Archives for February 2009

Big Ten Power Rankings

By David K. and Paul M. Banks

1. Purdue -Looking kind of like the Glenn Robinson/Cuonzo Martin years
-A healthy Robbie Hummel makes the difference in a convincing win against State

2. Michigan St. -Not deserving of a top ten national ranking, but dominating team on the glass
-Raymar Morgan is back, but still not 100%

3. Minnesota -It’s sad that I’m putting them this high
-cause somebody has to be here

4. Illinois -nation’s third ranked scoring defense will have to carry the load with schizophrenic offense

5. Wisconsin -They have “Bomentum” now

6. tie Penn State -shouldn’t put on dancing shoes just yet, but can slip on the dancing socks at least for now, – They continue to make their case of being Tourney worthy

Ohio St. -Who is Jon Diebler…the white Glen Rice?
-Evan Turner is the most talented player in the conference. Sorry Manny Harris.

8. Tie Northwestern – Back to reality after flirting with being a bubble team.
-Imagine what they could do if they add any decent big men, semblance of rebounding?

Michigan -Will need to run table in Indy to end decade long tourney drought
-5-1 odds they win the NIT

10. Iowa – Think Jess Settles can get an 8th year of college eligibility?
-Can they have a game with the score in the 60s, for once..please!

11. Indiana -basketball version of the Texas St. Armadillos in 1992 film “necessary roughness”
Lost 14 of their last 15… Hey Tom, Marquette is a half-game out of first in the Big East. PUT THE MATCHES AND GASOLINE DOWN, TOM!!!!

TSB…Where Random Happens

By David Palmer

Much has happened over the last month, the Steelers won the Super Bowl, A-Rod is a steroid junkie, Brett Favre retired again and Marquette basketball is setting up David K. for the inevitable, heart-breaking early first round exit come March. Let’s try to focus on some things you may have missed while practicing your pumpkin seed spitting for spring training.

-During this whole A-Rod crap-fest, there is one man who comes out smelling like roses- Roger Cossack. He is ESPN’s resident legal analyst. He gets a call anytime something controversial with legal ramifications comes up, and he is getting some serious face-time right now. I wish I had a lawyer on speed dial that I could call and ask hypothetical legal questions such as: Does Deron Williams need a restraining order against Paul M. Banks? Or if poppy seeds make you test positive for opiates, why didn’t Darryl Strawberry just eat poppy seed bagels all the time and blame any positive test results on that?

-Lingo is one TV show that has sucked me in for the last few weeks, I can’t get enough of it. It is on the Game Show Network pretty much whenever Millionaire isn’t. The best part is openly rooting for each team to fail miserably. It is high comedy watching these idiots try to figure out five letter words. The entertainment value is also directly proportionate to the bra size of the assistant that host Chuck Woolery is clearly sleeping with. Woolery also mails in almost every episode. It looks like he was on a three-day coke bender and now taping the tenth show of the day, all the time. A lot to like about this simple yet fascinating show.

-While out of town visiting my old college stomping grounds of Eau Claire, Wisconsin I ran across someone that needs to be seen by everybody. I call him the Bluetooth Cowboy. He is a guy in his seventies (estimate) with the whole cowboy get up: boots, hat, tight black pants, and black shirt. He looked like a legitimate cowboy until you saw his Bluetooth earpiece. Has there ever been a bigger clash of style and technology usage? It would be like seeing a hippie carrying around a chainsaw. It just shouldn’t happen. Sorry about the blurriness of the picture, I was trying to be stealthy about taking it.

-I saw Gran Torino about two weeks ago; it is a fantastic film that I highly recommend. Really, call your girlfriend right now tell her you are taking her out to see a movie tonight. Don’t be afraid to laugh at the dog-eating jokes, they are supposed to be funny.

-I have a new favorite name in college basketball, Dallas Lauderdale of Ohio State. I’m not sure if that is his given name or his porn name. Just picture this: Dallas Lauderdale IS Dallas Lauderdale IN “Texas Heat 8.” I can see the trailer now. One of my life rules is- never play cards with anybody named after a city. What about two cities? I’m pretty sure he would find a way to take all my money and my clothes before the cards were even dealt.

-Real World Brooklyn update: Chet (the gay Mormon) and Ryan (Iraq war vet who doesn’t think he has PTSD) are the only remaining watchable characters. I know Chet’s affinity towards purple and pink has been covered ad-nauseum, but seriously purple boots! And how about Chet’s family when they came to visit? It was him and like 37 hot blonde girls between the ages of 16 and 25. Why does God Joseph Smith waste talent like that on Mormons?

-While watching Rudy the other night, I realized that Notre Dame’s coach Devine is played by Chelcie Ross, the same guy who played the geriatric pitcher Eddie Harris in Major League. Kind of weird that he plays a total a-hole in both movies. (Editor’s Note: don’t forget the Bruce Willis/Damon Wayans football flick “The Last Boy Scout” where he played Senator Baynard, another total jackass) I kept waiting for him to take a shot of rum and say, “up your butt Joboo.” I forgot how good the football scenes are in this movie, they are amazingly realistic. This also is one of the very few movies that gets me a little misty at the end when everybody is chanting, “Rudy, Rudy,” and he finally gets on the field.

-Lastly, how did goldfish ever survive evolution? Has there ever been a weaker more fragile species make it this far? They are like a swimming pork chop for other fish. How would they live in a polluted river or lake with other fish trying to eat them, when they can’t last three days in a clean fish bowl?
These are the things I am left to ponder while waiting for the cable guy to come.

Illini Lose Ludicrously Ugly Game

By Paul M. Banks

When you saw the box score of #16 Illinois’ (21-6, 9-5) 38-33 home loss to unranked Penn St. (19-8, 8-6) on Wednesday night, you might have thought you were glancing at a Girls’ high school basketball result. In football, the two schools combined to score 62 points last fall, in roundball just nine more.

If you ever wondered why the Big Ten, the 2nd highest rated conference in RPI, doesn’t nationally receive the respect it might deserve, it’s because of ugly games like these.

Wednesday night’s affair made the Dick Bennett “stall-ball” era at Wisconsin look like Magic Johnson’s “Showtime” years at the Great Western Forum. This contest was about defense, but it was much more about ludicrously bad offense. The Illini motion attack stood still, and the Nittany Lions (notice how their team name starts with N-I-T) got an offensive boost from the officials.

The home crowd at the “House of Paign” were boisterously critical of the refs, and perhaps rightfully so, given the disparity in free throws: Penn State attempted 11, Illinois zero. “Very flat, not moving, didn’t get good cutting,” Illini coach Bruce Weber said of his team’s non-existent “O.”

Illinois Senior guards Trent Meacham and Dr. Chester Frazier “led” (I can’t make air-quotes strong enough to invoke the necessary sarcasm) the Illini with 7 points apiece. The other three starters contributed 6, 5, and 4 points. But at least the scoring was balanced. “They played good defense all night, we missed some shots we usually make, it was a combination of both,” Meacham said. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn was in attendance for this game: which was to offensive fundamentals what his predecessor Rod Blagojevich was to ethical governance. In the nearly 50 year history of Assembly Hall, this game broke records for: lowest winning score, fewest combined points, worst combined field-goal accuracy, and fewest point scored by Illinois.

Penn State Coach Ed DeChellis was asked if he had seen anything like this in all his years of college basketball. “It was uncharted water, sometimes I looked up at the score and I didn’t know what half we were in. At the end, we set this back a few years, Naismith must be rolling over in his grave,” the winning headman replied.

The Stock Report

By David K.

A weekly update of whose NBA Draft stock is rising and falling


Jerel McNeal, G, Marquette, Sr, 6-3

If McNeal was 6-5, he would be a lottery pick.  But because he is undersized to play the two in the NBA and not a true point guard, he is viewed as many as a second round prospect.  McNeal has expanded his offensive repertoire.  He is deadly off the dribble, creates his own shot, has bumped his three-point percentage from 30% last season to almost 45% this year, and is averaging 23.5 ppg in conference play.  Plus, he is a past Big East Defensive Player of the Year award winner so you know he will bring it on the defensive end.  If he is not a first round selection, someone is going to get a steal of a second round pick.

Da’Sean Butler, SF, West Virginia, Jr, 6-7

A 43-point performance against Villanova last week was definitely an attention-getter.  He is a versatile swingman who can play in the post and is shooting 40% from downtown.  Butler likely will not turn pro after this season, but should be a potential mid-first round pick in 2010.

Chase Budinger, G/F, Arizona, Jr, 6-7

My biggest knock on Budinger has been his tendency to disappear during stretches of games.  During Zona’s current seven-game win streak, Chase has shown a good balance of asserting himself as well as getting teammates involved.  He has a pure shot from the outside, can handle the ball, and is one of the best finishers in college hoops.  He is shooting almost 60% from the floor in his last four games and reminded scouts why he deserves to be a late lottery pick.

Jermaine Taylor, SG, UCF, Sr, 6

Taylor is one of the best scorers that you have probably never heard of.  He is fifth in the nation in scoring, scored 35 and 38 points in his last two games, and could very easily sneak into the first round.  He does not have the ideal size for an NBA two-guard, but is a potential sleeper prospect come draft day.


Jrue Holliday, G, UCLA, Fr, 6-3
Holliday is no where near ready to turn pro.  He has scored just 14 points on 6 of 19 shooting in his last three games including a goose-egg in the Bruins’ loss at Arizona State.  He has the skill-set to be a good pro down the road, but would be pretty foolish to leave school after his freshman campaign.
Chris Johnson, PF, LSU, Sr, 6-11

Johnson has the size and athleticism that is desirable in a big.  Problem is he’s so rail thin that he gets abused down low by physical post players.  This was made evident when Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado owned him last week.  Johnson fouled out in 16 minutes and was held without a point, though he did block four shots.  He is worth the risk of a second round pick, but will need to bulk up if he hopes to stick on any NBA roster.

Spring Training Sox Exchange

By Paul M. Banks and Soxman

(PMB) Last weekend included St. Valentine’s Day, a time of year that more women than men look forward to quite frankly. But once it’s over, Major League Baseball pitchers and catchers begin reporting to spring training, which is to most guys what chocolate, jewelry and flowers are to women.  Speaking of love, I consulted Soxman, the person who loves the White Sox more than any other individual on this Earth about what occurred in the offices on 35th and Shields this winter. You might recognize Soxman from, well pretty much anywhere local media may roam. We began this exchange by discussing the biggest move of the offseason, the Javier Vazquez trade:

(SM) After his miserable play-off performance, almost every Sox fan would agree that Javy wore out his welcome on the Southside, The trade was crucial in rebuilding our anemic farm system as it yielded two of the top 20 prospects overall in the Braves system.

2B/SS Brent Lillibridge is the player to watch in 2009.  He’s expected to battle Chris Getz and Jason Nix for the starting job at second base.  Kenny Williams believes he’s capable of stealing 40 bases if he gets 500 Abs.

Tyler Flowers could develop into the Sox next big slugger and 3B prospect Jon Gilmore has drawn comparisons to Scott Rolen.

(PMB) The Southside Dark Knight also opined on the signings of the so-called “Cuban Babe Ruth” Dayan Viciciedo and Bartolo Colon.

(SM) Sox fans should not expect Viciedo to immediately perform like Alexei as he’s only 19. There’s a ton to be excited about however.  He slugged over .500 in two of the past three seasons in Cuba and was an All-Star in Cuba’s top league at age 16.   Colon is exactly the type of pitcher I expected Williams to sign.  The once awesome, now aging pitcher plagued by injuries trying to revive his career…at an ultra cheap price.  In limited action with the Red Sox last season, he looked very good.

(PMB) In the case of Bobby Abreu and Jermaine Dye, we spent weeks listening about trade deals and prospective signings only to see no moves made. It kind of felt being stood up on a date. So what does the love interest of female Sox fans everywhere think of the non-deals- the trades that didn’t happen.

(SM) I was surprised the Sox did not go after Orlando Hudson as he still has not signed with a team, Soxman saidI think that the deals Kenny was interested in just didn’t materialize. With the economy it is pretty much a buyers market right now. I think Kenny will see how the 2-3 position battles pan out and if any bargains fall his way, he’ll pounce.

(PMB) Last week Baseball Prospectus predicted the Chicago White Sox to win just 74 games and finish dead last in the AL Central. Although the formulae and prognostications of these sabermetrician geeks sounds bleak, we must remember that almost no one predicted the Sox to win the AL Central last season. In the World Series year of 2005, most people predicted the pale hose to finish third! Also, lots of people forecasted the Sox to win the division in ’06 and ’07, yet they controlled the division for just 36 combined days in those two seasons. In summation, it’s all wide open

One guy with White Sox knowledge second place to no one is Soxman who sprang into action with his take on the Sox spring prospectus.

(SM) There are a ton of question marks going into 2009 that should make for an exciting spring. I can’t remember a time where there were so many position battles.

CF will be fun to watch, where Jerry Owens is expected to battle Brian Anderson.  The early favorite to win the job is Owens as we also expect him to assume lead-off duties.  However, Getz and Lillibridge could also factor in as Ozzie claims that speed alone does not entitle Owens to bat atop the lineup.

3B is Josh Fields to lose, but if he does, Wilson Betemit could slip right in.  The Cuban Babe Ruth, Dayan Viciedo may need some minor league seasoning before being considered a serious threat to assume full-time 3B duties.

There is also a back-up catcher position open and 1-2 spots in the bullpen.

If that’s not enough, it will be interesting to see how Alexei Ramirez handles fulltime SS duties, how healthy Bartolo Colon is, and how well Scott Linebrink’s shoulder has healed.

Soxman sees the White Sox lineup shaking up this way:

The everyday line-up will truly reveal itself during the final days of spring training, I’m really hoping that Ozzie does not decide to hit Thome, Konerko, and AJ back-to-back.”

This is the projected line-up as of today:

Owens- CF
Ramirez- SS
Quentin- LF
Thome- DH
Dye- RF
Konerko- 1B
Fields- 3B
Getz/Lillibridge- 2B

(PMB) With the Cuban Missile Alexi Ramirez moving over to shortstop, second base will be see a wide-open and heated competition for playing time.

(SM) It’ll be a wide-open between battle Chris Getz, Jayson Nix, and Brent Lillibridge.  All three players combined have 61 games of MLB experience and just 143 Abs.  While none of the candidates are proven, this is one of two open positions where the Sox should get a speed boost.  While Getz has the early edge, this is truly anyone’s job to win.

(PMB) Another issue on all the minds of Sox Nation is the battle for the fifth starter. Although Jose Contreras is now supposed to be way ahead of schedule, the Sox will still need major innings from one of the prospects such as Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard or the man with the most alternative lifestyle sounding name in White Sox history, Lance Broadway.

(SM) After his heroic performance in September, Clayton Richard is the early favorite to win the 5th spot but will likely be challenged by Aaron Poreda and Jeff Marquez.  Broadway will likely battle the losers of the rotation competition for the long relief spot in the bullpen.  Poreda likely has the most long-term upside, but is likely to start the season in AAA.

Editor’s note: a version of this story ran on NBC 5’s webpage, that you can read here and here.

Twins Pitchers, Catchers and Grounds Crew Reporting

By David Palmer

With pitchers and catcher officially reporting to spring training in the next couple of days, the Twins go to war with basically the same roster they had to finish last year.  The biggest acquisition we made was hiring a groundskeeper for Target Field.

Before Twins General Manager Bill Smith came around, Terry Ryan was widely known as one of the league’s best and smartest.  I have raked on the Twins front office quite a bit this off-season, but for good reason.  Trades and free agents continue to slip through our fingers for no particular reason.  We are like the Troy Williamson of professional franchises.  As Peter Christian has mentioned before, Bill Smith might possibly be the worst negotiator of all time.  I would love to hear the phone conversation between Bill Smith and Scott Boras in negotiations for Joe Crede.  It probably goes something like this:

Smith: Hey Satan, it’s Bill Smith.

Boras: Umm, Who?

Smith: You know, GM for the Minnesota Twins.  Any chance of coming down on the Crede price?

Boras: Minnesota has a baseball team?

Smith: How is his back doing?

Boras: He’ll be fine, and we’re only asking for $7 million for 1 year.

Smith: Whoa, Whoa, Whoa there Scotty, who do you think we are, the Yankees?

Boras: Sorry Bill, that’s the best we can do.  I’ve got to go, there are some orphanages that I have to burn down.

Smith: Okie dokie, before you go, do you have any free agent pitchers over the age of 40 that we could sign?

Boras: No, but I hear Scott Erickson wants to come out of retirement.

Smith: NICE! Do you have his number?

It might be the biggest negotiating mismatch since the US purchased Alaska from Russia for 2 cents an acre in 1867. 

You will be hearing a lot about the Twins bullpen over the next six weeks, and rightfully so- they sucked ass last year.  If Guerrier can’t regain his 2007 form and Mijares doesn’t pan out, we are in serious trouble.  No fear though, Luis Ayala brings his 5.71 ERA from the Mets to our ‘pen.  That should straighten things out.  Hopefully he can bring some of that great Met karma with him too.

On a lighter note, as I mentioned before, we just picked up our second groundskeeper in franchise history; the great Larry DiVito was hired to head the crew at Target Field in 2010.  For those who haven’t followed Larry’s career in depth, he was head groundskeeper for the Nationals the past three seasons.  He cut his teeth as a groundskeeper in Rhode Island for the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox.

This is where he first learned his craft under the tutelage of the legendary Dino Caparelli. Things didn’t come easy at first for Larry.  He struggled with the fortune and fame of groundskeeper apprentice.  Fast women, a faster buzz (from mixing Vicodin and laundry detergent), and high-stakes games of cribbage consumed his nights.  But, it all caught up to him on August 2nd 1999.  During a day game between Pawtucket and Scranton, DiVito ran naked onto the field with some sort of spray screaming, “the dung beetles are everywhere, we’ve got to get rid of the dung beetles!”   He was checked into rehab the next day.

This is where he became a born-again Christian and vowed to never touch laundry detergent again.   Ok, I obviously made that whole behind-the-music type of story up, but if Larry can keep the infield grass a little longer, Gomez might have 150 bunt hits in 2010.  Brett Butler, who had 41 bunt hits in 1992, holds the MLB record.  That is well within reach for Gomez.  He led the majors with 30 last year, on turf I might add.  The left side of the infield at Target Field should be a marshland.

This is one of the best times of year because this is when hope springs eternal for all major league squads; everyone thinks they have a chance, even the Brewers.  The weather is thawing a little bit, and baseball can seriously be discussed for the next 8 months.   I couldn’t be happier, World Series here we come.

Carlos Boozer Exclusive

Paul M. Banks has an exclusive with the NBA All-Star and Olympic Gold Medalist Carlos Boozer.

Booze is a two time NBA All-Star and member of last year’s All-NBA Third team. Boozer also won a Bronze medal in Athens during the 2004 Olympic games. Since his 2002-03 NBA All-Rookie team season, Boozer has finished the season among the league’s top ten performers in field goal percentage five times and top ten rebounders twice.

He is known for his strength, rebounding and offensive skill set., lists Boozer among the “game’s best post players” and among the best at scoring (or “finishing”) under the basket with either hand Boozer credits his father for helping him develop his ambidextrous ability.

In the 2006-07 NBA season, Boozer appeared in the NBA Fundamentals series hosted by TNT, in which NBA players explain certain aspects of basketball. He explained the topic “post play”. In this clip, Boozer highlighted the technique of how to establish position in the low post, and how to most effectively score from that position. Boozer showcased his array of ambidextrous slam dunks and hook shots, and reminded viewers to insert an occasional jump shot to confuse the opponent. He also expressed his admiration of retired NBA greats Karl Malone and Charles Barkley, who he sees as masters of low post scoring.

I recently sat down with him in Milwaukee and opened the interview by asking him to describe his Gold Medal winning experience in Beijing. “I’ll tell you the same thing everyone is going to tell you, it was amazing, we had a goal set in mind and I think for all of us, the players, coaches, staff all included it was probably the biggest thing we’ve been a part of in sports,” Boozer responded.

I asked Booze if he would do it again in 2012…“Absolutely, it’s an honor anytime you get to wear USA across your chest,”…and later to describe what it’s like taking the court in the NBA against someone who was previously your teammate in representing America.

“We’re like brothers, all of us have a special bond; we’re all very close. We stay in touch and talk all the time now, just because of the experience we went through, and the team that brought back pride to USA basketball,” Boozer responded.

What are your thoughts on Chicago as a sports town and Olympic host?

“Huge sports town, great fans very committed, great venue, great to have it here in the states, we haven’t had it since Atlanta. And I think it would be well received, we’d have a great turnout here I think, other countries love to come play here”

It helps that the international icon of basketball, Michael Jordan made his name for himself there….

“Absolutely, and I had a chance to see the plan, they have a great plan for it too”

College Hoops 101

By David K.

Welcome to a weekly article at where I will give you the 101 on what has happened in the week of college basketball and what is to come in the days ahead.


-ESPN’s College Gameday was in my backyard, Madison, on Saturday.  I got to cover the Badgers/Ohio State game for work and made sure that I was at the Kohl Center in plenty of time to watch the whole crew do their thing.  It really is amazing how ESPN being there brought a huge buzz to the game.  I sadly though did not get to ask Jay Bilas if he would be my valentine.  (Yes, I know Erin Andrews was there too.  But asking her to be my valentine would be so cliché.)

-My apologies to Hasheem Thabeet.  When I picked my All-American teams two weeks ago, I left the UConn big man off my first two teams.  Thabeet is an absolute monster in the middle for the Huskies.  He is putting up the stats to back it up lately, including a 25 point, 20 rebound, 9 block performance against Seton Hall on Saturday.  On top of that, the 7’3” junior alters so many shots and practically changes the way an opposing team attacks the hoop.  Thabeet deserves to be in any conversation about All-America teams.

On his recent visit to Madison, founder Paul M. Banks asked me about my five favorite teams to watch.  So here they are:
1. Marquette- For obvious reasons

2. Arizona- Frequent commenter Jason Moe got me hooked on ‘Zona since that is his team.  The Cats have won seven in a row and look poised to make some noise in March.

3. Syracuse- I love their up-tempo style and ability to put a lot of points on the board.

4. Wisconsin- Since I cover them on a daily basis, I should probably like watching them.  Plus, I respect what Bo Ryan does with a basketball program, even if their style is fairly boring.

5. Arizona State- All because of James Harden

-Speaking of Paul, he received an “Onions” text from me Thursday night when Demetri McCamey hit the game-winning shot as Illinois came back from a 14-point deficit with five minutes to play to win at Northwestern.

My AP Top Ten (if I actually voted in the poll)

1. UConn (24-1)
2. Oklahoma (25-1)
3. North Carolina (23-2)
4. Pitt (23-2)
5. Memphis (22-3)
6. Michigan St. (20-4)
7. Wake Forest (19-4)
8. Louisville (19-5)
9. Clemson (20-4)
10. Duke (20-5)

Nipping on their heels:

Marquette (21-4)
Villanova (20-5)
Arizona State (19-5)

Fast Forward

Pitt at UConn (Monday, 6:00 ESPN)

I mean, wow.  The Thabeet/DeJuan Blair match-up down low is going to be a battle.

Michigan St. at Purdue (Tuesday, 6:00 ESPN)

A Spartans win might just be the Big Ten title clincher.

Notre Dame at West Virginia (Wednesday, 6:00)

This game has crazy bubble implications.

Butler at Davidson (Saturday, 11:00 ESPN)

This is biggest of the “Bracket Buster” games.  Hopefully Stephen Curry’s injured ankle will be ready to go.

Wake Forest at Duke (Sunday, 6:45 FSN)

Wake won the first match-up on a last second basket.

The Drive to 225

To update my goal of watching 225 college basketball games this season…

Games watched through 2/15:  187

Games watched this past week: 17
West Virginia at Pitt
Marquette at Villanova
Florida at Kentucky
Iowa at Wisconsin
Syracuse at UConn
Xavier at Dayton
North Carolina at Duke
Louisville at Notre Dame
Gonzaga at St. Mary’s
UCLA at Arizona State
USC at Arizona
Villanova at West Virginia
Georgetown at Syracuse
UCLA at Arizona
Ohio State at Wisconsin
St. John’s at Marquette
North Carolina at Miami (FL)
USC at Arizona State

Deron Williams Exclusive Part II Chi/2016

Paul M. Banks’ exclusive with D. Will

D. Will, who’s currently second in the NBA in assists per game, was once again snubbed for the NBA All-Star game. Since being disrespected, he’s played with a bigger chip on his shoulder- scoring at least 31 points in each of the last five. He was All-NBA second team in 2008, and looks like he’ll be there again this year.

In the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, point guard Deron Williams hit big shots and played major minutes. And at age 24, his best professional and Olympic basketball is still ahead of him. In part one of this interview, I discussed Williams’ relationship, past and present, with the University of Illinois. In the second part, we discuss his Olympic experience and the prospects for Chicago 2016.

I spoke with D. Will after a game on the Milwaukee Bucks home court, where 3 Redeem Teamers were on display, if he wanted to play for the United States again in 2012. “If they ask me, barring injuries or anything like that, I’d love to play. It was a great experience, a chance to represent my country, my organization, my family and win a Gold medal, something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life,” he responded.

As anyone who’s attended a Bulls-Jazz game at the United Center will tell you, Deron gets a fantastic reception anytime he visits Chicago. He answered my question about Chicago sports fans thusly:

“They’re great, I went to Illinois, there’s a lot of Illinois fans in Chicago, so they treat me great. I love Chicago, it’s my second home, I love being there, I spend a lot of time there in the summer. It’s a great city.”

Finally, I asked him his thoughts on Chicago’s 2016 Summer Olympics bid and what their prospects were as a host city. “They’d be a great host, I saw the 3D plans for what they want to do with it, how they’re gonna change everything around, all the facilities, it looks amazing,” Williams responded.

TSB Valentine’s Day Survival Guide

By Rikki Greenberg & Melissa Wollering

With Valentine’s Day approaching fast, TSB’s two female contributors thought they would try to put their fellow male contributors (and readers alike) at ease during what can be a tense Hallmark Holiday weekend.

RG: Burning number one question, Melissa.  There’s so much pressure to get her the perfect gift.  Is this really necessary?
MW:  I don’t know if it’s the retail industry or materialistic women making a bad name for the rest of us, but you don’t have to buy me a thing.  I’m a busy person and the person I’m dating is likely a go-getter and workaholic too. If anything, I’d appreciate some time spent together and it doesn’t even have to be on the 14th. Any night that week, come over to my house, make me a drink, let’s watch some NCAA basketball I DVR’ed and didn’t get to watch yet. Then let’s go to bed, but not go to bed. Rikki, what are your thoughts?

MW: If your significant other insists on getting you something, what would you actually appreciate?

RG: That’s a toughie. Victoria Secret is nice, but I tried that once and my booty was a little too bootylicious for them. I would have to say something personal, like a really sweet Bears jersey or a $100 gift certificate to Ulta. When I get a gift like this, I know my guy has been paying attention and that always puts a smile on my face.

MW:  Bootylicious, huh? Nice. I would have to say it’s not cliché to go VS for me. New Victoria’s always makes me feel good about myself and if it makes the guy happy, slam dunk. If however, that’s all he’s ever gifted me after 2 years, I may start to become concerned…

RG: If your boyfriend/husband/significant other gave you the Vermont Teddy Bear I see advertised on SportsCenter how would you react?

MW: Dude, keep your money, save your cash, hold onto your pesos. Buy us two tickets to see the Badgers play the Gophers or find the teddy bear you had as a child and give it to me.  Both earn you more points. Shooting from beyond the arc actually takes less effort. Think about it.

RG: First of all, I love all your basketball analogies and we must have been separated at birth because I share the same reaction to this question. If I got this present, I would deeply rethink the relationship and come to the conclusion that my guy doesn’t know me at all.

MW: Do you have any professional athlete Valentine’s Day stories?

RG: Besides the dream of me and Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker getting married in the Bahamas after a two year courtship filled with hot, passionate love, I would have to say no to this one. The dude is super fine, so ask this question again in a couple years and maybe I’ll have a better answer for you :)

MW:  I’m coming to your wedding, my dear! I have a story: Chris Capuano, 2006 National League All-Star team pitcher with the Milwaukee Brewers, did not fare well in baseball last year, but he hit the jackpot in love.  The 30-year-old LHP left-hander missed the entire season after reconstructive surgery on his left elbow, but it gave him the time to seriously date his long-time love interest Sarah Clifford. They started seeing each other when both were students at Duke.  Chris popped the question in June – something he would not have been able to do while on the road mid-season. The couple got married November 29th in Maui, Hawaii.  See Pete, off-season anniversaries rock.  Now they live in Scottsdale, Arizona, perfect for spring training.

RG: Of course this article begs the question: Melissa, are you single?

MW: Intelligent readers will notice I wrote “person I’m dating is likely” above.  You get the hypothetical connotation. Rikki, you? C’mon…give me the scoop.

RG: Oh the dreaded topic that’s my love life. I’ve been single for 24 years now and my VIP card to the singles club doesn’t have an expiration date on it, so I’m going to say yes to this question. However, there’s a slight wave in the ocean, so I might have to rethink about laminating my card.  It’s time for the 2009 V-Day Survival Guide Shopping List. We agree, it’s not wrong to spend money on something you’ll BOTH use…Beer Pong it up with your woman!  Melissa, aren’t you a b-pong aficionado?

MW: That’s what my Facebook TSB Officer Description says…Banks is recommending this to the guys trying to win my heart. But again, I don’t like people spending money on me.

RG: I am head over heels in love with this gift!! There’s nothing I wouldn’t love more on game day than to dunk my Frito Lay Tostitos Scoop chip in a cup of sour cream and onion dip from a Chicago Bears helmet. Should I hand you a Scoop chip Melissa?

MW:  Yes!  Crunnncchh. Yum. Now to wash it down. Chick Beer comes in Michelob Ultra’s Lime Cactus, Pomegranate Raspberry and Tuscan Orange Grapefruit.

RG: That’s right, 6-pack if you like her, 24 if you’re really in love. No more blue foldable chairs you see at baseball games! The inflatable tailgating chair comes with a beer holder and a mesh pocket to store more beers. Got grease stains and puddles of Bud Light on your new tailgating partner? No problem! The chair is washable so eat and drink away!

RG: Chicago Bears blanket? Check. Chicago Bears lighting fixtures? Check. Chicago Bears Ultimate Game Day Recliner? I knew I was missing something!

MW: Everyone seems to want my full-size portable Coleman grill when I’m tailgating at Miller Park.  Consider any Pro-Team Grill Cover, or go Busta Rhymes and buy your woman a “grill” at Thug Fashion’s website.

RG: A fan isn’t really a fan until every inch of his or her property is covered with team memorabilia. The bathroom may be painted white and black, but I bet the car is lacking a little team spirit. Ride in style and support the cause with a blinged out license plate from your favorite team. (Editor’s note: You guys HAVE to see the Soxcave- Soxman’s crib is pretty much like what you’re describing above!)

MW:  Guys always love a new Bears Jersey. Go his & hers and ask the wife to sport JUST her jersey and nothing else around the house all weekend.   Honestly, we don’t mind as long as you think it’s hot. Remember, it’s all about you. Rikki, would you agree?

RG: Of course! If I have the opportunity to slink around in my favorite player’s jersey, I’ll not hesitate to take it. If it results in a sexy game of tackle football, even better!!
His –
Hers –

RG:  Or you can forget the jersey and wear nothing but these fantastic NCAA slippers or pair of Chicago White Sox socks!!

MW: Reading material for the bathroom is great. We know you guys follow the latest trends on the runway, so why not catch up on the latest in swimsuit fashion?
SI Subscription:
SI Swimsuit Edition:
Sports Illustrated NFL Book

RG: You can’t go wrong with a baseball signed by a big time major leaguer. Bonus points if he or she is a member of Red Sox Nation or a supporter of Big Papi.

Deron Williams Exclusive Part I Illini

Paul M. Banks’ exclusive with D. Will

One of the best moments of my life, (at least from a biochemical standpoint) was when Deron Williams hit the game tying three-pointer against Arizona (notice the look on Bill Murray and Ron Zook’s faces when this happened) to cap the unthinkable comeback (Illinois was down by 15 points with just 4 minutes to go) in the 2005 Chicago Regional Final game.

The shot heard round Illination tied the game at 80 in the closing seconds. It was the pinnacle moment of the program’s signature season- the “Champaign Campaign” of 2004-05.

Last night, in the come from behind win at Northwestern, Illinois made up a remarkably similar deficit in about the same amount of time in a Chicago suburban venue…obviously the stakes where not as high this time, but Bruce Weber did make the comparison in the post game press conference at Welsh-Ryan.

Basically, the Utah Jazz point guard is to Illinois graduates what Jason Kidd is to Cal-Berkley alums or what Dwyane Wade is to Marquette people. I’ve made a case that D. Will, the highest NBA lottery pick in school history is the best Illini pro player of the modern era.

I recently had an exclusive with him on the night before Christmas Eve. I was proud to be the first to alert D. Will that Illinois won that night, trouncing #25 Mizzou in the “Braggin Rights” game. He asked “Is it over? Did we win?” and when I told him he just said “awesome.” I asked Deron if he’s able to follow the Illini much this season, “A little bit I know we’re 10-1, I haven’t had a chance to catch any games.”

Earlier this year I covered a game where Illini sophomore point guard Demetri McCamey made a sick dribble-drive move and penetrated to the whole, Cames described it as…“that was just something Deron taught me this summer, to get them on your help and when you feel them try to reach, spin right off. Tisdale did a good job of selling and I came right in for a lay-up.”

I told D-Will about this: “I like Demetri a lot as a player. I think he has a chance to be a great point guard and do some special things there, I’m really excited about the next two classes we have coming in, I think we’ll be back at the top of the Big Ten and hopefully be back in the tournament this year.” I then followed up by asking him if shows any more of the players a thing or two when he can. “I try to, it’s tough for me to get back, especially the past couple summers when I’ve been paying with Team USA, I’m gonna try to go back this summer and visit with them- hopefully work on my degree a little bit and finish up, I’m not too far from that, should be fun.”

And on the final Illini-related topic I asked him about was the late September “Illini: Night of Legends.” Deron responded: “I had my dinner the night in Chicago before for my foundation, and had the scholarship endowed in my name.  A great weekend in general, a great experience and capped it all off with the game.”

Part two of this exclusive interview, discussing Chicago 2016 and more, will run tomorrow

2009 NFL Mock Draft

By Peter Christian

Team                                   Player      Position      School

1. Detroit Lions    Matt Stafford    QB        Georgia

The first post-Millen draft is going to be important for the Lions. The team has plenty of holes to fill, but getting a stud QB will give the franchise a face to build around. The Lions are definitely thinking of taking an offensive tackle here and hoping to grab Sanchez with the 20th overall pick.

2. St. Louis Rams    Eugene Monroe    OT        Virginia

Many people thought that the Rams missed out last season by not taking an elite offensive lineman (instead taking DE Chris Long) in one of the deepest drafts ever at both OT and OG. This season is also very top heavy at OT and Monroe is the cream of the crop. He can help the line immediately by shoring up either the left or right side (depending on Orlando Pace’s health)

3. Kansas City Chiefs    Aaron Curry    OLB        Wake Forest

There is little doubt that this pick will be a front seven defensive player. Between Curry and Brian Orakpo (DE – Texas) the Chiefs will likely decide based on their combine performances, however as of now Curry’s upside is higher.

4. Seattle Seahawks    Michael Crabtree    WR        Texas Tech

It seems like the Seahawks haven’t had a reliable receiver since Steve Largent. Crabtree can be that reliable down field threat to help open up the rest of the offense.

5, Cleveland Browns    Brian Orakpo    DE Texas

Orakpo has the tools to become an elite pass rusher in the NFL. Some scouts and NFL junkies have said that he could be converted to an outside linebacker which could happen in Cleveland if Eric Mangini brings the 3-4 defense to the Dawg Pound. Where ever the Browns have Orakpo line up he is definitely going to fill a need.

6. Cincinnati Bengals    Andre Smith    OT        Alabama

Andre Smith is very large (6’4″, 330 lbs.) and is going to be a great run blocker in the NFL. There is question as to whether he is quick enough to handle the speed rushers off the edge at the pro level, which likely means he will be moved to right tackle.

7. Oakland Raiders    Jason Smith    OT        Baylor

At 6’5″, 305 lbs. Smith has great size but he will wow people with his athletic ability. The converted tight end is extremely agile and quick and will defend against speed rushers very well. He will likely be asked to gain some strength in both his upper and lower body in order to prevent him from getting outmuscled in the trenches.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars    Michael Oher    OT        Ole Miss

Jacksonville needs talent and depth at offensive tackle badly. Luckily for them, this draft is stocked with exactly that. Oher is quietly moving up many draft boards and could find his way into the top 5.

9. Green Bay Packers    Everett Brown    DE        Florida State

Aaron Kampman is not getting any younger and the Packers really have no depth at DE. Brown can be an every down player and could definitely move to OLB in a 3-4 scheme that the Packers are going to employ in

10. San Francisco 49ers    Jeremy Maclin    WR       Missouri

Maclin has a great skill set. He has good hands, great speed and agility. He can help a team in the passing game, the return game and was also a very effective option out of the backfield on occasion. He will immediately help the San Francisco offense stretch the field.

11. Buffalo Bills    Brian Cushing    OLB        USC

Buffalo has a lot of needs to fill for a team that looked like it could win its division halfway through 2008. Most glaring is a play maker in the defensive front seven. Aaron Schobel is coming off a down year and could use some help. The issue with Cushing is not so much with his ability, as it is with his character and durability. Whispers of steroid use surrounded him on campus and three surgeries already under his belt have some teams backing away. If he can stay on the field, Cushing will be a star.

12. Denver Broncos    Rey Maualuga    LB        USC

Maualuga is a good mix of power and speed and will be asked to shoulder a big load of the defensive responsibility in Denver. If Ray Lewis and Troy Polamalu had a baby, Maualuga would be the result.

13. Washington Redskins    Aaron Maybin    DE       Penn State

If Cushing is available here expect the Redskins to pounce. They need an athletic linebacker to cover a lot of space. However, if Cushing is gone they will likely consider Cushing’s teammate Rey Maualuga (LB – USC) or Maybin. Maybin is the pick here because he could probably be converted to play line backer if the Redskins needed him to.

14. New Orleans Saints    Vontae Davis    CB        Illinois

Malcom Jenkins gets all the hype of a Big Ten CB but Davis has the better upside. There isn’t a lot of buzz on him now but as the draft nears he will start to turn a few heads.

15. Houston Texans    Malcolm Jenkins    CB        Ohio State

Jenkins has been given the benefit of playing behind a very good defensive front during his college career but that doesn’t mean he isn’t talented. OSU’s history of producing good CB’s will continue with Jenkins.

16. San Diego Chargers    B.J. Raji    DT       Boston College

Raji is moving up and down many mocks and draft boards and will likely continue to do so until the Combine. Raji will provide the talented Chargers D-Line more depth and will help keep Jamal Williams fresh and (hopefully) healthy.

17. New York Jets    Mark Sanchez    QB        USC

Sanchez probably causes the most debate than any other player in this year’s draft. He is a definite question mark due to inexperience (only 16 starts in college) and inconsistency (tough games against Arizona and Arizona State). However with the Jets QB situation definitely in limbo they need to do something to address the emptiness.

18. Chicago Bears    Sean Smith    DB        Utah

A big, fast player that can play corner or safety. At 6’3″ he could match-up very well against the taller more physical opposing receivers. Chicago’s lack of depth in the defensive backfield was exposed last year and Smith would be a welcomed addition.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers    Percy Harvin    WR       Florida State

With Sanchez and Stafford both off the board the Buccaneers can use Harvin to inject some energy into the offense that features old players at the skill positions (Joey “Grandpa” Galloway, Antonio Bryant, and Warrick Dunn).  Plus, new Head Coach Raheem Morris could win over a few fans by keeping the former Gator close to home.

20. Detroit Lions (from Dallas)    James Laurinitis    LB        Ohio State

Laurinitis likely would have been taken in the top 10 in last year’s draft, but his slipping has little to do with his own play. He brings great energy to the field and is always around the ball. Detroit should be very happy to land a player of Laurinitis’ caliber to quarterback their crappy defense.

21. Philadelphia Eagles    Brandon Pettigrew    TE        Oklahoma State

Pettigrew should be an NFL star. At 6’6″, 260 lbs. he is a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses, no matter who is throwing him the ball. He will likely transform the Eagles passing game and will finally offer Donovan McNabb (probably?) a reliable saftey valve.

22. Minnesota Vikings    Eben Britton    OT        Arizona

Even with all the money the Vikings have put into their offensive line it was still one of their weaknesses last year. Bryant McKinnie is very vulnerable to a speed rush and Ryan Cook is the worst starting tackle East of Mike Gandy. At 6’6″, 310 lbs. Britton has the size to create large holes for Adrian Peterson to run through.

23. New England Patriots    Knowshon Moreno    RB        Georgia

The Patriots have a laundry list of holes to fill, especially on defense, but Moreno can bring an electric running style to the offense that the team has needed badly. A combination of Maroney-Moreno could be deadly for opposing linebackers as well as a wicked hahhhhd tongue twistah.

24. Atlanta Falcons    Alphonso Smith    CB      Wake Forest

The Falcons were less than mediocre in pass coverage last season and why would they ever pass on a guy nicknamed “Prime”? Smith, given the nickname for being a shorter version of Deion Sanders, has great tools to get after opposing receivers and will likely be a regular in quarterback’s nightmares.

25. Miami Dolphins    Darrius Heyward-Bey    WR       Maryland

Heyward-Bey can give the Dolphins offense the one thing it really needs, a big physical receiver. Currently the Dolphins are relying on three slot-type receivers (Ginn, Camarillo and Bess) and lack any size on the outside and don’t have anyone that they can just “toss it up to” in the end zone. Until now.

26. Baltimore Ravens    Hakeem Nicks    WR       North Carolina

Joe Flacco proved last season that he can throw the deep ball. However other than the 35 year old Derrick Mason, the Ravens don’t have many options for Flacco to use. Nicks is big, physical and has great hands. Nicks and Flacco could help the Ravens become the best offense they’ve had in franchise history (which isn’t saying much).

27. Indianapolis Colts    DJ Moore    CB       Vanderbilt

Moore dealt with a lot of injuries last season but was still a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award as one of the nation’s best defensive backs. He has shown an ability to make good reads and get good breaks on the ball, racking up 11 interceptions over the last two seasons.

28. Philadelphia Eagles (from Carolina)    Chris Wells    RB      Ohio State

Wells can provide the power running back that the Eagles have lacked over the last few seasons. His tough running style will be a welcomed change of pace in Philly and will make Brian Westbrook even more productive.

29. New York Giants    Larry English    OLB

Northern Illinois

The Giants would probably really like to make a statement by picking a WR to stick it to Plaxico Burress, but there is just no one at this spot to take. English hasn’t received a lot of attention but will find his way on many team’s radar at the combine. English really has the tools to help the Giants at a position of weakness.

30. Tennessee Titans    Peria Jerry    DT        Ole Miss

Peria Jerry could be a perfect replacement for Albert Haynesworth should he leave. He is extremely quick and agile for a 312 lb. man-child and gets into the backfield with regularity. The biggest knock on Jerry is his lack of sheer strength.

31. Arizona Cardinals    LeSean McCoy    RB        Pitt

The Cardinals also need an offensive tackle and another athlete or two on defense but Arizona needs to address their situation at running back. McCoy wasn’t a household name last season, but he should have been. McCoy has the skills to be great in the NFL and can help the Cardinal offense to be less one-dimensional.

32. Pittsburgh Steelers    Max Unger    OL        Oregon

Unger doesn’t have the intimidating size that you expect out of a first round pick but he is very quick and is very fundamentally sound. He has plenty of frame to pack on another 15-20 lbs. of muscle and would really help the lack of depth that Pittsburgh has at offensive line.