Basketball star Kendall Gill, one of eight different Illini men to lead the Big Ten in scoring, turns 52 years old on Monday.
Illinois’s Most Valuable Player during the 1989-90 season was a native of Matteson and a star at Rich Central High School for coach Ron Brauer. Gill was a member of a superb Illini recruiting class that included Nick Anderson, Stephen Bardo, Larry Smith and Phil Kunz.
He began slowly as an Illini freshman, averaging only 11 minutes per game behind fellow guards Doug Altenberger, Tony Wysinger, Glynn Blackwell and Bardo.
Gill worked overtime during the offseason and made a big impression on coach Lou Henson when his sophomore season began in 1987-88. He started 23 of UI’s 33 games and led the team in assists (138), free-throw percentage (.753) and three-point field goals (21).
He was productive during the first 16 games of the Flyin’ Illini’s 1988-89 campaign, averaging more than 15 points and nearly three rebounds per game, but then suffered a stress fracture in his foot in game 17 against Georgia Tech. Gill was sidelined for the next dozen games, regaining a spot in UI’s lineup for the home finale against Iowa.
After scoring 19 points in the regular-season wind-up at Michigan, the junior guard averaged 14.6 points in five 1989 NCAA Tournament games, helping the Illini earn a berth in the Final Four.
Gill’s senior year was sensational, scoring in double figures in all but one of Illinois’s 29 games and tallying 20 points or more 17 times. In Big Ten games, Gill began the first five relatively slowly, but finished the final nine league games with a flurry, tallying 21 points or more every time.
His burst at the end allowed him to eek past Minnesota’s Willie Burton and Michigan’s Rumeal Robinson, and win the Big Ten scoring title by just one-tenth of a point. Gill was the first Illini player to win the crown since Andy Phillip in 1943.
He wound up his collegiate career in seventh place among UI’s all-time top scorers with 1,409 points.
1990 Big Ten scoring leaders (conference games only):
RK, NAME SCHOOL PPG
1. Kendall Gill Illinois 20.4
2. Willie Burton Minnesota 20.3
3. Rumeal Robinson Michigan 20.3
T-4. Terry Milles Michigan 19.0
T-4. Steve Smith Michigan State 19.0
6. Rex Walters Northwestern 18.5
T-7. Marcus Liberty Illinois 18.3
T-7. Kirk Manns Michigan State 18.3
9. Steve Scheffler Purdue 18.1
10. Jim Jackson Ohio State 18.1
Sunday: Errol Shavers, football (52)
Monday: Sue Nucci, volleyball
Tuesday: Jason Dulick, football (46)
Wednesday: Ty Douthard, football (47)
Thursday: Jerrance Howard, basketball (40)
Friday: Pedrya Seymour, track & field (25)
Saturday: Kevin Turner, basketball (44)
By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore (Third Edition now available in stores). Get more Illini birthdays, trivia and historical tidbits daily on Twitter@B1GLLL. His website is www.SportsLLL.com.