Illini Basketball: Lou Henson Hospitalized, Won’t Attend Testimonial Game

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Update, 12-15-17, via Illini basketball Sports Information Department:

“Former Illinois basketball coach Lou Henson was hospitalized early Thursday. Henson, who was planning to attend the Illinois-New Mexico State basketball game in Chicago Saturday along with nearly 40 family members, will remain in Champaign and not be present for the game. Henson, who has been battling cancer-related health issues for 14 years, is the all-time wins leader at both Illinois and New Mexico State and was set to be honored before and during the game Saturday at the United Center.”

Henson belongs to one specific elite club which has just two members, and the other is John Wooden. They are the only two individuals to have a basketball court named in their honor at not just one, but two schools.

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Henson is also one of only four NCAA coaches to have amassed at least 200 total wins at two institutions. Additionally, the stretch of street that adjoins Assembly Hall/State Farm Center is named Honorary Lou Henson way. He is, no doubt, the patriarch of Illini basketball.

It goes without saying that we all wish him a speedy recovery, and hope that he pulls through. Health is obviously much bigger than basketball.

Lou Henson met the media Tuesday, and the entire press conference is below.

Henson gave updates on this health, where he’s living these days and how many friends, family members and former players he expected to come with him to the United Center Saturday night to watch his two former teams clash, Saturday at 7 pm.

Known for this trademark orange blazer, Henson said he was going to wear it for one half, to represent Illini basketball. He had planned to wear a crimson blazer for the other half, to support New Mexico State.

This game is a testimonial in all but one sense of the word.

It is truly “a formal statement testifying to someone’s character and qualifications,” and “a public tribute to someone and to their achievements.”  It’s also a game or event held in honor of an individual, but unlike the classic definition, this is a competitive match.

Typically, a testimonial is defined as non-competitive.

leron black

Biggie Smalls

Illini basketball coach Brad Underwood met the media right after Lou Henson, and provided a very informative session. Underwood said that forwards Leron Black and Kipper Nichols would miss the Longwood game Wednesday night, but that both bigs are not expected to be out long term.

Nichols was injured Monday in practice, Black Saturday night at UNLV. Both could be back, if not starting, at least seeing some minutes in this one. However, if one, or both, sit out, then it’s going to be Illini basketball small ball again, just like we saw versus Longwood. You knew there would be plenty of four guard line-ups during certain stretches this season.

Sometimes it’s out of necessity, sometimes by design. Underwood said Tuesday that if you look at the +/- numbers with the small ball line-ups, it actually shows more favorable results.

Perhaps this is a precursor then of what’s to follow?

leron black

New Mexico State Preview:

The Aggies come in sporting a 92 in the Sagarin ratings, 98 in kenpom and 102 in RPI. They enter the UC with an 8-2 record, and no interesting signature victories to speak of. Their two losses were to San Diego and St. Mary’s.

Henson said Tuesday he expects a very competitive, very evenly matched and entertaining game, GAMER, on Real Time RPI projects a 73-72 Illinois victory.

NMS is considered by many the WAC standard, and despite the recent coaching change, hopes are high they will make their sixth NCAA Tournament in seven years. GAMER projects them to finish 21-6, 9-3 in league play this year.

illini basketball

Illini basketball Preview:

The Illini head into this one 76 in Sagarin, 189 in RPI (no, that’s not a typo, it’s really that low right now) and 92 in kenpom. Illinois’ best win thus far is Marshall RPI 166. They are 8-4 with four losses by single digits. Underwood said Tuesday that his team has got to stop fouling, and stop the turnovers. Not to mention the travels, after the loss at Northwestern, Underwood said his team must have broken the Guinness Book of World Records mark for travels.

That’s funny because it’s true!

My joke is “Illini basketball is Team Rick Steves, all the traveling!”

The Illini could really be a good team this year, if they would just cut out all the self-inflicted wounds. It’s a big if, but it’s true that this team has been its own worst enemy.

brad underwood

Winning the Lou Henson tribute would give them their first victory away from home.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.

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