looked like the team that I hoped they would become way back in the
a short wire report of the game, you will notice that the Illini were led
by Sergio McClain’s 15 points, followed by Cory Bradford’s 13 and
Robert Archibald’s 12. But if that’s all you know about Illinois’
impressive 92-60 thrashing of the Nittany Lions, then you’ve only missed
is the point, you might say.
I’m glad you asked. As this reporter saw it…almost total unselfish
submit as Evidence A for the people that the Illini recorded 22 assists on
31 field goals, which is an astonishing ratio.
Evidence B, I would submit the vastly improved play of center Robert
Archibald, who recorded another double-double with his work on the glass.
Evidence C you’re going to have to trust me and dig deeper than most
area reporters had time to tell you. Yes, Frank Williams had another
awesome game…seven points, seven assists, four steals and only one
turnover. However, his greatest contribution was the suffocating defense
he played on the Big Ten’s leading scorer, Joe Crispin. In fact, Crispin
was completely shut out and shut down by halftime and finished the day
only 3-of-14 from the field for 13 points (wish people could have limited
me to only 13 a game…I would’ve been happy to be a disappointment in
double figures every night!).
in order to see Evidence C more clearly, get out your magnifying glass.
And think, if you will, of Sean Harrington. Sean scored six points and had
a rebound and an assist…not necessarily numbers that would make him a
candidate for the Wooden award. But…as much of a glove as Frankie was on
Crispin, I think Harrington frustrated him even more…coaxing Joe into an
air ball and a couple of shots that were way off the mark. Right before
the half Harrington made a great defensive play and then banged in a long
3-pointer just before the buzzer to send the delirious Illini nation into
Evidence D I would have to display Penn State’s dismal 34 percent field
goal shooting for the game. It’s even worse when you consider that the
Lions’ starters were a woeful 9-for-43 for 21 percent.
Evidence E I would direct your attention to the Illinois bench. Bench
contributions were not limited to their 35 points and 17 rebounds; they
brought energy and fed the fire of momentum.
closing argument, on top of all these other reasons, I have to tell you
that Illinois shot a season-best 60 percent from the field on 31-of-52
shooting. Good shooting covers a multitude of sins…I think that’s in
the Bible somewhere. The Illini’s stifling, tenacious defense never let
the Lions out of their den…Case closed!
Bradford extended his NCAA-record streak to 83 games with at least one
3-pointer. He also passed former Illini great Nick Anderson and moved into
21st place on Illinois’ all-time scoring list with 1,175
points for his career.
Brian Cook continued his inspired play of late by getting into double
figures again with 10 points and three rebounds. He also is among the
league leaders in blocked shots. Staying out of foul trouble will key his
and the Illini’s effectiveness over the next few games.
sellout crowds are making their presence felt. Personally, I’ve been
going to games at the Assembly Hall since 1975, and I’m FINALLY starting
to feel like we might be getting closer to having a home-court advantage.
In my limited opinion, there is nothing better than game day…period!
were told that the officials received a mandate from the NCAA home office
to clean up the game this season. I may have missed it…but, was the Big
Ten exempt from that ruling? I probably should be careful, since the LDN
has nationwide connections and I might get fined like Mark Cuban of the
Dallas Mavs, but I’m sorry, I just don’t see it. The game desperately
needs to be cleaned up, especially in the paint, but call me skeptical…or
better yet, call me when it actually happens!
Illini schedule takes another turn toward the difficult with the next two
games on the road. Illinois is at Michigan on Jan. 25 and at Penn State on
Jan. 31. A split would put us in pretty good shape, but of course we’re
pulling for a rare road sweep. The Illini don’t return to the Hall until
Cook made a triumphant return to Roy S. Anderson gym to help encourage the
Railers in their exciting victory over Lockport. Cook had to share the
spotlight with some kid named Payne.
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[The Illini's game Saturday against
Penn State brought out the best in both the team and its supporters. LDN
photographers were there taking lots of pictures of our local sports hero
Brian Cook. Cook was right in there turning in his usual superior
game was played on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston. The
Wildcats are known for having the wildest fans in the conference, and they
play in the smallest arena. Welsh-Ryan holds just under 8,200, but on this
night Illinois appeared to have at least 50 percent of the fans in
attendance. Theirs were the loudest cheers of the night on two occasions:
first, when Cory Bradford nailed his only 3 of the night, to extend his
consecutive game streak to 82 games; second, late in the game when Frank
Williams did yet another Michael Jordan impersonation and drove to the
hoop for a 3-point play, a move which sealed the victory for Illinois
against their in-state conference rival.
sophomore Williams led Illinois in scoring with 16 points, recorded eight
rebounds and handed out five assists. Williams, who returned to action
after a one-game absence due to injury, paced the Illini on both ends of
the court. Illinois dominated Northwestern on the boards, outrebounding
them 42-18 for the game, and improved to an overall record of 14-4; 4-1 in
the Big Ten.
Bill Self was not pleased with the effort at the conclusion of the game.
"I thought we did OK in spurts, but overall, we did not play
well," Self concluded in the post-game interview.
who received his first technical foul as Illini coach on Saturday, also
had a heated exchange with referee Randy Drury toward the end of the game
after an apparent clean block by junior Robert Archibald.
went so far as to say, "I think the wrong team won tonight,
Northwestern played much harder."
will have to play much better if they plan to beat teams like Michigan
State (Feb. 6 game in Champaign), Purdue (Feb. 10 game at Purdue) and
Wisconsin (Feb. 13 game in Champaign).
[to top of second column in
seemed very happy in the post-game interview and had encouraging words for
his former Lincoln Railer teammates: "Tell them to hang in there and
play tough defense. One thing Lincoln basketball is known for is
defense." Cook also felt future Illinois State Redbird Gregg
Alexander would have no
trouble adjusting to college ball and looked forward to a future Illinois
vs. Illinois State basketball game as part of the soon-to-be-revived
Illini Classic in years to come.
coach Bill Gillispie, when asked about the progress and personality of
Cook, said, "Brian is a great kid, and he is doing awesome. He has a
real chance to be one of the greatest to ever play for Illinois."
like any great player, shared criticism of his own game, stating, "I
need to get more consistent; that is what I am striving for."
will return to action on Saturday against Penn State (game time is 2 p.m.)
and is two games into a six-game stretch where they are considered a clear
favorite in each game. A real possibility exists that Illinois will be 8-1
in the conference when preseason favorite Michigan State strolls into town
on Feb. 6.
- Senior center Marcus Griffin
did not play because of a bruised tailbone but will return to action
Saturday. Self stated that Griffin could have played if needed.
- Sean Harrington continues to
struggle, playing just nine scoreless minutes.
- Illinois made 13 of 16 free
throw attempts for 81 percent, a strong improvement from recent games,
including a pitiful 7-17 showing against Iowa.
- Northwestern enjoyed their
first sellout of the season.
Don, you actually started coaching in the middle ’80s.
I started during the ’86-’87 season.
us about win number 150.
was last night [Tuesday] versus Argenta. We won 48-20. Chris Gossett led the way
with 20 points and five rebounds. Nathaniel Hoffert had 10 points and five
assists, and Joey Anderson had 10 points and seven rebounds. Jeremy Hamlin
and Mitch Brewer also turned in outstanding efforts in the victory.
your record, coach?
makes us 11-5.
told me before the season began that you thought you guys would be pretty
solid, and it sounds like you’re right on track.
a couple of games, like always, that I thought we should have won, that we
didn’t. We end up over at Maroa tomorrow night [Wednesday], and I think we will fare
well there. Our regional and sectional tournaments are definitely
will they be played?
the No. 2 seed. The No. 1 seed is Williamsville, but when you compare
common opponents, we have a good chance to go deep in these playoffs. If
we don’t get any bad breaks, we ought to be all right!
the farthest your team has gone in the past?
won three regional titles.
the win over Argenta brought you to what career record?
am now 150-121. (Ed. note: That makes for a .554 winning percentage.)
would you say has been the highlight of your 14 years at the helm?
the kids. I got to coach kids like Greg Mote, Brian Cook, Geoff Alexander,
Paul Ross and, this year, guys like Chris Gossett and Nathaniel Hoffert,
just to name a few. We’ve been lucky to have some good kids come through
the program here.
you seriously are thinking about hanging up your coaching sneakers after
I’m about 99.9 percent sure that I won’t be back next year. You find
yourself coming home tired from work, practice and games. With my schedule
we don’t even get done at night until 7:30 or 8, and you just get home
late. After doing it for 14 years, you begin to get tired. Probably time
for somebody else to try it.
has been a long haul, but it sounds like you’ve enjoyed it.
don’t do it unless you enjoy it…well, you know that. It has definitely
what do you attribute your success?
couldn’t have done any of it without the loving support of my wife,
Marla. Also, my daughter, Amy, is the Trojans’ biggest fan…she’s
also my biggest fan. Our family celebrates the victories and we mourn the
[to top of second column in
had some interesting assistants this year as well, haven’t you?
My son, Ryan, and a friend, Brian Aussieker, helped me out this season. I’ve
pretty much turned over talking to the kids to them. The kids really
respond well to them. Instead of me yelling at them or telling them
something, I have Ryan and Brian handle a lot of that for me. When tempers
begin to flare up, I take the player out and have Ryan and Brian talk to
them. They are both calmer than I am. They can talk on the players’
level a little bit better than I can. They get them calmed down and ready
to go back in. That’s been a big help, and those two coaches have really
you have been doing this for more than a decade, in your opinion, what is
the state of junior high basketball?
think it’s a faster paced game now...you know, you used to walk it up the
court and get into a half-court set. Now you run by trying to get into
transition early. A lot of the set plays that we run, we get from the high
school or from the colleges or from camp. Kids today have a better
understanding of what you’re trying to do. I think you need to be a lot
more aggressive on defense, and I think most everybody is. It used to be
that a lot of teams would sit back in a 2-3 zone, and rarely do you find
that any more. I’ve never had a problem with the parents, and that
really hasn’t changed. I don’t know that the kids have changed much
either. At the junior high age it’s all new to them, and they’re still
really interested and willing to listen. The administration has been great…I’ve
gone through a couple of principals, and I’ve always had their backing.
Right now Curt Nettles has been really supportive, and he’s been great
to work with. On this level the emphasis has been more on teaching…no
one has ever come to me and said, you know, you’ve got to win, or
anything like that. That’s remained pretty consistent over the years
does the future look like for the Trojans?
think we’ve got six sixth graders who will be coming on over next year.
There should be plenty of opportunities for any of them who are willing to
work hard over the summer and ready themselves for next season.
the 14 years I can’t remember ever having a big-time problem with any
parent or school official…so from that standpoint it has been good. It’s
been a lot of fun for me and an opportunity that I never thought I’d
comments from Jeff
you have ever coached, you can’t possibly know the time commitment, the
sacrifices and the stress that coaches endure. As a member of that fine
fraternity, I can tell you that coaches earn their pay…BUT, if they don’t
get satisfaction out of teaching or from brightening the lives of their
players, everyone loses. On behalf of the LDN, we salute Don Williams on
win number 150 and on a stellar career for the Lincoln Junior High
would like the spotlight to shine on your favorite junior high sports
program, call the LDN with info on how to get ahold of your coach, as it
is our desire to cover EVERY school that our loyal readers care about!)