. In fact, my teams won 18 Big Ten games from 1965 through 67. What makes me so unique is that I was the conferences MVP my senior year, beating out such stars as Minnesotas Tom Kondla and Ohio States Bill Hosket. When the scandal of the mid-1960s stripped three exceptional players from the Illini roster, I stepped up my game to become a star. Today, I am a successful financial adviser and reside in Rye, N.Y.
CHAMPAIGN – They keep the championship trophy from the 1978 Kentucky Invitational in the entrance to the media relations department at Illinois.
It''s a little wobbly up top. The action-figure-sized basketball player affixed to the apex tends to bounce when the base is moved. But you still can read the plaque on the front. The wooden base isn''t rotted out.
News-Gazette staff writer Jeff Huth asked some prominent national observers of the collegiate basketball scene this question: "When I say ''Illinois basketball,'' what do you think of?" Here are their responses:
Brian Randle would love to be back to his high-flying ways by the time Ohio State visits the Assembly Hall on Jan. 5.
If he can''t, he''ll likely stay grounded for the season.
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The bulldog took a head-on hit from a runaway freight train.
&nsp;It threw him for a loop.
And the bounce-back, at age 72, isn''t as automatic as it might have been earlier.