Former Illini Center Meyers Leonard Expanding His Role with Portland Trail Blazers

meyers leonard

Meyers Leonard currently wears #11 for the Portland Trail Blazers, and it matches the sequence in which he was selected in the 2012 NBA Draft. Leonard was taken in the lottery, #11 overall, out of Illinois and no Illini has been taken in the NBA Draft since. Demetri McCamey, Jereme Richmond and Brandon Paul all earned combine invites, but none of them were drafted.

Malcolm Hill may or may not be selected this June, and if he does here his name called, it won’t be until the mid-to-late second round.

However, Meyers Leonard is an interesting, fantastic Illini basketball story however and gives the Illinois fan something else to follow this winter when seeking a change of pace from speculating on the future of John Groce, and who might be replacing him.

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2017 NFL Mock Draft 2-14-17

nfl-draft

Time for another 2017 NFL mock draft update, as the NFL offseason is officially here.

The Sports Bank is the only independently owned, mom and pop on the internet with a mock draft for the top four American professional sports leagues. Be sure to check out our 2017 NFL mock draft, 2016 NBA mock draft, 2016 MLB mock draft and 2016 NHL mock draft.

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Five Substantial Illini Basketball Head Coaching Candidates

tony-bennett

Having missed three straight NCAA Tournaments, with a fourth consecutive absence almost certain, Illini basketball fans have traversed a very dark journey in the John Groce era. For many, frustration became anger, which then gave way to apathy.

Unless you’re discussing the idea of replacing Groce.

For Illini basketball fans, it’s not just the main topic, it is THE topic. While it may seem a bit unprofessional at best, career ghoulish at worst, to discuss the end of the Groce era while he still has a month to go, it’s necessary.

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Illini Basketball Achieve Huge Upset; Damage Northwestern NCAA Tournament Hopes

chris-collins-northwestern-basketball

There was much less burnt orange and navy blue than in years past at the annual Illini basketball trip to Northwestern‘s Welsh-Ryan Arena. However, the crowd was still approximately about 40-45% in favor of Illinois and they got exactly what they came for as the Illini, seven point underdogs, came up to Evanston and put together the most complete effort of the season.

The reward for that effort? Their biggest win of the season, over what has now become their primary rival.

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Northwestern So Much Better than Illini Basketball Right Now It’s Unnatural

chris collins northwestern

As Northwestern and Illini basketball prepare to tangle tomorrow night, you have two programs headed in polar opposite directions. Momentum could obviously change next season, but at this point, the inertia is so strong in both directions that it’s at the program, not just the team level.

Since the start of the 2015-16 season, NU is 38-17 (.690 winning percentage) overall, 15-13 (.536) in B1G play while Illinois is 28-30 (.483), and 12-16 (.429) in the league. The program that’s never made the NCAA Tournament (you might have heard that fact/stat once of twice or one zillion times already this season) or even the B1G Tournament semi-finals has been kicking some ass here and there and taking a few names.

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Illini Basketball Fans Should Visit New Arena, Hall of Fame (Photo Journal)

illini basketball state farm center

Former Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas didn’t get a whole lot right, but he certainly came correct on the Assembly Hall renovation. Thomas made complete disaster head coaching hires in both University of Illinois revenue producing sports, no question about it.

However, he did do a phenomenal job in revamping and revolutionizing the basketball arena, now known as State Farm Center, or “The Farm.”

While Illini basketball fans don’t have a very valuable product to observe on the hardwood the rest of this season, they should still come and check out a game at the new pad.

illini basketball state farm center

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Illini Football: Lovie Smith’s First Recruiting Class Very Solid Considering Situation

lovie-smith-illini-football

Prima face, the very first Lovie Smith Illini football class is a single or a double. However, when you look at the class in the broader context, and consider all the obstacles, the class is a home run. In the 24/7 Sports recruiting index, they finished 44th, up 29 spots from last season.

Rivals has them 46th, and Scout has some very high hopes, take a look:

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Illini Basketball: Josh Whitman Can Define Legacy By John Groce Decision

josh-whitman

While the University of Illinois community has grudgingly learned to live with mediocre-or-worse Illini football, they will never, under any circumstances, accept inferior Illini basketball.

For all athletic programs residing under the power five conference banner, football comes first and foremost, due to the financial stakes involved. For many schools however, men’s basketball is number one among hearts and minds. Illinois is one of those institutions.

While football rules the fiscal landscape of college athletics, Illini basketball is the unquestioned brand identity program for UI athletics.

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Illini Basketball: Seth Greenberg on the Program’s Issues

seth greenberg

There’s only one Illini basketball topic that any fan really cares to discuss right now and you know exactly what it is.

Just about every member of the Illinois basketball community has one question on their mind, and then the natural follow-up:

“Will John Groce be relieved of his duties, and if so, could it happen before the season ends?”

After that, the natural query is “who could Illinois get to replace Groce?”

ESPN college basketball analysts Dick Vitale and Seth Greenberg participated in a media conference call Wednesday, and I asked them about the current state and direction of the program.

The answers, which were way off-the-point at times, were also extremely out of touch with the feelings and moods within the base.

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Illini Basketball: Malcolm Hill NBA Draft Stock Update

malcolm-hill-illini-basketball

During last year’s Big Ten Tournament in Chicago, a friend/media colleague and I adjourned to a bar/restaurant down the street in between sessions. At cocktail hour we ran into a couple scouts from two different NBA teams and I asked them if anyone on the current Illinois roster (then the 2014-15 squad) was of interest.

Malcolm Hill was the only name on their radar. A couple months later, their story checked out as Rayvonte Rice, despite his stellar career, went undrafted. Then again Rice wasn’t invited to the combine, and no one really had him on their boards. Malcolm Hill, however, has some decent NBA draft stock.

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Illini Basketball Have NIT, not NCAA Caliber Resume

illini-basketball

Heading into Saturday’s tire fire of an effort at Indiana, some bracket projections had this Illini basketball team actually in the NCAA Tournament.

That idea seems D.O.A. now as B1G play exposed Illinois in ways we had not seen in the pre-conference slate. 

The first two road games resulted in a 25 point loss, and a 16 point loss (Indiana is surprisingly #109 in RPI by the way, but you know that will normalize with time) that was window dressed by an epic #FakeRally spurred on by Jalen Coleman-Lands dominating garbage time.

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Illini Basketball: Tracy Abrams Could Have Overseas Pro Career

tracy-abrams-illini-basketball

In the Notre Dane basketball media room in 2011, a scout was raving to me about what a fine overseas player Tim Abromaitis could be. It wasn’t a conversation I willingly signed up for, and I sure as hell did not stay engaged in it at all, but I remember it vividly because I see the concept now applying to Illini basketball star “Grandpa” Tracy Abrams.

He’s about to play in his final Braggin’ Rights game and then his last go around in the B1G, and after that who knows what the future holds.

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