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Tuesday, Feb. 18

Junior high basketball

[FEB. 18, 2003] 

8A state tournament
At Wenona

Mulberry Grove        6   11   27     31

Hartsburg-Emden     7   15   22     33

At Wenona

Game 12 - 7:45 p.m. - Hartsburg-Emden (23 -1) vs. Gardner (19-2).

High school basketball

[FEB. 18, 2003] 

Girls Class A sectional
At Mason City

Stark County     6   15   25     39

Olympia           10   18   28     44

Olympia -- Floyd 6-4-17, Prager 2-3-7, Westerfield 0-0-0, Hieser 0-0-0, Brand 2-0-4, Crabtree 1-2-4, Canopy 0-0-0, Litwiller 6-0-12.  Totals: 17-9-44.  Three-point field goals (1):  Floyd.

Girls Class AA sectional
At Lincoln

Lincoln             7   20   30   47     53

Washington      9   23   37   47     58

Lincoln -- Freesmeier 0-0-0, Robbins 6-4-18, Schonauer 0-0-0, Carmitchel 1-0-2, Hoffert 5-2-12, Ingram 2-1-6, Washam 0-0-0, Carey 4-6-15, Whalen 0-0-0.  Totals: 18-13-53.  Three-point field goals (4): Robbins 2, Ingram, Carey.

First Redbird since Reichle earns Valley honor

[FEB. 18, 2003]  NORMAL -- In a topsy-turvy week in the Missouri Valley Conference, Illinois State guard Jaci McCormack earned top honors. McCormack, who led the Redbirds to road wins at Southwest Missouri State and Wichita State, was chosen Valley Player of the Week after averaging 14.5 points and 5.0 rebounds in two games.

The effort helped the Redbirds beat two teams higher in the standings on the road -- a benchmark effort in a week in which eight of the 10 Valley games were won by the team lower in the standings.

McCormack, a sophomore from Lapwai, Idaho, who graduated from high school at Lake Oswego, Oregon, shot 47 percent from the field, 50 percent from the 3-point arc and made all six of her free throws while contributing passing, rebounding and defense to the Redbird effort. Illinois State was just the fifth team in 15 years to collect a sweep of two games on the SMS-WSU road trip, more familiarly known as the "Bear-muda Triangle."

In the win at SMS, McCormack's three steals paced a Redbird defense that limited SMS to 56 points, its lowest total for a league home game, matching the Bears' lowest total for a conference home game in six years.


[to top of second column in this article]

McCormack's career-high eight rebounds helped the Redbirds to a 36-30 advantage on the boards at Wichita State in a 67-52 win. The Redbird defense looked good by comparison over the weekend because, two days later, the Bears scored 98 in a win over Indiana State, while the Shockers scored 87 in an 87-84 win over the Sycamores two days before getting 35 fewer against the Redbirds.

Redbird coach Jenny Yopp, whose team comes home to play Evansville at 7:05 p.m. Thursday in Redbird Arena, applauded McCormack's selection in a week where plenty of Valley teams had heroes and upsets dominated the results.

"Jaci put together two complete performances at both ends of the floor," said Yopp. "Her composure, her hitting shots, defending, rebounding and passing gave us great leadership. It's a tremendous competitive accomplishment because she is such a team-oriented player."

McCormack is the first Redbird player to capture Valley Player of the Week honors since Steph Reichle of Lincoln got the nod Nov. 29, 1999.

[Thomas Lamonica, Illinois State University]

Men's basketball pre-game notes

Illinois State vs. Evansville

[FEB. 18, 2003]   The Illinois State Redbirds play the Evansville Purple Aces at Redbird Arena on Wednesday. The game starts at 7:05 p.m.

Click here to view background information (in Adobe Acrobat).

[Click here to download the Adobe Acrobat reader.]

[Provided by Todd Kober,
 director of media relations,
Illinois State University]

Illinois vs. Michigan State

[FEB. 18, 2003]   CHAMPAIGN -- Fighting Illini basketball: No. 20 (AP)/15 Illinois (16-5, 6-4 Big Ten) versus Michigan State (14-9, 6-5 Big Ten) will be televised by ESPN at 6 tonight from the Assembly Hall (16,500) in Champaign.

Probable Illinois starters

F, 34, Brian Cook (senior, 6-10, 240, 20.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg)

F-C, 40, James Augustine (freshman, 6-10, 220, 7.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg)

F, 43, Roger Powell (sophomore, 6-6, 220, 7.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg)

G, 11, Dee Brown (freshman, 6-0, 175, 11.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.8 apg)

G, 5, Deron Williams (freshman, 6-3, 210, 6.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.6 apg)

Off the bench

C, 1, Aaron Spears (freshman, 6-9, 250, 3.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg)

G, 4, Luther Head (sophomore, 6-3, 175, 8.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg)

F, 23, Blandon Ferguson (senior, 6-3, 205, 1.7 ppg, 1.4 rpg)

G, 24, Sean Harrington (senior, 6-3, 185, 8.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg)

G, 25, Jerrance Howard (senior, 6-1, 200, 0.2 ppg, 0.2 rpg)

G, 31, Nick Huge (junior, 6-4, 215, 0.5 ppg, 0.3 rpg)

F, 32, Kyle Wilson (freshman, 6-8, 230, 2.3 ppg, 1.5 rpg)

F, 42, Clayton Thomas (senior, 6-7, 240, 0.4 ppg, 0.8 rpg)

C, 45, Nick Smith (sophomore, 7-2, 240, 5.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg)


Series history with Michigan State

Going into the 95th meeting between Illinois and Michigan State, the all-time series is tied at 47. Illinois owns a 30-15 advantage over the Spartans in games played at Champaign.

Earlier this season in East Lansing, Michigan State posted a 68-65 victory over the Illini.

Illinois coaching staff

Head coach: Bill Self

Overall record: 198-103 (10th year), Big Ten 30-12

At Illinois: 69-22 (third year), all-time versus Michigan State 2-3

Associate head coach: Norm Roberts (third year)

Assistants: Tim Jankovich (first year) and Wayne McClain (second year)

Trainer: Rod Cardinal (30th year).

Michigan coaching staff

Michigan State head coach: Tom Izzo

At Michigan State: 181-74 (eighth year), all-time versus Illinois 10-5

Overall: same

Assistant coaches: Brian Gregory, Mike Garland, Mark Montgomery

On the air

Television: ESPN -- Dave Barnett, play-by-play; Tim McCormick, expert analyst

Radio: Illini Sports Radio Network, 43 stations -- Brian Barnhart, play-by-play; Steve Bardo, expert analyst; Loren Tate, pre-game and halftime reports

Quick shots

Illinois is 36-1 at the Assembly Hall under Bill Self, with the only loss coming to Michigan State on Feb. 3 last year (67-61). ... Since then, the Illini have won 14 straight in Champaign. ... Illini opponents are shooting .373 from the field, which ranks second in the nation and would be the lowest opponent field-goal percentage by UI opponents since 1955-56 (.352). ... Since 1956, the only other Illini squad to hold opponents to less than 40 percent shooting was the 2001 squad under Bill Self (.386). ... Illini opponents are also shooting just .273 from 3-point range, which would be the lowest in school history (current low is .308 in 2000). ... After 10 Big Ten games, Brian Cook leads the Big Ten in scoring (20.9 average) and is eighth in rebounding (6.5 average), while James Augustine leads in field-goal shooting (38-64, .594), and Dee Brown is second in assists (4.90 average) and leads in assist-turnover ratio (3.77). ... Brian Cook has scored at least 15 points in 17 of his 19 games this season, including at least 20 points 13 times. He has scored 20 or more 10 of the last 13 games, including six in a row prior to Jan. 18 at Indiana, the longest such streak by an Illini player since Kendall Gill tallied 20-plus points in the final 10 games of the 1989-90 season. ... Illini players are currently leading three Big Ten statistical categories for all games. Brian Cook leads the Big Ten in scoring (20.6 ppg), Dee Brown leads in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.56), and Sean Harrington leads the conference in 3-point field-goal percentage (.439). ... James Augustine is second in field-goal shooting (.606, 66-109), Dee Brown is third in assists (4.86 apg), and Deron Williams is second in assist-turnover margin (2.13).

Last time out -- Purdue 70, Illinois 61

Illinois jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead, but Purdue tied the game at 13 before pulling away late in a 70-61 win at West Lafayette. Brian Cook led the Illini with 20 points but was the only UI player to score in double figures. The Illini were hamstrung by 19 turnovers and 39 percent shooting. Illinois held Willie Deane, Purdue's leading scorer, to just one field goal and 10 points but allowed Kenneth Lowe to score a game-high 23 points. Lowe made 13-of-15 free throws.

Self defense is tops

After 21 games this season, Illinois opponents are shooting just 37.3 percent from the field, including just 27.3 percent from 3-point range. The Illini rank second in the nation (as of Feb. 10) in field-goal defense percentage.

The 37.3 percent shooting by Illini opponents would be the lowest allowed since 1956 and just the second time since that teams shot under 40 percent. The other was in 2001, also under Bill Self.

The 27.3 percent 3-point field-goal defense percentage is the lowest in school history.

Against Coppin State on Dec. 30, Illinois held the Eagles to just 12 field goals, the fewest made shots in the 40-year history of the Assembly Hall, and to just 29 percent shooting from the field. Coppin was the second Illini opponent this season to shoot under 30 percent.

In the Big Ten opener, Illinois held Minnesota to 30.5 percent shooting on its home floor, as the Gophers made just 19.2 percent (5-26) from 3-point range.

Illinois has now held 11 of its last 15 opponents to under 40 percent shooting from the field and has a total of 13 such defensive efforts this season. Coppin State's 37 points were the fewest allowed by the Illini since defeating Northwestern 63-30 on Feb. 19, 2000.

Illinois leads the Big Ten in field-goal defense percentage and 3-point defense percentage and is third in scoring defense, allowing opponents an average of just 61.5 points.

In the latest national statistics (as of Feb. 10) compiled by the NCAA, Illinois ranks second in field-goal defense percentage and seventh in scoring margin (plus 14.7), while ranking 19th in scoring defense (61.1).


Unselfish play

The 2002-03 Fighting Illini season has been trademarked with unselfish play. Illinois leads the Big Ten and ranks sixth in the nation (as of Feb. 10) in assists per game (18.1 average), highlighted by a season-high 25 assists versus Oakland, 24 versus Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and 23 against Western Illinois, North Carolina and Penn State. In the win over Coppin State, the Illini were credited with 21 assists on 22 made baskets, an amazing 96 percent of shots made. Illinois has tallied 20 or more assists in eight games and has recorded assists on over 67 percent of its baskets (381 assists on 568 field goals) on the season.

Guards Dee Brown and Deron Williams rank second and third, respectively, in the Big Ten in assists with averages of 4.76 and 4.57 per game.

Self closing in on milestone

Bill Self needs just two wins to reach 200 for his career and one to reach 70 at Illinois. Ralph Jones was the quickest Illini coach to 70 wins (92 games), while Self is at 69 wins in 91 games.

High-scoring Illini

Illinois has opened the 2002-03 season by averaging 75.0 points per game, outscoring its opponents by an average of over 13.5 points per. Illinois is shooting 48.1 percent from the field, ranking 14th in the nation in field-goal percentage (NCAA Rankings as of Feb. 10), and has shot 50 percent or better in 10 of 21 games this season.

Illinois leads the Big Ten in field-goal percentage (.481) and scoring margin (plus 13.5) and ranks third in 3-point  field-goal percentage (.366) and second in scoring average (75.0). Four of Illinois' top six scorers are shooting 51 percent or better from the field.

The book on Cook

Senior Brian Cook, a preseason Big Ten Player of the Year selection, is proving the recognition was deserved. He may deserve more -- as in National Player of the Year candidate. Cook leads the Big Ten in scoring at 20.6 points per game (38th nationally as of Feb. 10), while ranking third in rebounding at 7.2 boards per contest. He also ranks sixth in the league in field-goal shooting (.521) and eighth in free-throw percentage (.814). Cook has been Illinois' leading scorer 15 times and leading rebounder 12 times in his 19 games this season.

Cook's 31 points against Wisconsin Jan. 11 were a career high and the most by an Illinois player since Kevin Turner scored 35 versus Indiana on Jan. 3, 1998.

In one of the most inspiring performances in Illini hoops history, Cook scored 26 second-half points (to Michigan's 27) in leading the Illini from an 11-point deficit and knocking off the previously conference-undefeated Wolverines. Cook scored 19 points in the final 9:15 to finish with 30 for the game. Cook had a streak of consecutive made free throws come to an end at 32 on Jan. 4 against Oakland, tying Rob Judson and Andy

Kaufmann for second place in school history for consecutive free throws.

Cook enters the Michigan State game with 1,541 career points, sixth on the UI career scoring list and 112 points shy of Mark Smith for fifth place.

After sitting out the first two games of the season (along with teammate Jerrance Howard) as an NCAA penalty for playing in an unsanctioned summer basketball tournament, Cook returned and immediately established himself in the Illini lineup.

Cook has scored at least 15 points in all but two games this season, reaching 20 points or more 13 times. He's also had at least eight rebounds nine times.

Cook's best scoring game came against Wisconsin with a career-high 31 points. Other top games were his 30 points versus Michigan; 25 points against Minnesota and Temple; 22 against North Carolina, Oakland, Purdue and Ohio State; 21 against Eastern Illinois and Memphis; and 20 versus Coppin State, Iowa and Purdue.

In the win over No. 11 Missouri, Cook scored 17, making all 10 of his free-throw attempts, and pulled down a game-high nine rebounds.

Top 25 streak continues

Illinois began the week ranked No. 13 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll, extending its streak to 52 consecutive polls in which the Illini have been ranked, including every poll during Bill Self's tenure. Illinois is also ranked No. 14 in this week's AP Top 25.

The Illini had a school-record streak of 30 straight polls in the Top 10 snapped in January 2002 but have never dropped out of the Coaches' Top 25 under Self.

Dee-lightful, Dee-pendable --
No Dee-bate, Dee can play

Who is the best freshman point guard in college basketball? It's hard to find a rookie guard who has made more of an impact than Illinois' Dee Brown. Brown has started every game and leads the Illini in minutes played (34.0 average). He has scored in double figures in 11 games and is second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.2 points. Brown exploded for a career-high 25 points against Eastern Illinois on Dec. 10, hitting 10-of-14 shots, including a career-high five 3-pointers.

In two December performances in front of national television audiences, Brown first had a game-high 21 points with seven assists and five rebounds in Illinois' victory over No. 11 Missouri to earn Big Ten Player of the Week honors on Dec. 21. He then followed with 19 points, including five 3-pointers, as well as three assists and three boards with no turnovers, in 37 minutes against Memphis.


[to top of second column in this article]

Brown is third in the Big Ten in assists with 4.76 per game and also leads the league with an assist-turnover ratio of 2.56. He ranks 27th in the Big Ten in scoring at 11.2 points per game. One of the quickest guards in America, Brown's average of 1.43 steals per game leads the team and ranks ninth in the Big Ten.

Through 10 Big Ten games, Brown has totaled 49 assists with only 13 turnovers, leading the conference with an assist-turnover ratio of 3.77 in league play.

Among the top freshmen in the league, he ranks among the top five in assists (first), points (fifth) and steals (third) per game.

In head-to-head matchups with other heralded freshman point guards, Brown held North Carolina's Raymond Felton to nine points (2-6 FG), three assists and eight turnovers. Brown held Michigan’s Daniel Horton to three-of-17 from the field (seven points), with two assists and seven turnovers.

Twice as nice --
Williams joins Brown in all-freshman backcourt

Deron Williams and Dee Brown make up one of the best freshmen backcourts in the nation. The two rank first and second, respectively, in the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio and have the Illini leading the Big Ten in team assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. Brown leads the team in minutes at 34.0 per game, but Williams is third at 26.9 minutes. Williams is averaging 6.4 points, is second to Brown for the team lead in assists with 89, and is tied for second on the team in steals with 24. He ranks second in the Big Ten in assist-turnover ratio at 2.13 and is fourth in assists with an average of 4.57.

That's a 3 -- Sean Harrington

Senior Sean Harrington has been hot from behind the arc this season. He has made 47-of-107 treys, ranking first in the Big Ten in 3-point field-goal percentage at 43.9 percent. Harrington nailed a career-high six 3-pointers in Illinois' win over North Carolina on

Dec. 3 en route to 20 points and tied his mark by making six-of-eight treys on his way to 18 points against Coppin State. He tied it again with six-of-nine treys on his way to a career-high 22 points against Minnesota. Against Oakland, he had 20 points, connecting on five 3-pointers.

In his five games as a starter this season, Harrington averaged 13.8 points per game, including an average of 20.0 points in his first three starts. It was the first time in his career at Illinois that he scored in double figures in three straight games.

Harrington is third on the team with 46 assists and has just 19 turnovers, for an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.42. He is third on the team with 22 steals. In games played at the Assembly Hall, Harrington is 30-60 (.500) from 3-point range.

Harrington ranks fifth on the UI career list with 174 3-point field goals.


Augie hot

Another member of the heralded Illini freshman class to shine has been newcomer James Augustine. He has bolstered the UI frontcourt, averaging 7.5 points, and is second in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage, shooting 60.6 percent from the field. He has scored in double figures seven times, recorded his first career double-double with season highs of 19 points and 12 rebounds versus Penn State, and followed with another as he had 11 points and 10 rebounds against Michigan. In addition, Augustine is second on the team -- behind Brian Cook -- in rebounding, averaging 6.1 boards. He has been Illinois' top rebounder in six games, highlighted by his 12-rebound performance against Penn State. Augustine ranks 11th in the Big Ten in rebounding at 6.1 per game and is 10th in blocked shots at 1.14 per game.

Bench play

The Illinois bench has been productive this season, averaging 20 points and 9.4 rebounds, while limiting the opponents' bench to 16.6 points and 9.5 rebounds. Illinois' bench is outscoring the opponents' bench by 3.4 points per game and nearly matching opponents in rebounding.

Bench numbers (points-rebounds):

Illinois 32-9, Lehigh 9-7

40-18, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 14-8

32-9, Western Illinois 14-6

39-14, North Carolina 7-1

20-9, Arkansas 19-13

12-13, Eastern Illinois 18-12

13-3, Temple 8-8

30-13, Missouri 26-11

17-12, at Memphis 11-15

12-10, Coppin State 6-8

11-10, Oakland 5-7

14-11, at Minnesota 36-17

9-6, Wisconsin 11-8

21-11, at Iowa 22-3

26-13, at Indiana 22-6

6-6, Purdue 18-11

19-8, at Penn State 20-7

8-4, Michigan 13-13

22-7, at Michigan State 30-13

25-3, Ohio State 6-15

12-9, at Purdue 23-11

Total 420-198, opponents 348-200

Cook books more weekly honors

Senior forward Brian Cook earned several Player of the Week awards the week of Jan. 6-12 after a pair of stellar performances, averaging 28 points and 10 rebounds on 56 percent shooting to earn Big Ten,, The Sporting News,, College Basketball News and Dick Vitale Player of the Week honors and lead the Illini to a pair of Big Ten wins.

The senior forward guided the Illini to a road victory at Minnesota to open the Big Ten season, as he equaled his then-career high with 25 points by hitting six-of-13 from the field and 13-of-17 from the free-throw line. Cook added 11 rebounds for his 11th career double-double.

The preseason Big Ten Player of the Year put on an even more impressive show against Wisconsin, setting a new career high with 31 points on 12-of-19 shooting, including a pair of treys, in just 26 minutes on the court. Cook added nine rebounds in the win to nearly record another double-double. The 6-10 forward produced 24 of his 31 points in the second half, including a streak of 15 consecutive UI points, as he scored 22 of the Illini's final 26 points in the game. His 12 field goals are the most by any Big Ten player this season.

He earned his second Big Ten Player of the Week accolade this season -- as he was also honored on Dec. 9 -- and the third of his career.

Brown becomes first Illinois freshman to earn Big Ten Player of the Week honors

Dee Brown became the first freshman in Illinois history to earn Big Ten Player of the Week recognition, when he was honored on Dec. 23 after pouring in a game-high 21 points in the Illini's victory over No. 11 Missouri.

The first-year point guard connected on a trio of 3-pointers, recorded a game-high seven assists and added five rebounds, including four on the offensive glass, in the win.

Brown was the second Illini to earn Big Ten Player of the Week accolades this season, as teammate Brian Cook was honored on Dec. 9 and Jan. 13.

Cook named Co-Big Ten Player of the Week following wins over UNC and Arkansas

Brian Cook was named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week on Dec. 9 after leading the Illini to victories over North Carolina and Arkansas. He shared the award with Indiana's Tom Coverdale.

Cook scored a game-high 22 points in Illinois' 92-65 victory over No. 12 North Carolina. He connected on eight-of-12 shots from the field, grabbed a game-high eight rebounds and tied his career high with five assists. Cook was also the leading scorer in Illinois' 62-58 win over Arkansas, scoring 18 points in 39 minutes of action. Cook made seven-of-14 field goals and added four rebounds and four assists versus the Razorbacks. On the week, Cook averaged 20 points, six rebounds and 4.5 assists per game on combined 58 percent shooting.

Howard says 2003 final season

Guard Jerrance Howard has said that the 2003 season will be his final campaign as a player at Illinois. Howard, who would have one season of eligibility remaining in 2003-04 after redshirting as a freshman in 1999-2000, will graduate in May and plans to possibly enter the coaching field. He will be listed as a senior for the remainder of his Illinois career.

Spears sidelined with knee injury

Freshman center Aaron Spears suffered a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee during practice on Dec. 16 and had arthroscopic surgery on Dec. 27. He is expected to miss four to six weeks of action, with a possible return in mid-February. He averaged 3.2 points and 1.5 rebounds in six games before he was injured.

Cardinal in final year as trainer

Longtime Illini men's basketball trainer Rod Cardinal is in his 30th and final season on the bench. Cardinal began his career in 1973-74 in Harv Schmidt's final season, worked with Gene Bartow in his one season (1974-75), under Lou Henson from 1976 to 1996, Lon Kruger from 1997-2000 and Bill Self from 2001-03. Cardinal has been on the bench for more than 900 games (914; 585-329 as of Feb. 3), and several thousand practices.


Freshmen bask in season opener

For the first time in school history, Illinois opened the season with three freshmen in the starting lineup when James Augustine, Dee Brown and Deron Williams were on the floor for the opening tip versus Lehigh on Nov. 24. Two sophomores, Roger Powell and Nick Smith, rounded out the starting lineup as the youngest in school history. Prior to the opener, the five starters had combined for a total of four starts (all by Nick Smith).

The previous time Illinois started three freshmen in any game was Feb. 20, 1991, when Rennie Clemons, Scott Pierce, and Tom Michael started versus Ohio State.

In the opening two wins of the season, the five Illinois freshmen scored 104 of Illinois' 186 points (56 percent), while grabbing 42 of the Illini's 90 rebounds (47 percent).

Fresh faces --
Five freshmen give Illini new look

Five freshmen have given an entirely new look to the Fighting Illini this season. The Illini recruiting class was a consensus top-10 group and includes McDonald's all-American Dee Brown, a 6-foot guard from Proviso East High School in Maywood; Deron Williams, a 6-3 guard from The Colony, Texas; Kyle Wilson, a 6-8 forward from Plano, Texas; James Augustine, a 6-10 forward from Lincoln-Way Central High School in New Lenox; and Aaron Spears, a 6-9 post player from Chicago Dunbar High School.

Jankovich added to UI staff

Bill Self added veteran coach Tim Jankovich to the Illinois coaching staff Nov. 20, replacing Billy Gillispie, who moved to UTEP as head coach on Nov. 2. Jankovich, a former head coach at North Texas, has worked as associate head coach the last three seasons at Vanderbilt. He served on the same Oklahoma State staff with Self in the early 1990s.

National exposure

For the 2002-03 season, Illinois is scheduled to appear at least 13 times on national television, with five games on ESPN, four games on ESPN2 and four games on CBS. CBS has until March 3 to announce a choice for the March 8 or 9 games to be televised, including the Minnesota at Illinois contest.

Self leads Big Ten all-star squad

Illinois coach Bill Self led a Big Ten All-Star squad on a tour through Germany, Belgium and Holland during the summer of 2002. Big Ten players on the trip included Roger Powell and Sean Harrington of Illinois, Tom Coverdale of Indiana, Jared Reiner of Iowa, Bernard Robinson of Michigan, Chris Hill of Michigan State, Ben Johnson of Minnesota, Winston Blake of Northwestern, Velimir Radinovic of Ohio State, Jason McDougald of Penn State, Ivan Kartelo of Purdue and Dave Mader of Wisconsin.

[Provided by Kent Brown,
assistant athletics director and
sports information director,
University of Illinois]

Concrete pour launches Redbird Arena project

[FEB. 18, 2003]  NORMAL -- Against a background of dirt, dust and laborers pouring concrete in the lower east side of Redbird Arena recently, Illinois State University Director of Athletics Perk Weisenburger declared that the time had come to put the finishing touches on the 14-year-old facility.

The concrete pour is just the start of a project which will produce a 9,500-square-foot strength and conditioning facility to serve all 19 sports and more than 350 Illinois State student-athletes, as well as a first-class room for members of The Redbird Club and a Hall of Fame to honor Illinois State's more than 100 years of intercollegiate athletics.

Weisenburger, joined at the makeshift podium by Redbird football student-athlete Boomer Grigsby and volleyball setter Kelly Rikli, set the strength and conditioning center as the project's top priority and indicated that about one-third of the approximately $1.5 million needed to finish that phase had already been raised.

"All of our 19 sports and all of our student-athletes study and train," said Weisenburger. "We have, in the Karin Bone Study Center, one of the best academic centers for student-athletes in the Midwest. But our current strength and conditioning facility doesn't measure up. It's not what Illinois State is all about."

Weisenburger emphasized that champions are built, literally, in strength and conditioning centers and the new one would be more than four times the size of the current facilities, where head strength coach Robert Lindsey and assistant Brendan Beckett have had to use creative scheduling to provide opportunities for all athletes.

"You have to be bigger, stronger and faster these days to be competitive," said Weisenburger. "Also, I've seen situations where a championship attitude started in the strength training area."


[to top of second column in this article]

Grigsby, an all-American linebacker, saluted Lindsey and Beckett's efforts and appreciates how the new facility will give them even greater opportunities.

"Coach Lindsey and coach Beckett do an incredible job with the facility we have now," said Grigsby. "A new facility will give all athletes will have a chance to improve."

Rikli acknowledged that more space and more equipment would help. "Just the ability for more of us to access the facility at one time would be a great help," she said. "This is so exciting."

Weisenburger recognized the background work on the project by three of his aides: associate athletics director Larry Lyons, who manages finance for the department, and assistant athletics directors Todd Reeser (development) and Doug Dowdy (internal operations).

"There are a lot of people on our staff and in the community involved in this effort," said Weisenburger. "This is an exciting and significant day ... as we go forward to complete this project, which will enable us to continue to have our program move forward as the 'home of champions' with the best strength and conditioning facility in the Missouri Valley and Gateway conferences."

[Thomas Lamonica, Illinois State University]

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Alexander ties record

By Jeff Mayfield

[FEB. 17, 2003]  When I  moved to Lincoln back in the '70s, the Lincoln Railer basketball team was enjoying quite a lot of success under then-coach Loren Wallace. When he left I thought to myself, "Self, I probably won't live long enough to see that record ever broken." Especially when you consider two things. One, you actually have to STAY at the same school for a number of years. And then the real kicker, you actually have to be CONSISTENTLY good. That's all current Railer coach Neil Alexander has been. Consistently darn good! With Friday night's 61-51 victory over Sacred Heart-Griffin, Alexander tied legendary former coach Wallace with his 271st career win.

If you're scoring at home, that is an average of about 20.8 victories per season! Some coaches work their whole careers hoping for one or two of those seasons, while coach "Al" AVERAGES that many victories!

I could write volumes in regard to my admiration for what he has done, but if you're a loyal reader of this column, then you already know where my allegiance lies. So, I'll condense it to this: This record is a totally, incredibly amazing feat! We tip the LDN hat to coach "Al," and I can only utter this word that doesn't do this record justice: CONGRATULATIONS, coach!!!

Panic sets in?

IF you're among the legion of Illini fans who want to dive head-first off the bandwagon, let me throw this little morsel your way. Especially IF you REALLY thought that the Illini were going to win at Mackey Arena anyway. Last year the Big Ten quad-champions went a combined 29-3 at home! And one of the losers was our dearly beloved Illini, who fell to Michigan State in one of the UGLIEST games that this semiprofessional writer has ever witnessed. I'd love to live long enough to NEVER have to experience something like that again, but surely I will.

I just wanted you to know that the home-court games are a must, as evidenced by the current top five teams, who are a combined 27-1 as we post; and the team that has the more favorable schedule and can somehow steal three or four road wins will win the conference. From the start we didn't think that would be Illinois, and we said so.

However, there is STILL a lot to play for. A bigger concern is that we're just not playing all that well consistently. I hope we didn't peak against North Carolina! We still want a good spot for the league tourney, and we want the best seed we can get for the Big Dance.

Tomorrow night versus Michigan State should be fun… Don't we owe them a little sumpin'-sumpin'???


[to top of second column in this article]

Let's give it up for…

...the Hartsburg-Emden eighth-grade boys basketball hoopsters! They are 22-1 and will take on an 18-3 Mulberry Grove team tonight at 6:30 in Wenona. Good luck, fellas!

Mount Pulaski, Warrensburg-Latham and Hartsburg all won their games!

Lincoln College may never lose again!

Thirteen in a row is the boisterous chant coming from the campus of Lincoln College! The Lynx (18-6, 11-0) dumped an always tough Danville squad 58-53 and surely should improve on their No. 10 national ranking! Their Saturday game at Flo Valley was postponed like hundreds of others in the Midwest -- no doubt a big break for Flo Valley!

Tiger Woods

Any questions?

Didn't think so!

Michael Waltrip wins Daytona 500

Those of you who know NASCAR better call in on "FANdamonium" tonight at 6 to explain to us what happened. You can catch us on the LDN, on CITV channel 5, or on FIX 96.3! We also hope to feature members of the Lincoln High School swimming team on the show tonight!

Sports memorabilia collectors take note…

We will be giving away a Dick Butkus bobblehead ceramic figure at the end of the month. Just e-mail me at or call "FANdamonium" to register.

Lady Railers in the postseason…

The No. 9 seeded Lincoln Lady Railers will host the No. 5 Washington club tonight in Lincoln. No. 4 Metamora will also battle No. 13 Decatur-Eisenhower. Good luck, Lady Railers!

Have a REALLY good week, everybody!

[Jeff Mayfield]


Softball pitching clinic in Bloomington

[JAN. 31, 2003]  The Bloomington Hearts' annual softball pitching clinic will be Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Shirk Center at Illinois Wesleyan University. Former Illinois State all-American and current Hearts pitcher Nicole Kurth will lead the clinic. Other instructors will include pitchers from the Hearts, IWU and Illinois State University who are very experienced in both playing the game and teaching.

There will be two sessions, so attendees can sign up for 9:30 a.m. until noon or for 1:30 to 4 p.m. The cost is $30 per session, and that includes a heavy-duty T-shirt. For groups of three or more, the cost is $25 per student. The sessions will be limited in number to allow maximum individual instruction.

To register by telephone or for information, call (309) 828-2686 or (309) 662-5861.

[News release]

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