Very Strong Take on Illini Basketball from ESPN’s Jay Williams



ESPN Analyst Jay Williams has never been a college basketball coach, but if he were, he wouldn’t stand for what’s gone on with Illini basketball off-the-court.

Four Illini basketball players have been arrested, and then temporarily kicked off the team, in the past seven months.

Three of those arrests, for very serious violent crimes, have occurred in the past month. Two of those arrests are for battering women. Thus, Illini basketball has never been a bigger disgrace off the court.

“I can’t speak on John, I’ve never been in his position, but if it were my program, I have no room for that,” Williams said during an exclusive conversation with The Sports Bank at the United Center Williams’ new Consultant position with the McDonald’s All-American game was announced.


“I don’t tolerate that, and I think a lot of times, things get lost in translation.”

“There’s a lot of pressure on coaches to win, and there’s a lot of pressure on schools to win, but the real reason why all these coaches are here is to shape and mold lives, and you either have to be committed to the way I’m going to teach you how to help mold your life and become the man that your parents have entrusted me to help you become, or if you don’t, I don’t want you on my bus.”

In addition to the serious off-the-court issues, Illini basketball is also at a dreadfully low point on-the-court.

“It takes time to win that way, but I look at what Kevin Willard has done at Seton Hall; that look a long time to get that program to the NCAA Tournament and now they’re recognizable in New Jersey, and it takes the right person and the right team and the right kind of patience in order for that to happen here in Illinois.”

john-groce illini basketball

Illini basketball is not just losing games with low character guys, it’s also in a very low place on the college basketball totem pole. This reality was further, and rather harshly, just driven home.

Chicago’s United Center hosted the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds of the NCAA Tournament as well as the McDonald’s All-American Game this past week. This Illini program is not currently relevant to either event. Likewise with ESPN’s Champions Classic, which came to the U.C. in two of the past three Novembers. It’s an especially hard reality when you consider how the United Center used to be the Illinois basketball home away from home.

Things have drastically changed since 2009, as the Illini have won only four games at the venue, and those wins came over lowly UIC twice, Minnesota and Auburn.


The United Center has hosted the #McDAAG every year since 2011. 144 players have been selected for it during that span. Not a single one signed with Illinois, or any other school in the state. It’s a mind-blowing quandary.

Williams is the first that I’ve heard propose a potential solution to the most oft-repeated question in Illinois college basketball. You know the familiar refrain: “how come we have all this top tier talent in the state, yet none of it ever wants to stay home to play college hoops?”

Every Chicago reporter asks that exact same question at every single college basketball team’s preseason media day, McDonald’s All-American Game, etc.


(Related: Illini Basketball 2016-17 Very Early Season Preview)

No one seemed to have an answer, until Williams offered this:

“Illinois is in a very precarious situation and it’s been the ongoing question, every time I meet an Illinois fan, they ask me how come they can’t get kids from Chicago, and I said it the other day on Waddle and Silvy, and I said the coach that’s willing to get kids from Chicago is the one who’s willing to get their hands a tad bit dirty.”

“Not dirty in terms of cheating, but you need to know the right people in this city. With the talent that comes out of this area, Illinois should be a powerhouse within the Big Ten; and it’s a problem that needs to be figured out.”


“I thought Shaka Smart, originally was going to take the job, John Groce has been trying, he’s been fighting for it, and I’m not saying John’s not the right person, but it takes the right staff and the right connections in order to be able to walk into doors and blow kids away.”

“You have to know how to play the game. I’m not going to sugarcoat you things, right…”

We picked up the rest of this quote, and this recruiting idea on Monday, click here to read part three of this exclusive and find out who the Illini basketball savior could be.

We’ve seen that John Groce is not the guy to get that done, so who could? Williams had some insight on that too.


(Jay Williams Exclusive Part 1 Bulls)

(Jay Williams Exclusive Part 2 Illini Present)

(Jay Williams Exclusive Part 3 Illini Future)

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports, partnered with FOX Sports Engage Network. and News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, currently contributes regularly to the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye publication and Bold Global.

He also consistently appears on numerous talk shows all across the country. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram

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  1. Butch Woollen says

    Jay is now an official carrier of the infamous ID 10 t card. Even suggesting that UofI should play the game just doesn’t hint at improprieties it admits to them. Chicago area coaches all want something in return…so why would a clean program do that…as soon as they do…every other program around the country would be pointing at Ill as cheaters ….most folks in Ill want NOTHING to do with the cesspool that is Chicago.

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