The mystery man is revealed.
Since Sam McLaurin first tweeted his intention to play basketball for the Illinois Fighting Illini, fans have been wondering “who the heck is that?” and “what the heck will he bring to the table?”
When fans learned that McLaurin is a 5th year transfer from Coastal Carolina, the general sentiment was simply “WTH?!?!?”
Quick, name the athletic conference in which Coastal Carolina balls.
Can’t think of it? Never knew it?
It’s the Big South, where Sam’s Chanticleers finished a distant second at 12–6. (Champion N.C. Asheville finished 16–2.) That put them a game ahead of two other schools with which Illini fans recently became acquainted, Charleston Southern (our much appreciated patsy) and Campbell, which beat Iowa’s Hawkeyes last November (**sniggers**).
Since his notorious tweet, we haven’t seen Sam McLaurin. We haven’t heard from him.
Heck it, we didn’t know anything about him.
But Sam McLaurin was all over the place during Illini Media Day. Most importantly, he was on the mind of new head coach John Groce. Groce gave mad props to McLaurin for his work ethic and development as a player.
Without being asked, Groce deftly silenced any speculation about McLaurin’s preparedness for Big Ten basketball. In essence, the Sam McLaurin of 2012 is not the Sam McLaurin that major college coaches passed on in 2008.
Two of the keenest observers of Illini basketball are the preferred walk-ons, Kevin Berardini & Mike LaTulip. When I asked them about Sam, I got an interesting response.
Sam himself is an accomplished spokesperson.
He answered expected questions, unexpected questions, and seemingly irrelevant questions. All with charm and flare.
Let’s not assume he’ll be punished for his forthrightness. Let’s believe a change in leadership at the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics means free spirits will be encouraged to Speak Truth about Power!
I’m just kidding.
If the players get mostly As and Bs, you’ll hear about it. If they join a protest at Hash Wednesday, you won’t won’t hear about it. Illinois sports information will always consist largely of micromanaged messages from professional message makers, all reflecting extremely positive and non-offensive messages about running and jumping, with balls.
But for now, let’s pretend.
Let’s celebrate a guy who said “to heck with that” more or less. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Sam McLaurin.