Bruce Weber huddled the team at Ubben and dangled a carrot: a couple of days at home if they could get two wins this week. And then, a trip to Manhattan.
Kent State nearly beat Illinois last year at the South Padre Tournament. The leading scorer in that overtime contest was Kent’s senior point guard Al Fisher.
Nothing to worry about.
The well-traveled Flashes list only six players arrived directly from high school. Nine of the players who began this year with the Flashes came via perp prep school or junior college. Two of them, Cameron Joyce and Greg Avila have since moved on.
Kent State’s associate head coach is fired Indiana telecommunications wizard Rob Senderoff. His reputation for recruiting troubled players from troubled New York communities suffered no ill effects.
Nine Flashes average at least 13 minutes per game, and no one plays as much as 30. Six players average at least nine points, and no one gets more than 15.
The Illini players remember Tyree Evans and Chris Singletary, who returned this year to lead the Golden Flashes to a MAC championship.
But they didn’t see Justin Greene, because he didn’t play at South Padre. Greene exploded in his sophomore season, leading the Flashes in points, rebounds and blocked shots. At 6’8″ and 230 lbs Greene is exactly the type of player who presents match-up problems for Illinois.
Fortunately, the Illini plan to win Monday’s game. And the one after that. The talk at Ubben is all about New York. And strangely, it’s the coach who’s doing the looking ahead.
“Looking ahead” is a cardinal sin in college basketball. Discounting one’s next opponent is “bulletin board material.”
But I can’t criticize this attitude. As an advocate of experimentation, of not sticking with old paradigms, I feel I should embrace this new mindset. A fourteen loss team can afford to change gears, try new things, stir the pot.
MEET THE PRESS, INFECT THE PRESS
I got a microphone in front of a few players to capture their thoughts about still being alive when 3/4 of the NCAA field is at home, crying.
The microphone also captured, and spread around, whatever airborne pathogens each player expirated.
Tyler Griffey and Dominique Keller seemed in the grip of The Grippe. Tyler’s getting better. Keller seems near death. But he’s not going down alone. He tried to kill off the media assemblage with a deadly fart left in the Ubben hallway.
I’ll present these sound bites in the order they were captured — with the caveat that Davis/Cole/Richardson were speaking to a group of reporters, which inspires generalities.
Dietrich James Richardson:
The whole DIA expects a win. They’ve announced you can pick up your tickets for Wednesday as you leave the Assembly Hall on Monday, after the Illini beat the Flashes.